Teaching Scissor Skills the Fun and Safe Way

Young girl using scissors to cut paper

Does the thought of teaching your child to use scissors make you fear for your fingers? 

Good news: when done in a developmentally appropriate sequence, and with lots of close supervision, scissor skills can be taught in a safe and fun way!

In preschool or kindergarten, your child will be expected to begin using scissors. Scissor skills will become a vital part of completing worksheets, projects, and arts and crafts throughout your child’s school career. You will be doing your child a huge favor by helping them develop the fine motor and safety skills needed for cutting with scissors sooner rather than later. 

Many parents are surprised to learn there are lots of ways to develop the underlying skills needed for scissor use without actually touching a pair of scissors! Your child will need to develop hand strength, bilateral hand skills (using both hands together at once–such as one-hand opening and closing scissors while the other hand holds and manipulates the paper being cut), motoric separation of the two sides of the hand, and visual-motor skills. Check out our suggestions for teaching beginning scissor skills below!

Tips and Tricks:

  • Engage in play involving tongs, chip-clips, clothespins, or spray bottles.
  • Tear construction paper to make a collage or let your child rip up junk mail, phone books, newspapers, magazines, or used brown paper bags.
  • Pick up several small items, such as pennies or beads, one at a time using index finger and thumb, then “nest” the items securely in the palm while picking up the next small item. Next, deposit these small items one at a time into a slot or hole by moving each object from the palm back to the thumb and pointer finger without dropping any.
  • Allow your child to roll playdough into a long snake, then use plastic bladeless scissors to snip it into tiny pieces.
  • Try these super cute safety-scissors that are designed to look like animals!
  • If you child has a disability or deficit that makes it very difficult or impossible for them to physically open and close scissors, be sure to check out adapted scissors including self-opening scissors, loop scissors, dual control scissors (room for your fingers AND your child’s fingers), and mounted table-top scissors.
  • Encourage appropriate hand and finger placement from the beginning including thumb in the smaller hole, fingers in the larger hole, and always keeping the thumb on top of the paper being cut. Adding a sticker or drawn happy face to the top of the thumb hole on the scissors and/or your child’s thumbnail is a fun way to help them remember correct hand positioning!
  • When cutting paper, start by using notecards. They are smaller than regular paper, therefore less distance to cut. They are also stiffer which makes them easier to hold still with the helper hand while cutting with the dominant hand. The thick paper also provides more tactile feedback for your child to feel as they cut through the paper.

What is your favorite scissor skills building activity? Let us know in the comments below!

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