Learning to cut with scissors is an exciting rite of passage for young children. Kids watch the adults in their lives as they cut with scissors, and they want to try it too.
Cutting is also an important life skill.
Why is Cutting Important for Preschoolers?
Practice with cutting leads to independence through the development of other important skills.
The act of opening and closing scissors helps to strengthen overall fine motor skills in a child’s hands, increases eye-hand coordination, improves bilateral coordination and develops tactile-spatial awareness.
These skills are all important when kids are learning to write and draw with pencils and crayons, tie their shoes, dress themselves, carry things, and effectively use spoons and forks. [source]
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How Do You Introduce Scissors to Preschoolers?
At what age should kids start to use scissors?
If they show an interest, you can make scissors available to children around the age of two or three, showing them how the scissors move.
Luckily, you can find many safe styles of scissors to use for preschool cutting activities.
Make the work time short, fun, and stress free. Stop if they become frustrated and try again another day. Praise the small successes.
Plastic safety scissors with a round tip are the best to use.
If your child’s hands appear to lack the strength for tackling scissors, try some other strength-building activities, first.
Tearing paper into strips can be helpful for kids, as well as using a paper punch, either making random holes or following lines drawn on paper or index cards.
So, how do you teach a preschooler to cut? Begin by sitting next to your child and demonstrating how you hold the scissors and cut with them.
Then show them how to correctly position their own fingers to hold the scissors, with the pointer and tall fingers (first and second fingers) in the oval handle and the thumb into the round opening.
Remind them to always keep the thumb in the “up” position. If this is an issue, you can add a visual reminder to the thumb, like a sticker or tape. [source]
Guide your child in how to open and close the scissors with their hand without actually cutting something. Allow them to practise.
If this movement is quite difficult, stand behind them and place your hand over theirs, helping them open and close.
When they have mastered that movement, hold a sheet of sturdy paper for them to cut with the scissors.
Once that is going smoothly, show your child how to hold the object in one hand and cut with the other. They can then practise and continue their scissor skills development while holding the materials to be cut.
For some kids, looking down to cut the paper held on a surface is often difficult. Try taping the paper to the wall at eye level, so children can cut upwards and keep their cutting hand in the correct position. [source]
How do You Teach a Left-Handed Child to Cut With Scissors?
It’s best to purchase left-handed scissors to help little ones learn to cut. These have finger grips designed specifically for left-handed kids.
These scissors allow children to see the cutting line, and the blades cut correctly when the handles are squeezed. [source]
How to Practice Cutting Skills
When deciding what activities are appropriate for your preschoolers, begin with freeform cutting, where they have no worries about “cutting on the lines.”
This means staying away from worksheets printed with various types of lines on which kids are meant to cut along. Look around the house at materials you already have that could be used for cutting practice.
After a child has developed plenty of cutting control, you can try encouraging cutting around simple drawn or printed shapes.
Begin with large and simple shapes or lines pre-printed on paper or even drawn by you. As their skills develop, challenge them to cut on or around more complicated and smaller shapes.
Printed worksheets or cutting skills books designed for cutting practice are also an option at this point.
Materials and Cutting Activities for Preschoolers
You probably already have many kinds of different materials to cut in your home. These include items you normally throw out or recycle.
1. Papers and Cardboard
Paper, paper, everywhere! Save those newspapers, grocery bags, envelopes of junk mail, paint sample cards, catalogues and greeting cards.
Various papers that children cut into strips, snips, pieces, or shapes are great for glueing onto large sheets of construction paper or posterboard for a colourful collage.
Red, yellow, and orange snips can be glued to a sun outline. Cut and glue white snips for snowy pictures.
For a celebration, have kids cut up strips of coloured paper into small snips to be used for confetti.
Show them how to snip along the long edge of a sheet of green construction paper to make “grass.”
With help, a wide swathe can then be cut from that sheet and glued onto the bottom edge on a lighter colour of construction paper, where they have drawn or glued shapes for an outdoor scene.
Cereal boxes are made of colourful and wonderfully lightweight cardboard. Just remove the inner bag and cut away the large front and back portions from the adjoining sides.
That way kids have two large, flat pieces for cutting practice. Other product packaging made of lightweight cardboard will also do.
Toilet paper cardboard tubes are things we typically throw away that are great to use for cutting practice.
- Draw faces on them and snip a fringe around the top for hair.
- Snip them at both ends, fold them, and decorate them with markers, to look like spiders or other insects.
- Cut them in halves the long way and tape them together to make marble runs.
Many families buy paper plates to use for snacks or quick meals. For cutting, find the cheapest and most lightweight possible.
Kids can colour a plate with a yellow crayon first and then “fringe” with their scissors along the rounded edge to form the rays. Or draw a face on the paper plate and cut a fringe for the hair.
2. Playdough and Clay
One great thing about using homemade playdough or clay for cutting practice is that you never have to throw anything away. Once you are done, just knead it all back together for the next time.
Modelling clay is a bit firmer than playdough and serves well as a second step after playdough is mastered.
You can purchase special scissors for cutting playdough, but they are not an absolute necessity. Regular, child-proof scissors also work, to be later wiped clean with a paper towel or rag.
Most kids are already familiar with playdough and have made “snakes” in the past…skinny snakes, fat snakes, short snakes, and long snakes!
After they roll the snake to the desired size, your children can use scissors to cut them into sections.
In the beginning phase of learning to cut, help your kids by holding the snake, in a later phase of cutting development, they can hold the snake with one hand and cut with the opposite.
Practise counting at the same time by determining how many sections they have when finished.
With playdough “tools” or plastic utensils, children or adults can draw lines on flattened playdough. Kids then pick it up and practise cutting with scissors along the drawn lines.
Playdough in circular shapes can be marked as slices of pizza. With plastic animals and other figurines set out on the table, your children can cut small pieces of clay to serve as their “food.”
Read about the many benefits of playdough in early childhood.
3. Natural Items
Nature provides many materials for cutting practice, such as fallen leaves and trimmed flowers that are past their prime.
With adult guidance, children can even cut herbs from the garden for Mom or Dad to use when cooking. In addition, what about challenging kids to cut grass with their scissors along the edge of the sidewalk or driveway, while you are nearby doing gardening?
Try this cutting activity from Days with Grey. Using a large muffin tin, place a small toy in each cup and then crisscross painters’ tape over all the openings.
With scissors, children cut the toys “free” one at a time. For extra small motor practice, kids can also use the scissors as tongs to pick up each toy and place it to the side.
5. Food Items
In a sand table or low plastic tub, kids can practise cutting skills on cooked/rinsed spaghetti and other forms of pasta.
For foods actually meant to be eaten, have them use cleaned scissors to cut spinach, lettuce leaves, or bananas. They can also cut cookie dough into small sections before baking.
6. Assorted Materials
Need even more ideas?
- Offer coloured or plain drinking straws for cutting.
- Try yarn or curling ribbon, as well. Holding these just right for cutting is often an extra challenge for kids, and you can give them extra pointers on what works best or hold the materials for them.
- Craft foam is another option.
All these items work well to glue on large sheets of paper, cardboard, or posterboard for fun collages.
Just check around your house, and you will find lots of items no longer serving a purpose that could be put to work as fun cutting practice for preschoolers or toddlers.
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