Are You Willing To Bring Out The Adult Scissors?

I remember last year when my teaching partner, Paula, and I discussed putting out some grown-up scissors. Our dramatic play space was evolving into the Build-A-Baby Clothing Store, and we added some felt to this area for children to use to make clothing. Felt is hard to cut with children’s scissors. Try it. We did, and we couldn’t do it. Our fear was that as students attempted to cut the felt, they would end up cutting their fingers. It’s just like trying to chop ingredients with a dull knife. Sometimes a sharp one is better. But could we really add giant adult scissors into a play space in a Kindergarten classroom?

Somehow this became one of the most difficult decisions that we made last year. We had no problem …

  • using screwdrivers with the class,
  • putting out hammers,
  • and letting the kids use knives (butter knives, that is, but they still had teeth),

but we spent days discussing if we could take the plunge and add some adult scissors to dramatic play. Eventually, we decided to try this, but demonstrated how to use these scissors responsibly. Since we couldn’t find an instructional video for using adult scissors, we made our own. I realized later that this child actually had the scissors upside down (oops!), but the key points were still highlighted (even if I did talk a lot).

From January onwards, all of our students used adult scissors … and they did so responsibly. There was not one injury from these scissors. 

This year, the adult scissors came out a lot earlier. This wasn’t intentional. We had them in a bin on the art shelf, and some SK students found them when they were looking for additional scissors to use. They used them last year, so they knew how to do so. And so they did. We kept putting these scissors back into the art shelf bin, but they kept coming out again. Somehow, a pair ended up at the eating table, another in the cutting bin on the carpet, and a third over in the block space. Paula and I wondered again, was it too early in the year to have these scissors out? Something wonderful though happens when you trust students with grown-up materials. They use them even more responsibly.

By adding these items to the environment, you’re saying to them (explicitly or not): “I trust you. I believe in you. I know that you can do this.” The funny thing is that in Kindergarten, there will always be a child (or two or three) that are learning how to cut for the first time, and decide to do a little hairdressing. Usually it’s just a small snip of hair. This is almost a right of passage. You remind the child that, “we just cut paper or tape … but not hair.” This can be upsetting, and even frustrating at times, but it happens. The amazing thing is, this doesn’t happen with the adult scissors. Kids treat these items differently. They know that they’re sharp, and they look more intimidating, so they seem to use them with greater care. The noticeable safety of the children’s scissors make them that much more apt for the kind of cutting that you may not want. 

I can’t help but love these cutting experiences from the past couple of weeks.

They make me think of a tweet that I sent yesterday as I was reading this wonderful Instructional Core article for the Teacher Leadership Course

If we view the child as “competent and capable,” then how are we setting up our classroom to align with these views? Maybe this begins with something as simple as putting out some adult scissors. What do you think?


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