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Scissor Skills and Preschoolers

Does the idea of a pair of scissors in your preschoolers hands scare the bejeebers out of you? Well it should. Those little things are sharp and can cut all sorts of stuff like hair, clothes, the curtains and even the cats whiskers. So why am I writing about actually putting these tools of destruction in your child’s hands you ask? Well, because scissor skills are an important developmental step for your child.
Using scissors develops your child’s hand strength, coordination, motor planning and eye/hand coordination. These are all skills that carry over to other activities, like writing, doing math problems and even playing sports.
So let’s talk about letting your little one practice that all important skill of using scissors and keeping the cat’s whiskers safe. First some general guidelines:

  • Use good quality kids scissors like Fiskars or Wescott. These are not expensive and they are sharp enough to actually cut and allow your child to experience success in their earliest attempts at cutting. Cheaper scissors will only frustrate their efforts and in actually may lead to them to explore to find something the scissors will actually cut.
  • Set guidelines for cutting practice. “Only when mommy is around”, “only at the kitchen table” etc. These guidelines will become routine and help you control when, where ,and most importantly what gets cut.
  • Don’t let them “wear” the scissors. The tendency is to push the scissors all the way to the end of the fingers but it is important to help your child get the scissors comfortably on the end of the their fingers and thumb. The scissors should rest right around the first knuckle. Now even the smallest hand has the proper leverage to make the scissors work.
  • Model for them. Thumbs up! Help them keep the thumb pointing up. Then model the open/shut motion for cutting. Here is a little song to sing while cutting:

Open shut them, open shut them
Give a little snip, snip, snip!!

Cutting develops in stages. The first stage is snipping. This is cutting something with a single stroke. Then move on to cutting longer straight lines. Curved and rounded lines should come next because they are more difficult and will involve the use of the second hand as a helper hand to move the material being cut. As their hands become stronger and their coordination improves so will their cutting. Don’t expect perfectly cut objects for a long time but watch as the skills develop and your child learns and improves their skills with scissors.

Suggestions for cutting practice:


1” strips of colored paper(let them glue the small pieces onto a larger paper to make a beautiful mosaic)
Coupons, newspapers, magazines ( as they get better they can actually help by cutting coupons for the next shopping trip)

Leftover wrapping paper, yarn and crafting materials

Clay or play dough is fun to cut and helps to strengthen the hand muscles

Heavier materials like thin plastic and fun foam also make for good cutting practice.

To contain the mess of free cutting try using an inexpensive plastic table cloth on the floor. When they are done just scoop up the corners and shake it into the trash.

The key to success is patience and practice, oh and a nice safe place to keep the scissors when not in use. Preferably on a nice high shelf. Supervision for scissor use with a preschooler is an absolute necessity. You will know your child will be getting the practice they need but you will also know that the curtains on the window and the dogs tail will remain safe and that their first hair cut will be from the hands of a barber not their own!

Happy cutting mom and dad. Your efforts will be worth it.

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