Teaching Preschoolers to Cut with Scissors

Using scissors is a skill that is not always easy to master for a preschooler with tiny hands. In order to master this, the child needs to be able to use his index finger, middle finger, and thumb separately from the pinky and ring finger. Despite the fact that children begin using scissors from as early as 3 and 4 years old, it is not until around 6 years old that they fully develop scissor skills. You can start helping your preschooler to develop scissor skills by practicing special activities to build his fine motor skills.

How to Teach Preschoolers to Cut with Scissors

1. Build Motor Skills

There are lots of fun ideas to build your child's fine motor skills and bi-lateral coordination from early on and before he actually begins to use scissors.

  • Your child will enjoy using the kitchen tongs to move blocks or other items from one place to another.
  • Have your child squeeze water from a water toy during bath time.
  • Use eye droppers filled with paint to make something fun.
  • Punch holes into card paper with a hole puncher to strengthen hand muscles.
  • Play with finger puppets. This is great for practicing how to use fingers separately.
  • Tear paper into smaller pieces. This will help towards building dexterity.
  • Pinning clothes pegs along the edges of a paper plate is ideal for bilateral coordination.

2. Select the Proper Scissors

Put some thought and effort into finding the right scissors for your little one. It is not always a one-size-fit-all endeavor. Have your child test the scissors to make sure that they are sharp enough and that they fit well with his hands.

  • Right or Left-Handedness

The scissors you buy must match your child's handedness. The majority of scissors are designed for those who use their right hand. However, a left-handed child should use scissors that are specially designed for lefties. True left-handed scissors are designed with the upper blades on the left so that the child can easily see the cutting line. There are scissors that are advertised as being ambidextrous, but sometimes they can still make it hard for the leftie to see the cutting line.

  • Adaptive Scissors

Children with muscle weaknesses in their hands, special needs, or any such limitation will require adaptive scissors. There are several styles and designs of these to fit particular needs. Some include the spring scissors, which will automatically spring open after being squeezed closed; mounted table scissors for one-handed users; and learning scissors, which are great for training the child about correct positioning.

  • Safety Scissors

Some people who work with preschoolers and young children prefer to use scissors with dull tips for beginners. These are usually regarded as safety scissors. You should ensure to buy one that will actually effectively cut paper, as some don't. If a child has too much difficulty cutting paper, then he may become discouraged from learning proper scissor skills altogether.

3. Emphasize Scissor Safety

It is important to teach the child about scissor safety and repeat these rules at the beginning of every cutting activity. There are two main points that should be emphasized. First, children must be made aware that scissors should only be used to cut paper and nothing else. Secondly, make sure the child knows that he should avoid walking or running around with scissors. If he must go from one place to another, then model the correct way to walk with scissors, which is to hold the blades together in a fist with the handles sticking out on top. His hands should also stay close to his sides. You may have to model this a few times.

4. Hold Scissors Correctly

Begin with the right grip. Model the right way to hold the scissors and have your child copy your actions. You may have to help him with placing the correct fingers in the right openings. Teach and then show that the thumb always goes into the smaller hole and that two fingers go into the larger hole. Using pictures may help.

Have your child practice opening and closing techniques. This is great for building the necessary strength for operating the scissors.

5. Cut Lines

Teach scissor control by starting with thick lines as guidelines. A paper that is relatively sturdy is also better than one that is too light or thin and will easily fold or bend. Guide your child hand-over-hand until he gets comfortable.

6. Cut Shapes

After your child has grown comfortable with the previous steps, you can move onto having him cut shapes. You can draw shapes yourself with a thick-tipped marker or use colored pre-printed images of triangles, circles, or squares.

7. Cut While Turning the Paper

Demonstrate how to cut while turning the paper. Guide your child as he tries to cut with one hand as he turns the paper with the other. This will stop him from turning the scissors upside down (which is the natural thing to do). Teach him how to do this gradually so that he stays in control of both scissors and paper.

8. Practice Cutting with Fun

Make learning how to use scissors fun and creative by trying some interesting ideas. Have glue and crayons at hand so that your child can cut and paste and color when he is cutting.

Some other interesting ideas are listed below.

Snake Slicing. Let your child roll play dough to create big and long mommy snakes and then use scissors to cut them into smaller baby snakes.

Fringe Designs. Have your child snip the edges of colored paper to create a cool placemat or hat.

Collage Art. Tear pages from old magazines and have your child cut them up into various shapes and then glue them onto paper to create a work of art.

This video will show you more fun and creative ways to teach preschoolers how to use scissors: