When teaching a child to cut, it is best to use stiff and thick paper materials such as card stock or index cards. It's easier to manage stiff materials rather than flimsy ones. For example, it's easier to snip a straw than a string. As the child learns to manage the sturdy paper and turn it while cutting, then transition to cutting regular paper and tissue paper.


Encourage your child to keep "thumbs up" when cutting, rather than turning their hand over so the thumb is towards the ground. Children will often attempt cutting with their thumb turned towards the ground when first learning to cut. One simple way to teach thumbs up is to have them cut something that is suspended in the air at eye-level or higher. It is extremely difficult to cut something at that height and still have your hand turned upside down! Another great trick is putting clothes pins on a string at eye-level (same motion).

Scissor Skills

Activities for Developing

Scissor Skills

  • use tongs or tweezers to pick up small items like cotton balls

  • squeeze clothes pins, medicine droppers, turkey basters

  • tear and crinkle up tissue paper into balls

  • snip straws into pieces to make jewelry

  • roll Play-Doh or putty into a "snake" and cut it into pieces

  • string macaroni, Fruit Loops or beads on string or pipecleaners

  • lacing activities

  • use spray bottles or squirt guns

  • use single hole punch to make confetti

  • draw circles, squares and triangles on small squares of card stock that are slightly larger than the shape

  • shadow hand puppets like an alligator


Typical Developmental Milestones

2-3 Years:

  • often hold scissors with two hands to open and close

  • begins to hold scissors with a mature grasp (thumb on top)

  • learns to snip paper but does not yet cut in forward motion

  • may begin to use other hand to assist in holding paper


3-4 Years:

  • hand switching is common

  • cuts along a straight line with some level of accuracy

  • cuts on curved lines with decreased accuracy

  • manipulates paper with assisting hand

  • scissors grasped with thumb in one loop and index, middle, or both in other loop - thumb moves in isolation

  • able to cut out a circle


5-6 Years:

  • cuts fairly straight along curved lines and simple shapes (circle, square, and triangle)

  • turns paper effectively with assisting hand

  • elbow rises for large changes in cutting direction

  • some children will use mature scissor grasp with thumb in small loop on top and middle finger and index finger in lower loop; all fingers are flexed except thumb

  • progresses to cutting out complex shapes

  • cuts smoothly (no jagged edges or torn paper)