Not as Easy as it Seems

by Jill Perry MHA, MS, OTR/L

How difficult do you think a color, cut, and paste activity is for a five year old?  What could be simpler?  Let’s look more closely at skills needed…



  • First, if a sample is presented, the child needs to be able to perceive the spatial arrangement of the pieces.
  • When planning the task with your child, sequencing comes in to play…do you cut first? Or glue? Or trace?
  • Once the sequence is established, can your child organize the task by identifying and gathering materials needed?
  • Tracing requires use of a dominant hand with a mature pencil grasp and sufficient pressure to mark the paper but not so much pressure that the paper rips.
  • Crossing the body midline while holding the pattern can be quite challenging for some children.
  • Scissor use involves correct placement of the scissors on the correct hand, opening and closing the scissors to effectively cut paper while holding and turning the paper with the non-dominant hand in synchrony.
  • Time to organize the freshly cut pieces onto the paper.  Can your child arrange them to look similar to the model – another spatial organizational challenge?
  • Now for the glue…does the glue go on the background paper or the pieces?  Do you glue the top or turn the pieces over?  Use liquid glue whenever possible for the proprioceptive experience of squeezing the glue out of the bottle, the impulse control experience of stopping when enough glue is on the paper, and the tactile experience of actually touching the wet, sticky substance.
  • Patience is often required as the child needs to wait until their project dries.
  • Finally, can your child tell another person how the project was done, remembering and effectively communicating the steps as the project is proudly displayed?

So…next time you do a project with a child, take note of the phenomenal skill required for a seemingly simple task.  Remember to rejoice in the process as well as the product! 

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