Snip, Snap, How-To Scissors Skills

WHY your child needs to be able to use scissors
The tripod graspDrum roll please: The tripod pencil grip. Believe me, when you’ve watched your seven year old grandson struggle for two and a half hours to write his weekly three page story, you will wish you had paid more attention to the way he was holding his crayons.

I’ve always tried to teach scissor use in my library pre-k crafting classes. And I’ve gotten the looks. The moms shudder in horror as if I’m arming their little ones with hand grenades, the little blunt tipped Fiskars ready to go off in their sweaty little hands at any time. But even if you’re afraid your child will cut all the fringes off the rugs (like mine did) and cut their sister’s hair (like mine did), or hurt themselves (mine never did), your children do need to learn to cut with scissors by the time they are four years old. Even if you plan on a career in diplomacy for them, and not surgery, knowing how to cut with scissors will give them a one up on mastering the tripod pencil grip.

Which goes back to my grandson sitting at the table with his endless homework assignment. Which would have been a lot more pleasant for all involved if he had done a little more cutting with scissors when he was four and thought that cutting up pieces of paper into smaller bits was a cool thing to do. He would be able to write more quickly and correctly now.
HOW to teach your child to cut correctly.
Open & shut!I like this chant from My Teacher Pages:
Scissors Chant

Hold your thumb on top and your fingers together.
Then open and shut like a hungry alligator!

But I think I like mine better:
Thumbs UP, Open and SHUT,
That’s how you CUT

Children often mistakenly try to cut sideways instead of up and down, so up and down should be emphasized.

Check out this tutorial designed by a mom who also happens to be an occupational therapist.

Photo courtesy of: Folkmanis puppets

Having a hard time keeping tiny fingers in the correct holes? Wind pipe cleaners to fit the scissor holes better for small fingers.

Fun art projects for scissor practice

Pop Out Flowers

Recycle a paper cup by rinsing it out. Give it to your child with instructions to cut up the side. In the middle, she can add a splash of color to create a beautiful flower!

Photo courtesy:

Cutting up Mardi Gras beads

What to do with those old Mardi Gras beads? My three year old grandson thought that cutting them up and putting them in a clear glass ornament was a great way to spend fifteen minutes. Can I tell you how darn cute it was when he snipped through a strand and they fell to the table and he laughed out loud? “I did it on purpose!” he kept repeating. Great small motor exercise.

Photo courtesy of Celebrate Green

Snowflake making

Cutting out snowflakes is a combination of scissor magic and mathematics! A great activity — do with coffee filters, tissue paper, or scrap paper.

It doesn’t snow where you are? Make Christmas trees! Fold a piece of paper lengthwise; cut a long triangle out of it; keep it folded and cut alternating small triangles out of its edges. Open it up to see that voila! you’ve made a Christmas tree!
How to Make Paper Snowflakes : Open Cut Angled Center Paper Snowflake Example
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A beautifully fringed crown.This sounds soooo corny, but after one storyhour about pets at the library, I asked the children to design a rug for a pet. I gave them the proverbial blank sheet of paper, and they got down to the design/scribble/art portion of the session very well. Then I showed them how to fringe the edges of their new rugs.

We made these crowns after a storyhour about princesses. You can see how beautiful the fringeing turned out.

Fringeing is a great beginning exercise. There’s no wrong way to fringe. Have your kids fringe you a bookmark, or some grass for their picture. Or just fringe.

Photo: TF Sherman


Scissor skillsWhat an adorable little guy! And how do you make him? By cutting lots and lots of not very deep fringes along his nice stiff back. This one is kinda perfect.

Photo courtesy:

Collage crafts

Collage artYou’ll see a lot of crafts for children begin: Have children cut pictures out of magazines and then…

I DON’T recommend that as a starter craft. It’s a) too hard for new scissorists and b) asking for trouble. (“What happened to the power bill? I left it right here on the counter?”)

I DO recommend supplying your child with some half sheets or quarter sheets of brightly colored construction paper. I included downloads for cutting exercises below, but give a kid a new pair of good scissors and some beautiful pieces of paper, and nature will take its course. If you wish, take this step one level further and have your child glue these pieces to a background or a piece of clear shelf paper to produce a Henri Matisse like effect or a suncatcher.

Fun foam is so much fun to cut through, stiff but very soft, that I’ve seen kids just sit and cut it up into little bits for the joy of snipping. What next? Mmmm, spray a piece of black construction paper with glue and hurl the bits on willy nilly.

Sydnee is working on snakes we made at the library. The children cut up some cellophane and tissue into smaller pieces and glued them to a snake shape, downloaded from Dorling Kindersley at Then they cut out their snake (with help) and we attached a little hook to the back of his head to make him a puppet.

Photo: TF Sherman

Cutting Straws

Cutting through straws is a great beginning scissors craft. To add to the excitement, the straw pieces often fly across the table, and of course, if you’re two, that’s all to the good. This little guy is wearing an attractive necklace he’s made of straw pieces and fruit loops.

Planning on taking your young one to a boring restaurant? Take along a pair of scissors. They’ll have straws there.

Photo by TF Sherman

Fun Trick

from In Lieu of Preschool

I love the way In Lieu has made cutting a leeetle less confusing for a beginner by drawing around fun pictures with a thick black sharpie.

Fish in the Sea craft

Fold the paper, and then let your child cut the wavy lines.

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Recycling projects

Using up old video tapes, toilet paper rolls, Christmas cards...

Recycling projectsChristmas or birthday cards are a perfect material for your child to begin cutting. They’re very attractive and the paper is heavy, easy for small fingers to hold correctly. (“Move the paper towards you not your scissors.”) So if you were lucky enough to get lots of Christmas cards this year and you don’t make ornaments or boxes or tags out of them…let your child have a good time with them.

Video tape is not the easiest material for your child to start cutting, but once you liberate it from its case (small screwdriver) how about making a whooshie with it? Decorate a TP roll, and then apply double sided tape to the inside. Let your child cut long strips of tape and stick it on the inside. These things are really fun.

Photo: TF Sherman

Squidoo Cuts to the Chase!

Cutting Edge Info Here from Child Ed Experts

Downloadable lines & curves
Montessori website with a lot of useful practical skill downloads.
Left Handed Scissors
How do you tell left handed scissors from right handed? Well, I think the most important thing is to realize that there is a different and that we need to make sure we provide them.
My Teacher Pages
Traditional chants for newbies armed with scissors.
OT Mom Learning Activities
An excellent site with a great deal of useful information about teaching practical skills and learning.
Useful info about NOT running with scissors
Excellent info here!
Miss Mancy Cutting Skills
Make cutting exercises fun by using dots, stickers and stamps to cut around and through.
Happy Hooligans
The Happy Hooligans remind us to vary the materials given to children to cut up, and crispier is better for starters. Give children foam trays and play dough and paint chips to cut up.
This Fine Day
This Fine Day recommends giving your child junk mail to cut up. Great idea -- I might want to put a big red slash mark through it first so my child knew what to cut and what not to cut.

If This Lens Cuts It...

let me know!

Another cute animal -- eight cuts

If the legs of this octopus turn out a little wavery and uneven, that will just add to the effect! Visit for more ideas.

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