Break tasks down to allow children to experience success.
A few weeks ago I was reading a list of developmental tasks a three-year-old should be able to complete before turning four. Several of the items involved proficiency with scissors: cutting in a straight line, cutting in a circle, etc.
And I realized that C has never even picked up a pair of scissors. I went to the store looking for safety scissors and for some reason could only find scissors intended for ages 5 and up. I lamented the situation to a friend and the next day at church she kindly gave C a pair of safety scissors that her kids had outgrown.
This week C and I were talking about what to do next and I remembered the scissors. I asked her if she'd like to cut some paper. We gathered some old junk mail and I handed her the scissors. She tried to hand them back to me.
"You cut," she said. "I can't do it."
"You don't know how to use the scissors. Let me show you."
First, I showed her how I put my two fingers in one of the holes and thumb in the other and opened and closed the scissors.
Then, I guided her two fingers in one of the holes and thumb in the other and helped her position her hand so she could open and close the scissors.
Once she had an effective open and closing motion, I said, "Now, let's put a piece of paper between the two sides of the scissors when it is open, and when it closes again, it will make a cut."
She opened the scissors, I guided the paper in, and told her to close the scissors. It made a cut. I continued holding the paper and moving it in between the blades of the scissors for her while she practiced a few more cuts. Then I encouraged her to position the scissors around the paper herself while I still held it. Finally, when she had the hang of that, I showed her how she could hold the paper in her free hand and make the cut all by herself.
She moved the scissors to a new spot on the edge of the paper each time, and made quite a fringe around the edge before she tired of the activity.
I tried to show her how she could make a line if she moved the scissors up in the same cut, but she didn't seem to get it.
Oh well, she's still a week away from turning three! Plenty of time to gain more confidence and skill using scissors, in small steps.
As Jane Nelsen says:
Children give up the belief that they can't when they achieve small steps.