Monthly Archives: February 2021

Teaching Kids To Cut With Scissors? Don’t Use Cheap Paper

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As a pediatric occupational therapist, I would guess that every third IEP I have seen for preschool children includes some version of being able to cut with scissors. Understanding anatomy and neurology certainly help therapists understand why a child struggles. But when teaching a motor skill, it also helps to know what tools make a difference.

The type of paper offered to children can make such a huge difference that I am devoting an entire blog post to it.

Here is the simplest suggestions that I can make:

  • The younger or more challenged the child, the more important paper selection will be.
  • Moderately stiff paper will be most successful for almost all children.
  • Cheap printer paper is the equivalent of an adult cutting out a trapezoid from a facial tissue.
  • The younger the child, the smaller the paper should be, down to 4 or 5 inches square. Paper smaller than this size requires greater grasp control. Paper sized 8.5×11 inches is more difficult for almost all children under 5 to control.
  • Slightly textured drawing paper provides some tactile input for children that struggle with sensory registration.
  • Every part of a high-quality piece of paper can be used. Paper strips can be made, scraps can become collages, etc. There is no need to waste paper.

To learn why I only use one type of safety scissors, read:

Lakeshore Scissors for Toddlers That Only Cut the Paper, Not the Toddler

How To Write Numbers And Letters To Avoid Confusing Young Children

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One of the common questions children will ask me when I am working with them on handwriting is “Why is your “6” different from my book’s “6”? , or why is your ” M” different from my book’s “M” ?

This is an EXCELLENT question.

Here is the answer: because a computer made those numbers and letters, not a person’s hand. We don’t write the same way a computer does.

If you understand the development of hand control skills, and you understand the development of cognition and visual-motor skills, you will realize that using the fonts on books is a foolish way to teach handwriting. A good example is the “K” in the above photo. This is a more challenging letter to write, as the writer needs to be able to start the second diagonal stroke at exactly the right location and at the correct angle, while still connecting the stroke to the baseline.

My private clients know that I strongly prefer Handwriting Without Tears to teach young children. The simple style and the developmental progression of the teaching sequence make learning easy, and therefore, make my job easy.

HWT teaches something they call an “easy 6”. It begins with a vertical stroke, not a curve. This is because the earliest and easiest stroke a child can execute is a vertical stroke. What about the more mature method of writing a “6”? It comes naturally to most kids, as they develop better pencil control and greater desire to copy the style of their older siblings and adults.

The same happens with the HWT “M”. It has vertical and diagonal lines that extend all the way to the baseline, to assist kids in learning to touch the baseline and develop symmetry. See the “M” in the photo above. The D’Nealian “M” has two diagonal lines that extend partially to the baseline. If a child can execute this letter with control, I will not stop them. But few young children can do so.

There is no reason to make learning to write difficult. None.

School administrators rarely know how to select a handwriting program, and they often choose as if they were playing darts. I know a local district where they homes start in the low 1M range. They use one program for kindergarten, then switch to another for 1st and up. Insane. Great for my private practice, but absolutely nuts.