Cut it out! A Guide to Scissor Skills
Cutting and scissor skills are an important part of school and are needed for many crafts, worksheets, and projects. Below, you’ll find a guide to help teach your child how to use scissors safely and efficiently.
Where and When to Start?
A great place to start is snipping and cutting play-doh. This can be introduced around 2 years of age. You can use play-doh specific or plastic safety scissors. Practice cutting with the dough flattened like paper, rolled like a snake, or broken into thick chunks. When first learning, children will often begin cutting by using both hands to open and close the scissors. As they master opening and closing with one hand, you can introduce them to cutting paper. This should be done with adult supervision and would be a great time to discuss safety and rules for what should and shouldn’t be cut.
Once your child can open and close scissors you can begin showing them how to snip edges. Propelling the arm forward while opening and closing is a different and harder step. It may be helpful to use smaller pieces of paper, paper strips, or to hold the paper for them as they start out. Another fun way to practice snipping is paper haircuts. Draw faces on small pieces of paper and cut a fringe across the top, and then allow your child to trim it up!
Around three years, your child may begin cutting forward across the page. You can encourage them to hold the edges with their opposite hand around this time as well. Smaller or thicker paper such as foam or construction paper will be easier to handle while they cut. In addition, encourage them to cut away from their body with their thumb on top. Putting a sticker or stamp on their thumb and telling them to make sure they can see it before they begin cutting may be a motivating way for them to learn the appropriate grasp.
By around 4 years of age, your child may be able to cut along a straight or curved line and is learning to cut out a circle. Highlighting lines may provide additional visual assistance as well.
Around ages five to six, children will often master squares and begin to hone their accuracy with more complex shapes and figures.
Though it may seem like a common, everyday task, cutting is actually quite complex and requires many different skills. Every child is different and may reach milestones sooner or later than described above. Each step requires a lot of practice to master. However, if you feel that your child needs extra assistance, reach out to an occupational therapist who can determine further concerns and may address positioning, strength, bilateral coordination, adaptive scissors, executive functions, or visual motor integration.
To view more family resources, continue reading at kidtherapy.org.
Lauren Berger, Occupational Therapist, Saint Matthews.