I am often asked by teachers and parents how to teach scissor skills to preschoolers. Young kids need plenty of practice with fine motor activities to develop the small muscles required for cutting. We introduce scissors to our 3’s, but do not formally work on cutting skills until the 4th year. By the time most kids are four (reminder that not every child will develop at the same pace), they are ready to begin cutting and have the fine motor control necessary to have success!
The Ultimate Guide to Scissor Skills in Preschool
Cutting with scissors takes patience and practice. Make a tray activity for each of the children as the kids will develop skills at various paces and trays can be differentiated for each child. Label the tray with the child’s name so they can practice during downtime or center activity times, if desired. It is also helpful to include an envelope in the tray where the kids can save precious cuttings.
Prior to cutting: Invite the children to hold the scissors in their dominant hand with the thumb up (place a small piece of tape around the thumb hole as a reminder). Have the children practice opening and closing the scissors WITHOUT paper to help them gain confidence. Observe the children to note which child needs additional help and practice before moving on to actual cutting. The child should be able to open and close the scissor with ease before adding paper (or other materials to cut).
- Trays (to contain individual cutting practice sheets, scissors, and envelopes)
- Envelopes (to hold cuttings)
- Paper (vary the weight as skills progress – copy paper, heavy paper, light weight cardboard (such as cereal boxes), tissue paper, etc.)
- Permanent Marker (to create lines for cutting)
- Scissors (Fiskars brand is, by far, the best brand for preschoolers – there is nothing more frustrating than to have good cutting form and poor quality scissors that fail to cut).
Step One: Cut “fringe” on the bottom of a standard weight piece of paper. Preschoolers should practice opening the scissors and making just ONE cut before moving across the paper. Practice until fringe can be cut all the way across the paper by moving the scissors and opening and closing to make the cut.
Step Two: As the kids are able to make the fringe cuts, progress to cutting straight lines. In order to cut multiple times, the kids must open the scissors fully and move them forward before cutting. It isn’t as simple as it looks! In the beginning, most preschoolers will tear the paper as they forget to OPEN the scissors before trying to move up the paper line to cut. We practice saying or singing, “OPEN, CUT, OPEN, CUT” so it becomes routine. Start with shorter lines in the beginning and then progress to cutting longer lines as the kids gain confidence and skills. Parents and teachers can also tape “lines” as a guide. The tape will help serve as an edge when cutting (we use colored tape as it adds a little flair to cutting practice).
Step Three: Cutting Zig-Zag lines is no easy task as they must turn the paper and keep thumbs up while doing it to cut well. Remind kids to watch the tape to make sure they have their hand in proper position. Practice over and over and the kids will catch on!
Step Four: Progress to circular shapes when the kids have mastered the scissor skills above. Again remind the kids to keep thumbs up for good scissor form while turning the paper to cut circular shapes.
As the kids mature and fine motor skills develop, the kids will have great success! Squares and rectangles with corners can be introduced as the kids further develop scissor skills. Be sure to note all the cuttings in the envelopes as they are precious pieces of paper that make a milestone in each preschooler’s development!
For more Tips, Practice Sheets, Seasonal Ideas, and Suggestions for Encouraging Scissor Skills, please check out all the wonderful activities below!
Cutting Grass by Simple Fun for Kids – see how adding texture can enhance cutting skills!
Cutting Shapes from Coloring Books by Mama Smiles – an inexpensive way to cut more difficult shapes.
Cutting Activities That Won’t Put Your Kids To Sleep by Carrots Are Orange – turn cutting work into FUN!
Baby Penguin Cutting Practice Free Printable by Simple Fun for Kids
Cutting Strings of Beads by Living Montessori Now – read the post for great ideas for tray/center cutting.
Spring-themed Cutting Strips by Carrots are Orange – at $1.49 these strips are a bargain for spring scissor work.
Snowflake and Sunburst Cutting – further practice with FUN cutting techniques from Picklebums.
Developing Fine Motor and Scissor Skills by Pre-K Pages – great tips and insights for developing the skill sets necessary for scissor skills!
Sticky Cutting Tray Invitation to Play by Picklebums – a FUN way to play and enhance skills!
Scissor Activities for Cutting Practice from Little Bins for Little Hands – check out various ways to play and practice.
Rainbow Scissors Skills Practice from Little Bins for Little Hands – a FUN way to practice and incorporate color matching!
Quick TIP Suggestion for Aiding Cutting Skills by The Inspired Treehouse – check it out!
Cutting Straws – a busy box or center activity by Little Bins for Little Hands – this is a great “on the go” activity too for outside!
Practice Cutting Strips by Tiny Tots Adventure – save time with cutting strips for practice.
Paper Cutting “NO-PREP” Activities from Schooling a Monkey – some FUN ideas for paper cutting.
Cutting Junk Mail by Schooltime Snippets – great suggestions and hints for developing scissor skills.