Scissors or sc-iss-ors as I have always said, since I was a child, to help me remember how to spell the word.

Cutting with scissors can be tricky. So how can you help a child develop good scissor skills? 

What do children need before they can cut and actually why do they need these skills?

Before scissors

  • Children need to have a good core strength, shoulder and arm stability to support themselves while cutting. 

Can they sit safely in a suitable chair so they don’t fall off with scissors in their hands?

  • They need to be able to use 2 hands, one to cut and one to hold the paper. This skill is used to write and for life skills such as; put on socks and do up buttons and zips. 

Can your child use 2 hands to hold a piece of paper and tear it top to bottom?

  • They need hand -eye coordination which means the eyes receive information and direct the hands.

Can they throw and catch a ball or do simple puzzles?

  • They need to be able to use and isolate their fingers and thumb?

Can they join in with finger rhymes like Incy Wincy, 2 little dickie birds and 5 little ducks?

What are the best scissors to use?

As a very young child my daughter had a pair of plastic play dough scissors to chop at and cut at play dough. But by the time she was approximately 2 years old I’d got her a better pair. Scissors need to be sharp enough to cut and not bend paper so they really need to have metal blades with a rounded tip. It’s very frustrating for a child when scissors are dull so they just give up.

Holes/loops need to be the same size and not have a bigger bottom hole/loop to discourage children from using more fingers.The reason for this is scissor skills are not only a skill to use for cutting out but the action and fingers used support the muscle development needed to write. We use the thumb, index and middle finger to write and cut. The ring finger and little finger curl in towards the palm for support and strength; this is called hand separation.

These scissors are perfect and typically found in early years settings and schools. Red are right handed then yellow and green are left handed.

As a left handed child there was no such thing as left handed scissors, so I just learned to use right handed ones. Nowadays they are very common to find but don’t be fooled by ambidextrous ones as the blades have to cross a different way for left handers to be able to follow and cut along a line. So a pair of scissors for both left and right handers really isn’t useful.

Is there a right way to hold scissors?

Yes there is but first safety.

Always ensure very young children don’t carry scissors around. As they get ready for school or if they begin to fetch them from their art area at home I teach to hold the scissors, blade closed and pointing down. Children should hold them in their hand on the closed blades and walk with the blades pointing down and at the side of their body.

Have a discussion about what to cut and when. Then revisit this as they get older. Some children like real hair on their pictures of people!

The thumb, which is the action digit and moves up and down to cut, needs to go in the top hole/loop. Children often need

 help getting into this position and correcting frequently until they naturally remain in the correct position.

It’s helpful for strength and stability if children can tuck in their elbow and not have it up and floating.

Always ensure children cut away from themselves. The helping hand, holding the paper to be cut, should move the paper to support direction and the cutting hand always faces away from the body.

Try cutting upwards on paper stuck to the table this helps with correct hand positioning. It’s difficult to do this thumb down.

Draw a little face on the thumb nail or add a sticker that needs to point up towards the ceiling. This should help provide a visual to make sure the hand is in the correct position with the thumb on top. The middle finger in the other hole is what we are aiming for with the index finger alongside the scissors to help with positioning the scissors. Some children may use their index finger and middle finger until they build up enough strength.

The ring and little finger should be curled towards the palm just like in writing. 

Fingers can get tired until they build up their muscles and therefore have low stamina so lots of cutting is needed. My daughter would happily cut and snip for a sustained period of time.

Some ideas to cut

  • Paper
  • Colour charts
  • Straws to snip – they fly off which children love – then thread them on string.
  • Cutting playdough
  • Paper snowflakes.
  • Cutting toilet paper tubes into hair or octopus etc.
  • Cutting up the solid jelly blocks 
  • Old birthday and Christmas cards
  • Wrapping paper or newspaper and then use to wrap a present
  • Cutting various materials to make a collage
  • Cut fallen leaves and petals
  • Cut the grass – keeps them busy

So what are you waiting for, get out the scissors and get cutting