Scissor Use: Giving Preschoolers the Cutting Edge

Some parents are surprised to learn that preschoolers are given scissors to use at school. Most preschool programs provide a variety of age-appropriate experiences and lots of practice so that students can develop the needed motor skills for cutting and other fine motor tasks. Below is the developmental sequence for scissor use.

Scissor Skill Developmental Sequence

  1. Hold scissors in hands. Opens and closes the blades using 2 hands (1 ½ – 2 years old)

  2. Opens and closes scissors in air, using only one hand (1 ½ – 2 ½ years old)

  3. Snips the edge of paper (2 ½ years old)

  4. Cuts/snips across a sheet of paper without ripping or tearing the paper (3 – 3 ½ years old)

  5. Uses helper hand (opposite hand) to hold and maneuver the paper while cutting 

  6. Cuts on a straight line (3 ½ – 4 years old)

  7. Cuts along a curved line (3 ½ – 4 years old)

  8. Cuts out simple shapes like a circle and square (4 – 5 years old)

  9. Cuts out complex shapes like a star or figure (5- 6 years old)

Hand and Body Positioning for Scissor Use

As a child learns to use scissors, it is important to pay attention to hand and body positions. For stability, the child should sit with their feet on the ground for support. Encourage the child to hold the paper or cutting material in one hand and scissors in the other with a thumbs up position. Elbows should be close to the body, not flapping out to the sides.  

“Spiderman Hand”

The preferred scissor grasp is with the thumb on top in the little hole and the middle and ring finger in the larger hole on the bottom. The index finger not be in the hole but instead, it acts as a guide. Sometimes telling kids to use the “Spiderman grasp” can help them remember which fingers to place in the scissors. 

Proper Scissor Grasp

Encourage the child to turn the paper when making curves or changing direction.  This will take practice as it requires bilateral coordination, or coordinated movement between the two sides of the body. 

Use a Variety of Cutting Materials and Make it Fun! 

When kids are first learning to snip, use materials that can be cut through in one snip like strips of cardstock or construction paper, plastic straws, plastic ribbons, or playdough rolled into a log.  As the child progresses in their skill, the paper size can be increased and less rigid materials can be used like plain paper, tissue paper, yarn, or felt.  Make sure to supervise your child when using scissors.  Have fun being creative! 

If you have concerns about your child’s development, Enablr Therapy has a team of knowledgeable and skilled occupational, physical and speech therapists that work with your child and family to maximize their potential.

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About Enablr Therapy
Enablr Therapy offers speech, occupational, and physical therapy to people of all ages and abilities through our school-based therapy services as well as cash-based services for individual clients. Individual clients can be seen through convenient online sessions in many states across the country.