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Cutting Skills to Build Fine Motor Strength

Early Intervention Activities to Help Young Children with Disabilities


Cutting Skills to Build Fine Motor Strength

Looped handle scissors are one adaptation for weak cutters.


Cutting with scissors requires hand eye coordination, hand strength, and fine motor skills. Rather than finger opposition, scissors require closing and opening one's hand.

Small children need opportunities to use scissors while supervised.

Adaptations for Children with Fine Motor Challenges

There are several different sorts of scissors that can be used with children who find it difficult to use regular student scissors. Often they can squeeze a sprung or looped scissors, but cannot open their hands. By mastering squeezing the loop or handle, the child will build enough strength that opening the hand will follow soon after mastering cutting with looped or sprung scissors.

  • Looped scissors: These scissors are big loops which, when squeezed, will close the blades. When released, the handle will open.
  • Self opening scissors: There are a couple kinds of self opening, scissors. Some look like regular scissors that have spring that automatically opens the scissors. Another has a tear shaped button on the handles that forces the scissors back open. When a student gains enough fine motor acuity to move on, the button can be turned so the scissors become regular scissors.
  • Table top scissors: these scissors are held in a table mount and the student positions the paper and presses down on a paddle like flat scissor handle to cut. This is valuable for children with very little hand strength or very poor fine motor hand skills. These scissors would support hand eye coordination first.

Cutting Activities

Cutting, like other skills, develops over time from very simple skills to more refined handling of scissors. These skills develop from straight lines, to curved lines, to a combination of lines, often complex cutting tasks.

Straight Lines: The initial activities for emerging cutters is to simply cut straight lines. For some students snipping lengths off of a coil of clay or Play Dough is a way to begin mastering a pair of scissors. Then cutting on a straight line is the next task.

Curved Lines: Cutting curved lines involves manipulating both hands: One to hold the scissors, the other to turn the paper.

Detailed Cutting: As young children gain independence with cutting, activities that involve cutting petals, legs, or other parts and then attaching them to a body or stem, are great activities that require students to use both hands, executive function to plan what they will do in what order, and the ability to follow directions.

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