Welcome to Day 1 of Getting Your Child Ready for Kindergarten! Over the next few weeks, I’m going to walk you through a variety of very easy and practical activities to help give your child some tools, skills, and strategies to be more successful in kindergarten.
Before becoming a stay at home mom, I was a teacher. While I’ve taught 2nd grade and LAP reading, I spent most of my time in the classroom in Kindergarten. I’m going to give you practical ideas, tips, and easy activities to do with your child to get him/her ready for kindergarten. Over the next 30 days, we’ll talk about a wide variety of behaviors and skills that will help your child be more successful in kindergarten. Each day I will try to provide a range of different activities tailored to students who may be at different levels of ability. I hope you’ll check back each day and spend the last part of the summer helping your child prepare for school. Happy learning!
Today we are starting small – literally! We are going to be working on a fine motor skill. Today we are talking SCISSORS.
When I was in the classroom, I noticed that about 2/3 of my students did not have mastery (or anything resembling mastery!) of this skill. Typically on the first day, I’d give my students a small scissoring activity so I could gauge their skill and familiarity. I was always shocked to see very quickly how many of them had clearly never held a pair of scissors before.
As a whole, parents are collectively pretty nervous about the usage of scissors. Fearing the goofy self-haircut or library books cut to ribbons, we hide scissors away in some obscure cupboard, never to be touched. Then, our kids enter kindergarten with all of the manual dexterity of someone trying to brush their teeth while wearing oven mitts. Kids need PRACTICE using scissors – lots and lots of practice.
However, before practice there must be rules and expectations. It’s very important to be clear and consistent with your scissoring guidelines. Kids need to be told exactly what the rules and boundaries are when it comes to scissors. Here are a few MANDATORY scissoring rules.
Absolute MUST-KNOW Scissor Rules
Kids need to learn that scissors must absolutely never EVER cut:
- body parts
- school supplies
But, parents (and teachers) sometimes forget to mention in their frenzied shouts of “Scissors are only for cutting paper” that scissors are only for APPROVED pieces of paper. If you tell a child that scissors are for paper, he/she may find a stack of your expensive scrapbook paper, the garbage bill, your bank statements, etc. It’s best to get a handle on this at home, and explain that he/she is only allowed to cut the paper(s) you specify, before your child cuts up random papers at school. Teach them that if they are in doubt, they should ask before they cut.
Be very clear about the above. I could tell you stories all day about kids who tried to cut a wide variety of things with scissors. I still get chills thinking about the child I caught trying to cut their tongue. (I kid you not.)Like I said, CLEAR and up-front expectations are key!
Model handing scissors to someone with the plastic “ears” in the up position. Explain (and make it explicit) that children (or anyone) should never pass scissors to someone with the blades up. Enforce this rule, even with safety scissors, so that when they begin to use “real” scissors or need to get the “real” scissors for you or their teacher, that they will do so in a safe way.
Don’t run with scissors
This is one of those old adages that everyone jokes about, but it’s super important! Big-time accidents can occur when a little one runs with sharp pointy objects! Teach your child to walk slowly and carefully when carrying scissors. (And model, model, model!)
Here are a few pointers or cutting tips to give your child:
- Remind your child that if they are cutting out smaller pieces from a whole (ie- squares from a grid, etc.) to first cut out the larger shape, and then begin to cut out the smaller pieces.
- If the project allows for it, encourage your child to create a “more manageable” piece of paper to cut from. Sometimes manipulating a smaller piece of paper is much easier for a child than a full 8 1/2 x 11 piece.
- Turn the paper, not the scissors. This is a tricky one to explain without a demonstration. Free-hand a quick bumpy cloud on a piece of paper (or something with a lot of “turns”), and SHOW your child how to turn the paper to make the cutting easier. Many young children keep their paper completely still and try to work their little hands around the shape to be cut. Frustration soon sets in with that method. Model, model, model.
MODEL (yes, I think modeling is important!) the proper grip for your child. I have seen kids hold their scissors dozens of different ways. They will cut with the greatest ease and range of motion if they learn to hold their scissors correctly. Teach your child to put their thumb in the top hole. The fingers that go in the bottom hole may differ from child to child. Many children prefer to place their next two fingers in the bottom hole, while others “skip” a finger, and place their middle and ring fingers in the bottom hole. Have them figure out what is comfortable, as long as their thumb is on top. (This keeps them from using the scissors upside-down.)
Here are a few fun activities to help your child get some great scissor practice!
- Collage! Provide a set of old magazines (again, make sure you let your child know these are the only magazines they are to cut!), a pair of scissors, a glue stick, and paper. Have your child cut out pictures of things they like, letters, words, etc. Children can create a free-form scene of appealing pictures, or encourage them to make a thematic scene, such as “a family”, “places you’d like to go,” etc.
- Line it up! Take a piece of plain paper and free-hand draw a set of lines from one end to the other. Draw one straight line, a wiggly line, a zigzag line, etc. Have your child practice cutting along the different lines. The varied motions will provide a lot of great practice.
- Cut and Paste Workbooks! I have a few great cut and paste workbooks that I have been using with my soon-to-be kindergartner. He likes the varied activities (games, graphs, thinking pages) and I like that he is required to cut a variety of shapes and sizes, sometimes cutting separate items and sometimes cutting pieces from a whole. It’s a lot of great fine motor practice for him and zero work for me! I just rip out a page! Here are my favorites:
Remember that kids typically approach new skills (especially that might be tricky!) better when they are presented as FUN activities. If you approach the scissoring activities with enthusiasm and joy, they are much more likely to as well. Nevertheless, here are a few things you might want a heads-up about…
- Expect frustration. Learning a new skill is tough.
- Expect tears. (Not from all kids, but there is a definite population of children who will cry.) Certain types of children may become very upset if they are trying to cut out a paper flower and say, accidentally hack one of the petals off. Have some scotch tape handy and be prepared to respond with a positive attitude.
- Prepare them with words like, “It’s totally okay to not cut perfectly, especially at first. Cutting perfectly on the lines can be really hard. Sometimes, I even have a hard time! It’s okay to make mistakes. Just do your best, and it will get easier.” Set them up with the mindset that it is OKAY to be continually learning and improving. Learning anything is a process. Help them enjoy it.
I will see you back here tomorrow for Day 2 of our Ready for Kindergarten: 30 Days of Activities, Ideas, and Learning Fun!