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Scissor skills, pre-scissor activities and types of scissors

Developing scissor skills is an important milestone in your child’s life.  By learning to use scissors they practice using a tripod grasp (using thumb, index and middle finger together) which then develops into the ideal grasp for writing.  It is important that your child uses the appropriate scissors for their dominant hand (left or right handed scissors).

Your child needs to master the following skills in order before they can use scissors effectively:

The activities below focus on the child being able to open and close their hand using the first three fingers (thumb, index and middle finger)

  • Progress from larger movements to smaller movements when cutting.
  • Start by cutting in an unskilled manner, with more tearing than cutting.
  • Hands Doing the Same Action: Lego, rolling pin, large ball games, pop beads, interlocking games.


  • Hands Doing the Same but Opposite Action: squeezing out a cloth, tearing paper, wheelbarrow games, hand over hand pulling along a rope.


  • Stabilisation with Grasp (one hand stabilises the activity while the other carries out the activity): opening a jar, holding the paper still to draw, pouring from a jug into a cup, holding a bowl and stirring, threading, using a knife and fork, using templates/stencils to draw round, using wind-up toys, lacing.

Pre scissor activity ideas

Activities to Practice Develop Pincer Grasp

Activities to Practice Opening and Closing Hands

Scissor skills

Cutting skills take time for children to develop. Being able to use scissors to cut well is important for many preschool and school activities including art and craft. Children may have the skills to use small scissors by three to four years of age, but scissor skills are not fully developed until 6 years of age.

When is my child ready to use scissors?

To use scissors children need:

Choosing Scissors for your child

Scissors with tiny oval handles are easiest for children to use. Short blades will give the cutter the most success. The scissors also need to be sharp enough to cut the material on hand or it will be a frustrating experience. Children will need supervision for sharp scissors. Make sure that scissors have rounded rather than pointy ends for safety.

Scissors for Left Handers

How to hold scissors

Everyone has their own style of holding scissors. However, if you get a chance to teach your child then this is a good way of holding them:

  • When holding a pair of scissors for the first time reinforce your child’s hand position by getting them to do the ‘thumbs up’ sign. Remind your child each time the correct way to hold the scissors, reinforce the ‘thumbs up’ and give them plenty opportunities to practice.
  • Get your child to hold a beanbag between their elbow and side whilst they practice cutting to ensure that their hand and arm position remain correct whilst cutting.
  • Try marking the thumb hole with a piece of coloured tape so your child knows where to place their thumb.

Scissor activity ideas

Start with materials that do not require much holding and positioning. Also, it is best to start with things that require only one snip, not a couple of cuts. This list goes from easiest to hardest:

  • Straws (these can be threaded to make a necklace).
  • Strips of light cardboard (about 2cm wide).
  • Firm paper (fringe the edge by snipping).
  • Firm paper with a thick straight line to cut along (start with a 10cm strip).
  • As above with thinner lines or wider paper strips.
  • Firm paper with curvy lines.
  • Paper with simple shapes.
  • Lighter paper or more complex shapes (these need a lot of holding and positioning).
  • If you don’t want your child to use sharp scissors, they could practice cutting playdough sausages with plastic scissors.
  • Start with a collection of old flyers, catalogues and magazines for when your child gets really involved in cutting.
  • Encourage them to paste their pictures onto larger sheets of paper.
  • Develop a system for cleaning up i.e. rules about what and where they can cut and who is going to pick up the scraps.
  • Keep your good sewing scissors out of reach!

Scissor skills process

  1. Show how to hold scissors and practice cutting in the air.
  1. Repeat above with wool and sandpaper etc.
  2. Colour ½” –1” strips across the paper and cut on coloured strip.
  3. Stick several strips of varying thickness of paper and card on a sheet of paper and ask child to cut along the side of each strip using the edge as guideline.
  4. Punch a series of holes in paper or use punched edge of computer paper and ask child to cut through holes.
  5. Cut short strips of paper, then glue them into joined circles to make paper chains.
  6. Glue small pieces of material or stickers on a piece of paper and ask child to cut from one to another. Gradually put more pieces on the paper to make it more difficult.
  • Repeat above section using curved lines.
  • Stick card circles (or faces) on piece of paper and ask your child to cut out using card as guideline.
  • Stick coloured circle shapes on paper and ask your child to cut out.
  1. Snake Mobile: draw a coloured spiral and cut from the outside to the centre, attach string at the centre point and hang up.
  2. Weave Away and Make a Mat: using 2 pieces of paper; fold one piece in half and draw lines from the crease to just before the edge of the paper (see below). Cut along each line and open up the folded paper.

Cut the second piece of paper into strips.  Then weave the strips into first sheet.  Sellotape ends to fasten mat.

  1. Make a Scrap Book from magazines, old cards etc. Choose a topic, or find a picture for each letter of the alphabet.
  2. Make a House by using shapes:

Large Square = House

Triangle = Roof

Small Squares = Windows

Rectangle = Door

Circles = Flowers

Scissor types

These scissors are recommended for use for children who have a weak grip and poor hand control. The continuous loop handle allows the scissors to automatically open when pressure is released.

Green = Left Handed

Blue = Right Handed

These can be purchased from the following providers (please shop around as prices may vary):


These scissors would be recommended for use for children with a weak grip and poor hand control. They can also be used for children who have a tremor. The longer loop allows the middle, ring and little fingers to be used to open/close the scissors, with the index finger being used to control on the outside.

Green = Left Handed

Blue = Right Handed

These can be purchased from the following providers (please shop around as prices may vary):


These scissors would be recommended for use for children with a weak grip and poor hand control. They automatically re-open after each cut.

These can be purchased from the following providers (please shop around as prices may vary):


These scissors are self-opening with the spring automatically opening the scissors ready for the next cut. These would be recommended for use for children with weak grasp, poor hand control and a tremor. These scissors can also be used one-handed and it would be recommended that the stronger hand manipulates the position of the paper whilst the weaker hand operates the scissors.

These can be purchased from the following providers (please shop around as prices may vary):