Is this even possible? Yes! Discover the activities that Occupational Therapists use while working on cutting skills in schools.
I hear parents say all the time that their kids do not use scissors at home. I don’t blame them! Did you know there are fine motor activities that you can do to build the hand muscles used for cutting without picking up a pair of scissors?!
Although cutting with scissors is very motivating and kids generally love to use them, there is a time and a place for actually cutting. And as a mom of 4, that time and place is RARELY at my house, at any time, Ha!
So I put my pediatric Occupational Therapy skills to use and compiled a list. These fine motor activities will strengthen the muscles used for cutting! Then when your kiddo picks up a pair of scissors, their muscles will be ready and they can focus on the “how” part.
Why Is Hand Strengthening Important for Cutting Skills?
The act of cutting is actually very complex! It not only involves hand strength but hand coordination, focus, trunk control and eye-hand coordination to name a few!
The act of cutting is a repetitive motion of your thumb and fingers moving up and down while pushing the scissor blades open and shut. On top of that, the paper provides a resistance against the scissors. So, if your kiddo’s hands are stronger, then cutting is easier.
Take A Look to See Which Fine Motor Activity Works For Your Kiddo!
- Play thumb war – The act of moving your thumb to trap your opponent’s thumb and to avoid being trapped requires you to move your thumb in isolation and quickly! This action helps strengthen the thumb muscles.
- Make Homemade Play dough – If you don’t have Play-Doh, you can always make your own. Not sure how to do this? Check out this recipe! Once you have the dough, playing with it strengthens your hand muscles. Try spreading a circle using just your fingers, or roll it into a log and pinch with your thumb and pointer finger. Also, the Play-Doh tools that require you to squeeze are great too!
- Use clothes pins or chip clips – Here is another one of my favorite “tools”. Clothes pins are great for strengthening kiddos fingers! My kids are using them to learn how to spell their site words, our telephone number, and color recognition! They also use them to display their artwork on a line.
- Play with Tweezers – Think the Operation Game or Jumbo Tweezers, not tweezers for plucking or taking out a splinter. One fun way to use play tweezers is to pull items out of play dough or sensory bins.
- Squirt bottles – Kids love to play with squirt bottles! There are so many things that you can do with them too! You can experiment with the stream of water going from a spray to a stream; write letters on fences or sidewalks, erase chalk drawings outside, water plants, spray snow with different water dyed with food coloring…… I could just keep going!
- Tongs – Use small or large tongs to pick up things with it. My kids like to try and pick their toys up using large tongs. It DEFINITELY slows down the whole process but it makes it fun!
- Sock or Brown Bag Puppet play – Make your puppet talk by moving your thumb and other fingers. The sock can provide some resistance depending on how tight it is. The tighter the sock, the more resistive it will be. Make your puppet talk a lot to get that repetitive movement!
- Cut a tennis ball to make a mouth and pick up small items with it – Have an old tennis ball around? Using a razor blade, slit a “mouth” into the tennis ball. Aim for about 2 1/2 inches wide. We added eyes to our tennis ball head! Holding the ball with one hand, try and squeeze the ball to open the mouth and pick up objects!
- Thumb Circles – this is a quick activity that I will have the kiddos do every now and then. Simply move your fingers in a circle. I like to say 10x in one direction and 10x in the other direction. If your kiddo likes to do these, have them complete for each finger separately!
- Foam Rocket Launchers – I discovered these at a dollar store a few years back, and my kids love them! They are cheaply made and don’t last forever, but they are highly motivating. Try and have your kiddos launch them and then catch them! You can find them here.
- Pulling on Rope – Pulling is a great hand strengthening activity! I tie a rope around a door knob handle, chair or sturdy spindle in a room with either tile or hardwood floors. Then my kids try to pull themselves to the end of the line sitting, when wearing sweatpants or standing with socks on!
- Play with a stress ball – No need to buy one, checkout this homemade version here.
- Tennis Ball Letters – Write letters on a tennis ball. Have your kiddo use their dominant hand to spell out words. Use one hand, and “press” the letter with your thumb! If your kiddo doesn’t have a dominant hand, pick one hand and complete the activity with that hand.
- Paper Fortune teller – As a kid I made these all of the time! Now as an Occupational Therapist, I make them all of the time! There are so many great skills that these work on! Not sure how to make them? Checkout these step-by-step instructions here. You can write sight words on these and instead of fortunes, put an action that they have to do!
- Put rubber bands around a container – Have rubber bands lying around the house? Have your kiddos put all of their fingers inside a rubber band. Then spread their fingers so that they can get the rubber band onto a container. The smaller and thicker the rubber band, the more resistive it is.
- Squirt with a turkey baster during water play! Try to see how long you can take to squirt the water out! Or try to see how far your can squirt the water!
- Finger Opposition – Touch your thumb to the tip of your pinky, ring finger, middle finger, and pointer finger. Don’t limit yourself to just that order! Try reversing the order, make a pattern, tap each finger twice, or skip a finger!
- Water play with empty condiment bottles – Do you have any condiment bottles with this type of lid? They are great because the water does not come out unless you squeeze!
- Squeeze hose nozzle – When it’s nice outside, my kids constantly ask to play with the hose. They LOVE to play with water! Squeezing the hose nozzle is great for hand strengthening and very motivating! My kids love to water our flowers, spray down their bikes and outside toys to clean them, and spray each other to name a few things!
- Hole Punch Shapes – These are also great and kid approved! In order to punch the paper out, you need to push the button down. Encourage your kiddo to use their thumb or their thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger if it’s too hard. Not sure what these are? Check them out, here.
Not Sure Which Fine Motor Activities for Cutting Skills to Start With?
Which one appeals most to you? Which one would your kiddo have the most fun with! If you don’t have something, skip it for now and come back to it later if you’d like.
These are most effective when the kiddo likes doing them OR if they are given a manageable time frame in which they have to complete the task. Also remember that strengthening activities are hard work at all ages!
Make sure that you are listening to your kiddo when they say something is hard. Acknowledge that it is hard and then encourage them to do it a few more times. You don’t want to push them too hard, or they wont want to do it again later.
Mix up which activities that you do! Muscles respond well to doing different things!
You’ve got 20 fine motor activities TODAY that will help your kiddos cutting skills!
Which one are you going to start with? Let me know which one your kiddo likes best in the comments below! I read all comments and would love to hear from you!
Need more fine motor ideas? Check out 30 Ultimate Fine Motor Activities with Household Items!
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Kelly is a licensed Occupational Therapist with 15 years of experience servicing school-aged children and Early Intervention. She is the founder of OT Perspective and a mom to 4 children. To learn more about her, check out her About Me page, here.