The Sensory Bounce Therapy Blog:

Sensory Processing, Motor and Social Skills Resources
for Parents of  Special Needs Children

Fun Indoor Sensory Activities

Part 4 of 9: Using scissors: a quadruple sensory builder

A cut above
The cutting process itself is highly satisfying for children, and once they can manipulate scissors, it opens up so many different projects they can have a good time doing. It’s also a super sensory activity because it addresses a lot of sensory areas at once:

— Builds fine motor strength
Manipulating scissors strengthens the little muscles in your child’s hands, which he needs for everything from brushing his teeth to writing and drawing and much more.

— Builds hand-eye coordination
Your child’s hands and eyes have to work together to use scissors. And she needs efficient hand-eye coordination to eat with a utensil and bat a home run, as well as lots of other tasks.

— Builds bilateral coordination
Since each of your child’s hands performs its own task — one hand holds the paper (plays a supporting role) and the other hand moves the scissors (performs the skilled work) — both sides of his body need to work together. He needs this skill to lace and tie his shoes and to be a rockstar drummer, among other undertakings.

— Builds focus and attention
Your child needs to concentrate in order to cut out a shape. That skill comes in handy in the classroom and in daily life, as she also needs to concentrate in order to follow the teacher’s instructions and to read the Wall Street Journal, as well as quite a bit in between.

The cutting edge
You’ll want your child to begin with safety scissors, which are dull and rounded. Choose scissors that have one large hole and one smaller hole. Be sure to get left-handed scissors if your child is left-handed.

There are two slightly different cutting positions so you may want to experiment with your child to see which way is more comfortable. Both ways have two fingers opposing the thumb, to give the user more power and control.

Position one:
The thumb is in the top smaller hole, the index and middle fingers are in the large bottom hole.

Position two:
The thumb is in the top hole, the middle finger is in the bottom hole, the index finger rests on the outside of the scissors and guides it.

In either position, the ring and pinky fingers are tucked into the palm.

A shortcut
Tip: Here is an easy way to help your child remember that the thumb is always in the top hole. Tell him “two thumbs up” or to always keep both thumbs up — the thumb on the scissor hand and the thumb on the helper hand (the hand that holds the paper or other object) should both be facing up towards the ceiling.

Cutting through the red tape (or the red construction paper)
It takes a lot of practice to be able to control scissors. Cutting materials that are slightly stiff and thick is easier than cutting flimsy, thin paper. So you’ll want to start your child out cutting construction paper or lightweight card stock rather than a regular piece of paper.

Important: Even with safety scissors, always supervise your child.

It’s also important to develop the right habits from the beginning instead of having to unlearn the wrong way. So you’ll want to check to be sure that your child’s supporting hand is doing its job, holding and guiding the paper so her cutting hand can keep the scissors moving on the line — both hands need to be working together smoothly, in a coordinated way.

Making a clean cut
As your child gains skill, he’ll practice different kinds of cutting:

— Snipping
Everyone begins with snipping, which is simply opening and closing the blades without moving forward on the paper. The edges of index cards are great for practicing snipping. It’s also fun to snip off pieces of plastic straws and play dough.

Tip for future projects: a lot of snips along the edge of a piece of paper looks like grass or fringe.

— Cutting along lines
Next, your child will be able to cut along a wide marker line for a short distance, working up to cutting all the way across the width of a piece of paper to cut it in half.

— Cutting straight lines
To help your child practice cutting straight lines, you can:

– Draw dotted or dashed lines on construction paper for him to cut along
– Put two rows of stickers on a card or paper so she can cut in between the rows
– Give him ads with coupons (that you don’t want to use!) to cut out

— Cutting out simple shapes
An easy way to start is by cutting out the inside circle of a paper plate. When she’s ready for slightly more complex shapes, you can draw triangles, squares and circles on pieces of card stock or index cards that are only a little larger than the shape (it’s easier to begin by cutting off corners or edges to make the shape).

— Cutting along curves, cutting out more complex shapes
Once your child learns to cut along a curved line, he will be able to cut out fairly complex shapes. The more practice and experience she gets, the more complex the shape she will be able to cut out.

Prime cuts
Tip: Have your child practice cutting different textures and materials 

— Items from your kitchen cupboards:
Wax paper
Coffee filters
Aluminum foil
Paper plates
Paper towels
Edges of paper cups

— Items from your recycling bin:
Junk mail
Paper bags
Lightweight cardboard
Heavy paper

— Items from your art supplies:
Pipe cleaners
Construction paper

— Items from your fridge:
Licorice “shoelaces” or Twizzlers
Fruit leather
String cheese

Looking ahead:
In the next post, we will discuss projects using scissors and items from around the house; some are ‘old faithfuls’ you may remember fondly from your own childhood.

Which grip do you use to hold scissors? Does your child hold scissors the same way? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, let me know there or via email what topics you would like to discuss or hear more about.

Feel free to share or quote from this blog (with attribution, please, and if possible, a link), and to repost on social media.

I look forward to hearing from you!

All the best,

About Miriam:

Miriam Skydell MS, OTR/L is a pediatric OT with 30 years experience and a strong commitment to empowering every child with the skills, confidence and emotional stability necessary for a meaningful, independent life. In addition to her Masters degree from NYU (1986) and membership in the AOTA (American Occupational Therapy Association), Miriam is a licensed Interactive Metronome®, HWT (Handwriting Without Tears®), and TLP (The Listening Program®) provider.

Miriam performs preschool screenings, contracts experienced OTs, PTs and STs to schools, helped implement the HWT curriculum, and lectures extensively for parent and support groups and at teacher conferences for public and private schools throughout New Jersey. Through her private practice in Fair Lawn, Miriam Skydell and Associates, established in 1995, Miriam has helped countless children with a wide range of diagnoses improve functional living skills, manage the impact of sensory processing dysfunction, and meet their individual potentials.

In 2013, Miriam developed the Sensory Bounce® Therapy program for children with special needs, including autism, to receive therapy in a fun, natural play environment which their typically-developing peers often enjoy. In a stimulating indoor inflatable bounce facility, an experienced therapist works with small groups of children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing difficulties, and other delays. Children learn to build their motor and social skills in goal-oriented therapy play sessions, classes, after school programs, and winter and summer camps. Simultaneously, parents meet in a separate space to share common experiences and support each other. Miriam takes pride in providing a nurturing, caring environment where children and their parents feel safe and secure to explore, take risks and overcome challenges.

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