accomplishments · OBSERVATIONS · OT

The Demands on a Toddler

Isabelle colored with a purple crayon today. Afterwards, she cut out a purple frame with her OT's help.
Isabelle colored with a purple crayon today. Afterwards, she cut out a purple frame with her OT’s help.

Every day — every single day — we ask toddlers to go out of their comfort zone and try something new.  Every day — every single day — we ask toddlers to take a risk.  Every day — every single day — we ask toddlers to do things for which they may not be developmentally ready.

For the past seven months, my daughter’s occupational therapists have asked her to use scissors.  At first I felt sad watching her try grip the scissors.  She often held them upside down.  It took her months to cut along a thick, straight line using self-opening scissors.  While her cutting isn’t perfect, she’s able to do it with some adult assistance.

Today, when she was at OT, I asked her occupational therapist why cutting was being stressed right now, while she’s still three and a half.

The answer I got in response was one I didn’t expect, but should’ve.

She told me scissor use isn’t developmentally appropriate until age five.  However, she teaches kids as young as three to cut since there’s an expectation they’ll know how to it independently by the time they reach Kindergarten. That’s right.  SCISSORS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE USED INDEPENDENTLY BY AGE FIVE! However, she knows if she doesn’t teach kids how to do it now, they’ll be behind.  Same thing goes with pre-writing skills and so many of the other things she has to work on in OT. Of course, this led to a conversation about the time spent teaching to the test in public school. By the end of the session, the two of us were tired of thinking of all of the time kids aren’t spending PLAYING because they’re working in school!

I trust my daughter’s OT, but still came home to do some research of my own. Could scissor-use really be an expectation at three years-old?  Well, it depends on the source.  I found one source that says a two year-old should be snipping with scissors, while another says five years-old is when a child should be able to consistently cut on a line. (NOTE: There’s no way I would’ve handed Isabelle scissors prior to her third birthday, regardless of who told me to do so!) And, of course, I found something that had a variety of scissor milestones starting at age four.

I haven’t been pushing the scissors at home for the past few months since they tend to make Isabelle miserable. Of all of the things we have to work on, using a scissor isn’t at the top of my list.  However, I don’t want her to be behind either. While I’m not about to start printing out oodles of things for her to practice cutting from Pinterest (Yes! There are tons of scissor skills pins out there.), I am going to reinforce the things the OT is working on during her weekly session.  It’s all about balance, what’s good for your kid, and remembering what is developmentally appropriate.

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3 thoughts on “The Demands on a Toddler

  1. I read a mommy blog post today about all the things she’d done with her kids so far this summer. One of them was “hire a tutor to help my son get ready for kindergarten.” I felt bad for him. Is kindergarten really that competitive?

    1. Better not be!

      I looked at 6 preschools for my daughter. While on one of the tours, I was taken into a Kindergarten classroom. The room was DEVOID of toys and centers. All of the kids were sitting at their desks in silence completing the same worksheet. When I asked where the imaginative play was, I was told they create it on their own. Needless to say, she is not enrolled in this school for preschool and won’t be for Kindergarten. Scary!

  2. Create it on their own at their desk? Unbelievable! I’ve been thinking about your post, Stacey, for a few days now. We really do put so much pressure on our kids. I have my daughter in speech therapy, and am so pleased with the progress she is making. My doctor told me not to worry and just let her figure it out on her own. He said, “But having said that….you should know that both of my kids did speech therapy and I am glad they did.” I felt like he was trying to say, “Don’t panic! It’s not the end of the world.” (Her delay is pretty mild, but I don’t think she’d have made as much progress without the therapists.) Anyway, I wish more people got that message: Just let them be for a while! I feel that if I am doing my best to read for big chunks of time every day we’re doing alright. Claire can “read” lots of books to herself (familiar books with lots of pictures) and I think that’s pretty impressive for 3.5. We’ve found a home based child care provider for September. She is a certified teacher, and there isn’t a TV in her space. Instead, there are musical instruments, a puppet theatre, a doll house, and lots of play areas that will encourage use of the imagination. I like it!

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