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.