How To Use Scissors

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help your child learn how to use scissors

Teaching your child how to use scissors correctly can be a daunting task!

If your child struggles with scissor cutting, take them right back to basics and help them to master each step below.

Learning to cut out basically involves 2 different skills:

  1. mastering the grasp-release motion of the scissors
  2. mastering the art of cutting on a line

On this page, I have broken down the developmental stages of cutting to give you lots of ideas to help your child learn how to use scissors effectively.

Just click on the quick links below to jump to the instructions and photos for each step.

Mastering The Grasp-Release Motion

The first developmental stage of learning how to use scissors is to master the grasp-release motion to open and close the scissors.

The fun activities below will help your child get the hang of this motion without using scissors!

1) Using Spray Bottles

Let your child use a spray bottle to water the plants outside or for some bath-time fun.

Squeezing and releasing the trigger helps your child get the hang of a repetitive grasp-release motion with the whole hand.

2) Clothes Pin Activities

Opening and closing a clothes pin (clothes peg) can help a child feel the squeeze and release motion that is needed for scissors.

Elsewhere on my site, I use clothes pins to work on isolating the tripod fingers, but if your child is still too young to use just three fingers, let them use these activities with the tips of all their fingers for the grasp-release sensation.

  • Use a clothes pin to pick up bits of crumpled paper or other objects and transfer them to a container.
  • Let your child hang small items of clothing on a line strung at his or her level.
  • Have your child place pegs around an empty egg carton to make a cage for some toy animals.

I have more grasp-release activities and suggestions in my Scissor Skills E-Book - check it out!

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Learning To Snip

Once your child has got the hang of the grasp-release motion, you will be ready to teach your child how to use scissors!

Keep these points in mind!

  • Use age appropriate and blunt-nosed scissors, for your child's safety.
  • Make sure your left handed child uses left handed scissors - this is very important!

Make sure your child uses an appropriate scissor grasp.

Thumb in one hole, and middle finger through the other.

The index finger can rest on the outside of the scissors, or be in the same hole as the middle finger.

My page of FAQ about scissor cutting shows photos of the best way for kids to hold different styles of scissors, and also answers some questions about left handed scissors. Check it out!

1) Snipping Playdough

Have your child roll out playdough sausages/worms and then snip them.

You can also roll the snipped pieces of playdough into little balls with the tripod fingers as a fun finger exercise.

2) Snipping Paper

Prepare narrow strips (1.5cm) of paper so your child can snip across the width.

This is easy to do, as the scissors only need to open and close once to be successful.

Snipping Paper
A Flame Collage Snipping Activity

Use the snipped paper in a collage.

You can also have your child make snips around a circle picture, as shown alongside, or around a paper plate.

Snips Around A Circle

Once your child has mastered the single snip across a narrow strip, prepare slightly wider strips (3-4cm across) that require two snips to cut across.

Cutting Longer Snips
scissor cutting activity - sun collageA sun collage scissor cutting activity!

Use the snipped paper in a picture or collage like this one of the sun, that combines single snips with double snips.

If your child absolutely cannot get the hang of how to use scissors with a grasp release motion, you could try a pair of special scissors like these, that automatically open after your child has closed them.

(NB this is an affiliate link - I may earn a commission if you purchase something through my link. However, you are under no obligation to purchase anything!)

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How To Use Scissors Effectively

Now that your child has mastered the grasp-release motion, there are a few tips that can help your child learn to use scissors effectively and efficiently!

Read all the tips BEFORE you help your child learn to cut out on lines!

Here Are Some Important DO's And DON'Ts

Do encourage your child to hold the paper off the table with the assistant hand.

Thumb on top and fingers underneath is the best position for the assistant hand.


Discourage your child from holding the paper down on the table. Kids with poor bilateral coordination often prefer to hold the paper down on the table, so the assistant hand does not need to coordinate movement with the cutting hand!

Do encourage your child to cut around shapes the correct way.

Right-handers should cut to the right of the shape, and left-handers should cut to the left of the shape.


Cutting around shapes in the correct direction will help your child to get the blade of the scissors to stay on the line more effectively and should help your child to cut more smoothly.

Do encourage your child to start cutting lines on the line furthest from the holding hand.


This will encourage more efficient cutting as your child will not need to keep picking up the cut-off piece in order to keep cutting!

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Mastering Scissor Cutting

In the developmental stages of cutting, children need to first learn to cut on straight lines before progressing to simple shapes.

My Cutting Activities page will give you a free printable download template for some actual activity ideas; I am just covering the basic principles on this page!

1) Cut Lots Of Straight Lines

Start with lots and lots of thick, straight lines on slightly-thicker-than-normal-paper (160-180gm).

 Just keep on being creative with lines until your child masters it. Be inspired by the ideas on the cutting activities page!

2) Cut Lots of Circles and Spirals

Cutting out lots of circles and spirals will help your child to get the hang of moving the paper with the assistant hand while cutting.

I find it really helped to sit behind my child and hand-over-hand help them to get the feel of the smooth movement of turning the paper around.

3) Progress To Simple Shapes

Once your child has got the hang of turning the paper while cutting, then progress to simple shapes.

Your child needs to learn to gauge when to "turn" the corners with the scissors, and how to keep the scissors in the corner while turning.

Again, cut lots and lots of shapes, be creative with them and use them with lines and circles to make fun crafts.

Don't forget to download your free template on my cutting templates page!

Or try the fun cutting templates below for a large variety of cutting printables!

Awesome Cutting Practice Printables!

Does your child need more scissor cutting practice? Are you struggling to find good scissor cutting templates?

OT Mom’s compilation of fun cutting templates will give your child lots of cutting practice with lovely end products to build your child’s confidence!

Suitable for a range of skills - from preschoolers who are just learning to use scissors, all the way to early elementary kids who need more practice with their scissor skills.

There are 19 different scissor cutting crafts, all with photographed instructions and a variety of templates - over 50 templates in all!

fun scissor cutting templates to download and print

Starting with simple snipping activities, the templates will enable your child to learn to cut on straight lines and then to cut out shapes. All the activities are photographed so you and your child can see what you are working towards!

View my Fun Cutting Practice Templates now!

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What If My Child Still Struggles?

These are only suggestions to help you guide your child through the developmental stages of cutting. If you are at all concerned about your child's progress, please get an occupational therapy evaluation.

If your child's hands tire easily, work on strengthening the hand muscles with these simple activities.

If your child struggles to coordinate holding the paper and cutting at the same time, then try some bilateral coordination activities.

You can also try some hand-eye coordination activities to help the eyes focus on the blade and the line and guide the hands in keeping the blade on the line.

Visual motor integration activities and visual motor worksheets may help your child learn to focus the eyes to guide the hands while cutting.

If your child's eyes are watering during scissor cutting activities, or if your child keeps looking sideways at the paper or closing one eye, PLEASE ask a pediatric or behavioral optometrist to check your child's eyes. This is very important!

If you want to know more about how to help your child establish a strong foundation for all fine motor skills, then read this page.

Help Your Child Master Scissors

If you found the information on this page helpful, you can download all of this plus MUCH more in my 33 page Scissor Skills E-book.

This download will help answer your questions, and will give you step by step photographed activities to help your child master scissor skills.

printable resource to help your child with scissor skills
scissor skills and cutting templates bundle deal

Thanks for visiting my site! I hope this page on teaching your child how to use scissors was helpful!

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