Scissor Use: Giving Preschoolers the Cutting Edge

scissor use

The thought of giving scissors to preschool age children can give parents some anxiety. There can be concerns about the child hurting themselves or cutting something that should not be cut. However, it is important to provide a variety of age-appropriate experiences and lots of supervised practice to help children develop the needed motor skills for cutting and other fine motor tasks that are expected at their age.  


In order for a child to use scissors, they need to have finger isolation and dexterity, adequate hand strength, ability to use both hands together in a coordinated fashion, visual tracking, spatial  awareness, and eye-hand coordination skills, to name a few.  Cutting is very complex and takes a while to master. Below is a sequence of development that most children follow when learning to use scissors.  


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)


“Spiderman Hand”

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. To provide stability, the child should be seated with their feet on the ground for support. The child should be encouraged 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.  

When first learning, children should use child safety scissors. 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. 

The child should be encouraged 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! 

Use a Variety of Cutting Materials and Make it Fun! 

When kids are first learning to snip, it is best to use materials that can be cut through in one snip like thin 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 widened and less rigid materials can be used like plain paper, tissue paper, yarn, or felt.  Children should be supervised when using scissors.  

Using fun activities like scissors mazes, puzzles, playdough activities, and cut and paste craft activities can make learning to cut more fun.There are a variety of cutting activities that can be found on the internet. For example, Teachers Pay Teachers have a variety of free scissor skills activities that can be downloaded. Just search for cutting practice with scissors and then use the filters to sort for “free” under Price and select the age of the child. Be creative and have fun!

Click here to learn more about our therapy services!

Contact us to learn more or browse our roster of therapists to book directly!

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.