Helping your Child Develop Scissor Skills

Written by Serena Rudd, Occupational Therapist

When will my child learn to use scissors safely?

Although it may not look like it, but using scissors actually requires lots of work and learning of new skills. There are many developmental skills that must be acquired prior to being able to use scissors. This includes bilateral coordination (using both sides of our bodies), fine motor strength (using the muscles in our hands), visual perception (making sense of what our eyes are seeing), and visual-motor integration (being able to control our movements based on what our eyes are telling our brain i.e., hand/eye coordination). If a child is having challenges in just one these areas, it makes using scissors so much harder.

How do I know when my child will be ready to use scissors?
AgeScissor SkillsCutting
2-3 YearsSnipping short cutsRandom snips around the edge of paper.
3 YearsContinuous cutting across paperCuts using a forward motion across the paper.
3 years 6 months- 4 yearsCutting in a lineCutting along thick, straight lines.
4-5 years:- Cutting and stopping
- Cutting with direction changes
- Has more control over stopping and cutting.
5- 6 yearsCutting shapesCan cut more complex figures and shapes with control.

Here are some activities you can try at home to help your child develop their scissor skills and become school ready. Please remember that there are child safe scissors available from a variety of stationary stores to meet your child’s needs and keep them safe when developing this skill, despite their abilities. Scissors should also be used under parental supervision and children should be made aware of the importance of using scissors safely.

  • Practicing using scissors with playdoh: This will help develop their strength in their hands if they are not ready to go straight to paper.
  • Real life pacman: cut a hole (shaped like a mouth) in a tennis ball and have your child “feed pacman”. This will help develop both visual motor coordination and fine motor strength.
  • Practice cutting with coloured cardboard: Cutting out the rainbow with different colours to assist with development of cutting rounded edges.
  • Social stories can help develop an understanding of involving our ‘helper hand’ and keeping it safe when cutting.
  • Pass the pasta game: Have dried pasta in a container/bowl and have the child use tongs to place all the pasta pieces on the table. You can turn this into a game by timing them and seeing if they can beat their record! This will help develop their fine motor strength as well as motor coordination.
  • Cutting snowflakes: You could have them cut out a snowflake for their favourite Frozen character. This is a great one as it teaches the child to cut shapes in different directions.
  • Keep it fun! The more enjoyable that you make working on scissor skills, the more likely your child is to want to keep refining their skills.

CHALLENGER: For a more challenging activity, cut out paper chains of dolls/people with your child.

If you have concerns about your child’s development of scissor skills, you can speak to a Stepping Stones Occupational Therapist for more information. Find out more at here.
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