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Cut and Paste

Cut and Paste

Example of a 4 year old's underdeveloped cutting skills

A friend of mine recently posted on social media that her child had been labeled as "underdeveloped in his cutting skills." She posted a picture of his work and asked for recommendations on how she could help him improve. Her child is nearing five years-old. She must be a better person than I am because if a teacher had tried to have a conversation with me about my four year-old's "underdeveloped" cutting skills, I would have told her to take her scissors and shove ‘em…(back into her supply cabinet, of course).

Out of curiosity, I recreated the example that my friend posted for my boys. Pretty much the only time they use scissors is during a project or to open Amazon Prime boxes. They've also been known to use the scissors to get into unopened bags of cereal at 5am....


Six year-old Max's cutting

Max was uninterested in helping Mom do her research. He was much more concerned with showing his aunt his latest Lego creation and had little patience for this seemingly pointless activity. I had to laugh. The kid lands airplanes on a flight simulator but has zero patience for cutting. 

Isaac's cutting

Four year old Isaac's cutting

Isaac is a rebel and for the first few cuts insisted on holding his scissors in the least efficient way possible. He came around quickly though and then worked with caution to complete the task. Isaac is always very deliberate in his actions so his focus did not surprise me at all. 

So there they are-the masterpieces of a six year-old and a four-year old. Would their work have been labeled as "underdeveloped" in a school setting? Probably, but that doesn't concern me and here's why: Isaac can do math in his head that most kids don't attempt until age six or seven. Max reads flashcards about the presidents of the United States. Both of them have vocabularies that would far surpass many kids of similar ages. Simply stated, different kids will develop different skills at different ages and develop those skills at a different pace. We KNOW this. 

And yet, here we are qualifying the accuracy of a pre-schooler’s cutting. What does it matter that a four year-old hasn't mastered the fine art of cut and paste? Shouldn't he be outside playing in the dirt and climbing trees? With increasing evidence that play is highly beneficial to a child’s cognitive development, why are educators and politicians insisting that we begin characterizing a child’s potential for educational success at such a young age?

In this case, there are two answers:

First there is the need to be "ready" for kindergarten. Since many kindergartners are not yet proficient, independent readers, cut and paste activities offer a simple and efficient way for kiddos to demonstrate mastery of new skills such as recognizing letters and numbers and demonstrating simple addition and subtraction.  It is the kindergarten version of a worksheet and while worksheets can be beneficial as a supplement (a supplement, folks) to a student's education, too often these worksheets are used in place of discovery and exploration. 

Secondly, his teacher may also believe that his fine motor skills are not developing quickly enough which could lead to issues with handwriting. This is understandable, but let's cut the kid some slack! Just like babies don't meet all their milestones at the same age (wouldn't that make parenting easy), kids aren't going to learn to cut, read, write, spell, add, or recite the scientific method at the same age.  And even when they do hit milestones and acquire new skills they will not develop at the same rate. How many parents have we heard say that even their own two children are very different? That they have different personalities, different interests, excel in different areas of academics. How different then, must a class of 25 four and five year-olds be? 

I truly feel that the expectations that are placed on students at any given grade level are arbitrary at best, based on a one-size-fits-all approach to the education of our children. If we could somehow figure out how to embrace the uniqueness of each young learner instead of trying to funnel them all down the same, identical pipeline, then perhaps our education system could make greater strides towards ensuring that we are nurturing the abilities and capabilities of ALL learners.

The more you teach / push those things that can be measured,
the more kids will grow up feeling like they don’t measure up.
~ Vince Gowmon

If you do in fact, want to work on your child's fine motor skills, here are a few of my personal suggestions!

    1.     It's berry season! Ever tried to get a blueberry of a tree without squishing it?! Find a local u-pick farm and go to town.

    2.     Take a few bottles with varying sized openings down to a rocky creek. Find and sort rocks and pebbles. 

lacing cards

    3.     Pick up some cheap lace and trace cards that can help develop the skills needed for lacing and tying shoes.

    4.     Play a game. Connect Four, Chinese Checkers-anything with a small game piece and makes use of the pincer grasp.

    5.     Give your child some paper and scissors and let him cut what ever he wants. No patterns, no pasting, no assessments. Just let him cut and if what he cuts is a million tiny pieces of paper that end up all over the floor, then you can teach him a lesson in cleaning up after himself too. 

Single hole punch find

6.     Still have a random, single hole-punch lying around? For some reason we do and when I pulled it out for another project, the boys were fascinated! So much so that I often find random pieces of paper with a trillion holes punched out.  Wouldn't you know it? Using it is very similar to holding and manipulating a pair of scissors! And for all the fun confetti that is created, you can repeat that lesson in cleaning up! 

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