Cutting with scissors can be quite a challenging skill for children to master. This is because it requires the following foundational skills and functions to hold and use scissors correctly.
Postural + trunk control - Posture and balance of the body is important to support correct positioning and use of the hands at a seated position.
Fine motor skills - The ability to make small movements with hands, wrists and fingers.
Visual attention - To focus on cutting along the line while discerning important visual sensory input and disregarding background information at the same time.
Bilateral hand coordination - The ability to use and coordinate both hands. While one hand is cutting the paper, the other hand needs to hold and move the paper.
Visual motor integration skills (Eye-Hand Coordination) – It allows the hands and eyes to work together effectively in order to combine movement with visual information to do things like catch a ball, cut with scissors, or put puzzle pieces together.
Hand motor system – It includes hand positioning, strength, dexterity, manipulation and muscle tone. For example, a strong wrist with good hand muscle tone is needed to open and close the scissors.
Oculomotor control - The ability to use the muscles surrounding the eyes to rotate, look up, down, left, and right for visual tracking. Cutting with scissors requires an individual to look down and toward the middle as their eyes rotate inward.
Integration of kinaesthetic, tactile, visual, proprioceptive sensory systems and the ability to process sensory input appropriately.
Proprioception – Knowing how much pressure to apply and when to start and stop cutting.
Developmental progression of scissor skills
Before teaching your child to cut with scissors, it is important to understand when the child should start using scissors correctly.
2-2.5 years old: Able to snip the edge of paper with scissors.
4-5 years old: Able to cut on line across paper while holding the paper with another hand.
5-6 years old: Able to cut out simple shapes while using the other hand to turn the paper.
Strategies to improve scissor-cutting skills at home
Teach Grasp-Release Motion in order for them to learn to open and close the scissors
Use spray water during bath-time or to water the plants.
Open and close the clothes peg to hang washing or pick up small items.
Use tweezer or tongs to pick up food or items at home.
Teach correct scissor grasp: “Two Thumbs Up!”
Thumb through one hole, index & middle fingers through another hole.
Help the child remember to hold the paper up in front of them when the thumb is ABOVE the paper while the scissor is held with the thumb hole on top.
Use age-appropriate scissors to ensure the child's safety.
Use left-handed scissors for a left-handed child. For more information why this is necessary: https://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/left-handed-scissors-for-kids.html
Roll out playdough into snake/worm then snip them.
Snip thin strips of paper.
Cut along the line appropriately
Use wider lines and thicker paper for beginners.
Start with very short lines then progress to slightly longer lines.
Practice again and again with many lines (Make it interesting by using a variety of cutting templates/activities).
Progress to cutting simple shapes
If your child has difficulties with using scissors for cutting, they might have problems with one or more foundational skills described above. It would be worthwhile to investigate with your paediatrician or occupational therapist which aspects your child has challenges with.
You can download cutting templates from:
For more creative cutting activities at home: