Ready, Steady, Cut: Scissor Skills for Preschoolers

Fine motor skills and hand strengthening are essential precursors to learning scissor skills. Following scissors comes the tripod pencil grip to hold crayons and pencils. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ve collected a whole host of pre scissor and basic scissor skills activities for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarten cutters.

Pre Scissor Skills

Long before children pick up the scissors, they can be working on activities to strengthen the small muscles of the hands and fingers.  These activities will also help in developing their fine motor skills. Here are 10 activities to get fingers and brains ready for cutting.

build scissor skills without scissors

  1. Tearing/Ripping paper (hand co-ordination) Note: keep the ripped up paper to make mosaic artworks
  2. Kneading dough (strength, co-ordination)
  3. Finger puppet play (dexterity and finger isolation).
    You can even make your own puppets.
  4. Manipulating Clothes Pegs. Clip them onto card, paper, plastic etc. Use an art drying rack to strengthen pincer grips by trying to clip pegs to the line. (strength and bilateral skills).
  5. Using trigger action spray bottles—aiming for a target like a balloon or plastic toy (hand strengthening and hand eye co-ordination)
  6. Squeezing empty plastic bottles to blow ping pong balls along the floor (or table)
  7. Painting with cotton buds (fine motor co-ordination and control)
  8. Hole punches (hand strengthening)
  9. Eye Droppers with water or paint (hand eye coordination)
  10. Picking up pom poms or pebbles with chop sticks (dexterity and fine motor control)

Selecting appropriate scissor skills activities that are fun for children is made easier if you know which stage of development they are at:

Stages of Scissor Skill Development

Usually children develop skills in this order:

  • Holds scissors
  • Makes single snips
  • Holds paper whilst snipping
  • Cuts across paper. Start with narrow strips of card then gradually introduce larger pieces of card
  • Cuts along a straight line. Start with a thick text line then gradually introduce a narrower line
  • Cuts along a curved line
  • Cuts around simple shapes (square, circle, oval, triangle)
  • Cuts around simple shapes with corners and curves (moon, heart, star).

Simple Cutting Activities using Scissors

Start out with a simple cutting demonstration – model cutting for the children so they see how to hold the scissors and cut. Introduce them to the scissors with a “crocodile” opening and closing of the hand. Give them scissors to hold and chant together as they open and shut the scissors. Note: Beginners often try to hold scissors downwards instead of cutting horizontally.

Scissor Skills

  1. Cutting play dough with scissors
  2. Set out cutting trays with paper and scissors so kids can just cut. Keep the scraps for rainbow mosaics.
  3. Cutting straws – watch those straws go flying! Cut up straws can be used for threading
  4. Nature cutting – get outside to whippersnip the grass (under adult supervision)
  5. Cut up recycled paint chips/painted paper/card for other art projects
  6. Pop out Flowers – single snips using paper cups
  7. Draw a smiley face on their thumb with highlighter (or use a sticker) to remind them how to hold their hand when cutting
Image Source: Happy Hooligans
Image Source: Happy Hooligans

Scissor Safety

Ensure the kids are “scissor safe” by setting

Three Golden Rules

Never walk around with scissors.

Know what they can and can’t cut (no hair, no clothes)

Scissors are a tool not a toy.

More Scissor Skills Resources

  • An excellent site for a range of cutting activities and guides to fine motor skills is OT Mom. She also has a page devoted to Left-handed kids with a link to scissor information at LeftHand NZ
  • Pre-k pages has tips for teaching scissor cutting including a video demonstration with activities. They also have an article by an OT on hand dominance
  • has sections on scissor selection and steps to scissor development

Do you have any great activities for scissor skills?