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Scissor skills

  • 1-5 Years
  • 5-11 Years
  • Child development and growing up
Little boy cutting shapes into yellow paper background is a black table with paint splattered over it with a gluestick and red, orange and yellow paper on

Scissor skills take time for children to develop as it is a complicated activity. It requires your child to:

    • hold the scissors open and close them
    • sit in a good comfortable position
    • move the paper whilst holding it

Is your child left handed?

If your child is left-handed, try using left-handed scissors. These will make cutting easier. Right scissor blades are more difficult to see and move with the left hand. 

Make sure to reach your child to cut out shapes in a clockwise direction (to the left).

Activities to do before using scissors

Some parents may be concerned as to whether their child is safe using scissors. Until you feel your child is ready to use scissors, there are many activities that do not use scissors. 

Activities that use both hands:

  • Tearing and sticking paper using a glue stick
  • Pulling apart and pushing together building blocks such as Velcro fruit and jigsaw puzzles
  • Holding a book and turning the individual pages, start with cloth and board books
  • Holding a bowl and stirring
  • Holding an object and painting it such as a card cube or polystyrene ball
child playing with Duplo blocks

Activities to improve hand strength and help your child learn to squeeze and release their grasp:

  • Using wind-up toys 
  • Using a spray bottle or a water gun to water the plants
  • Using clothes pegs to peg things onto a line
  • Using handy scoopers (also known as handy tools) to pick up things like sand or water
  • Create holepunch art – using a paper punch to create a picture
  • Using a garlic press with playdough

Once your child is comfortable with some of these activities, you can move onto ‘Getting started with scissors’ with your child.

Getting started with scissors

Now your child is comfortable with using both their hands independently, you can begin to do activities involving scissors.

You will need to ensure that the scissors are appropriate for your child. The scissors need to be sharp enough to cut the material you are using or it will be a frustrating experience for everyone!

Remember children need supervision when using scissors.

Everyone has a different way of holding scissors that is comfortable for them, but the basic principles are the same.

Use the ‘Thumbs Up!’ position. This is where the thumb is on top, and the fingers are underneath. ‘Thumbs Up!’ can be used for both scissors and paper:

Scissors – Put your child’s thumb in the top loop and their first finger in the bottom loop, supported by their other fingers. You can add some coloured tape around the thumb hole of the scissors to help your child remember.

Paper – Put your child’s thumb on top of the paper and their fingers underneath the paper.

If your child finds this difficult you can get scissors with a larger bottom loop so your child can put their hold hand into the bottom loop.

Encourage your child to keep both elbows on the table for stability.

There are lots of arts and crafts activities that you can do with your child that use scissors. Some materials you can encourage your child to cut through are:

  • playdough
  • space putty
  • straws
  • card and paper of different thicknesses
  • food – but make sure the scissors are clean before using!
graphic of play dough, paper and straws

We recommend that you start by using thin card to help provide more stability. Encourage them to make small cuts in the paper or card. Your child can also cut up paper straws or cutting random shapes in paper or card.

If your child is struggling with holding the paper stable, you can try:

  • using smaller pieces of paper or card to make it easier to hold and move.
  • using a bulldog clip to help them hold the paper or card.
  • encourage them to make smaller snips
scissors in a scissor rack on a shelf with paper

Developing scissor skills

When your child is feeling comfortable with holding and using scissors for basic cutting you can help them develop their scissor skills. Remember children learn best when they are having fun!

There are a variety of different things to cut up such as play dough, and foil. These will give your child more textures to play with and explore.

You can also include scissor skills into other arts and crafts activities like painting. You can cut up pieces of paper, paint them and glue them into a model or collage.  

You can use free print outs from All Kids Network and Twinkl.


Who can help

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s scissor skills, a health professional in our team will be able to offer advice and support.

You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation.

Open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm (excluding bank holidays).

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