Scissor skills stages

Learning to cut with scissors is more complex than it may initially seem.  It requires good postural control, good hand-eye coordination and the ability to use both hands together.  In this post I explore the different stages of learning to cut including:

  • Pre-scissor skills

  • Snipping and lines

  • Complex shapes

  • Worksheets to help

scissor skills father and daughter cutting craft

Scissor skills stages

Learning to cut with scissors is more complex than it may initially seem.  It requires good postural control, good hand-eye coordination and the ability to use both hands together.  In this post I explore the different stages of learning to cut including:

  • Pre-scissor skills

  • Snipping and lines

  • Complex shapes

  • Worksheets to help

Pre-scissor skills

Before being able to use scissors, children need to have developed basic fine motor skills.  They also need to have an interest in fine motor activities.  To be successful with cutting, they need to be able to use both hands together and be ready to look at what they are doing.  If a child is not engaging in general fine motor activities, it’s likely they are not ready to use scissors yet.

Children also need to be able to open and close their hand.  To be successful with scissors they have to open and close their hands.  Activities that can help with fine motor readiness and pre-scissor skills include:

  • Building with Duplo or blocks

  • Squeezing water out of sponges

  • Squeezing triggers on spray bottles

  • Squeezing water out of shampoo bottles (empty mayonnaise bottles work well too)

  • Ripping paper or cardboard

  • Threading

  • Popoids

Levels one and two of the GriffinOT fine motor skills programme outline specific activities and tips which can be used with children who have delays in their fine motor skills.  You can read more about it here.

Children must have established basic fine motor skills before they are expected to hold scissors and cut.  It helps if they are interested in holding scissors and cutting too.

Stage 1 – Learning to snip

The first scissor skill children need to learn is to make snips with their scissors.  It is important that children are taught to hold the scissors and the item they are cutting with their thumbs facing the ceiling.  We explore additional tips for holding scissors and cutting here in this post – Scissor Skills – Six Tips for Teaching Children How to Use Scissors.

Straws and thin pieces of paper are great for snipping.  Once the child learns to make one snip, the paper can be made wider so they learn to make two.  Slowly, they will be able to make three, four and five snips in a row.  The ability to continually open and close the hand and moving the scissors forwards is needed before the child can cut along a line.

Alternative scissors

If the child does not have enough hand strength or control to open and close scissors, but is showing an interest in cutting, spring loaded loop scissors can be a helpful starting point.  These allow them to start practising their scissor skills.  We recommend the Peta mini easy-grip® scissors for young children.  If the child has established hand dominance, or if their hand is too big for these scissors, then the 5cm blade easy-grip® scissors are the next step.  Just make sure you choose the correct hand for the child.  If you don’t know the difference between left and right handed scissors we recommend you watch the video in this post.

Stage 2 – Cutting lines

The next scissor skill children learn is to cut along straight lines.  These are much easier to cut than curved lines as the movement is simple.  The child just needs to move their hand forwards and they don’t need to manoeuvre the paper very much.

As their scissor control improves, they learn to cut shapes and curved lines.  Initially children will find thicker lines easier to cut on than thin lines.  The thickness of the lines can decrease over time and complexity of the shape can increase.

Early on, they will stop and start and move the scissors in and out as they cut shapes.  As their scissor control improves, they can continue to cut without having to reposition the scissors.  Some children need extra prompts to keep their scissors moving in a continuous motion.

two boys cutting paper, one is left handed

Stage 3 – Getting creative with scissor skills

The great thing about learning to use scissors is that they open up a world of craft! Children can fold paper and cut shapes.  They can use worksheets or cut out their own drawings.  The improvement in their scissor skills opens up a world of possibilities!

At this stage, children should be manoeuvring their scissors and paper together whilst keeping their scissors moving forwards.  They will be able to cut on thinner lines and to cut out smaller shapes.  Their precision will have improved significantly.

Stage 4 – Complex scissor skills like zig-zags and stars

Although they often feature quite early on in scissor worksheets, shapes like zig-zags and stars are actually quite difficult to cut.  This is because they require more complex two-handed coordination to move the paper and the scissors at the corners.  Zig-zags require a shaper turn compared to a square.

The final scissor skill children learn is to cut on the inside of the paper.  For example, cutting the eyes out on a mask.  This requires excellent precision and a lot of practise.

GriffinOT resources to help with scissor skills

GriffinOT has a scissor skill programme which includes activity ideas and worksheets for all stages of scissor skills.  The full programme includes education videos which explain how fine motor and scissor skills develop.  There are also practical videos exploring tips on how to help children who are learning to use scissors.  The full programme is £24.  This includes all of the scissor skill worksheets and 12 months’ access to the video content.

If you’re just looking for worksheets we have three different booklets.

Booklet 1 – Covers stage 1 and 2 of scissor skills (58 worksheets and 10 activities) £5

Booklet 2 – Supports stage 3 of scissor skill development (84 worksheets) £5

Booklet 3 – Includes complex shapes like zig-zags and inside cutting (81 worksheets) £5

Full programme – Our full programme includes all of the booklets, alongside 12 months’ access to educational and instruction videos.  The benefit of the full programme is that you will learn the underlying postural control and fine motor skills needed to be successful with cutting.  Kim also gives you tips on how to use the worksheets to teach children scissor skills. £24

You can learn more about and purchase the booklets by clicking on their links.

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