Scissor Skills

What are scissor skills?

We know seeing little miss or mister wielding a pair of scissors isn’t the most relaxing experience but it’s actually a really important part of their development.

It’s especially surprising that scissor skills (being able to use a pair of scissors with grip and control) are considered a precursor to being able to write. This is because using a pair of scissors strengthens your child’s fingers and hand arches in the same way they’ll need for correctly holding a pencil.

How scissor skills develop

As with most of the other foundation skills, being able to use scissors follows a clear sequence of development – when you know what to look for that is! It started with junior learning to open and close their hands, followed by being able to move individual fingers separately from each other – a skill that allows them to hold one scissor handle with their thumb while their 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers hold the other.

From here, your youngster learns to be able to open and close the two scissor halves independently from each other. This will then enable them to snip the paper by using their thumb to control the scissors while the other hand holds the piece of paper face up. Then it’s onward to little miss or mister learning to cut in a certain direction, then cut along a straight line, before progressing to cutting corner shapes (right angles) and lastly curves.

It’s quite the journey isn’t it?

What do scissor skills involve?

Being able to cut with scissors involves more skills than you would think, including:

  • Fine motor – small hand and arm movements
  • Gross motor – bigger body movements
  • Visual perceptual – being able to see and interpret visual information
  • Postural control – controlling the posture in a variety of positions
  • Hand and finger strength – how strong the little muscles in the fingers and hands are
  • Developed hand arches– a variety of hand positions that enable them to grasp objects of different shapes and sizes
  • Eye-hand coordination – the ability of the eyes to guide the hand(s) in coordinated movement
  • Bilateral integration skills – using both hands together, either in sync or by alternating movements
  • Crossing midline – crossing the imaginary vertical line in the centre of the body with the hands, arms or eyes

How do I know if my child is having difficulty with their scissor skills?

Your child might have difficulties with their scissor skills if they:

  • Appear uninterested in using scissors
  • Are unable to hold or adopt a scissor grip
  • Have difficulty opening and closing the scissors
  • Find it hard to hold the paper in one hand and the scissors in the other, with control
  • Are unable to cut thin sheets of paper

Find out more about scissor skills

Don’t forget that becoming a PlayBiz member gives you access to a comprehensive library of activities that will help you help your child develop their crucial foundation skills! This includes the 2-minute Play-a-Short videos that give you and your tyke a fun and entertaining ‘therapist style’ demonstration of how to develop specific scissor skills such as using the correct scissor grip and how to hold the paper with a steady, ‘stabilising’ hand.

There’s also the 10-minute Play-a-Long videos that combine several foundation skills for optimum effect. Picture a fun and educational TV program like PlaySchool crossed with an occupational therapy session that’s chock full of strategies to help develop your little one’s essential foundation skills.

Ready, steady, learn!

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Ways you can help your child with their scissor skills

These different types of cutting will help junior develop their scissor skills:

  • Snipping – opening and shutting the scissors so they cut the paper in short snips (e.g. alongside the edge of a piece of paper or in random snips across the whole page)
  • Lines – cutting along thick straight lines and gradually moving to thinner lines as their skill increases
  • Cutting and stopping – controlling their cutting so they can stop at a specific point before trying to change direction
  • Different directions – cutting with direction changes (e.g. turning corners, zig zags)
  • Angled shapes – cutting out shapes such as squares and triangles so they learn to stop and turn the paper when they reach a corner
  • Round shapes – cutting out shapes with rounded edges such as circles and ovals so they learn to continuously turn the paper while cutting
  • Complex shapes and figures – putting all of the above skills together so they can cut out figures that have curved, angled and straight lines (e.g. cutting out the shape of a car or person they’ve just drawn)

Bonus tips for developing scissor skills

Here are some other things you can do to encourage your little one to develop their scissor skills:

  • Cut things that have different textures – starting with thin paper and then increasing the difficulty with cardboard, bubble wrap and so on
  • Use their non-cutting hand to hold the paper with the thumb placed on top of it
  • ​Hold the scissors correctly with the thumb through the top handle (‘thumbs up’), the 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers through the bottom handle, and the pointer (2nd) finger in front of the bottom handle to provide support. You can also draw a smiley face or star on junior’s thumb as an extra cue
  • Alter the direction of the cut depending on their dominant (preferred) hand – it’s actually easier for right-handed kids to cut in an anti-clockwise direction and left-handed kids to cut in a clockwise direction

Other activities that will help with scissor skills

Here are some other activities to assist in developing little miss or mister’s scissor skills, especially by strengthening the small hand and finger muscles:

  • Using eye droppers and food colouring in water to make patterns on paper towel
  • Playing games with a spray bottle (e.g. placing a small, light object on a table and using a spray water bottle to move it across the table)
  • Making patterns in sheets of paper using hole punches
  • Picking up objects using tongs
  • Playing peg games (e.g. placing clothes pegs on paper plates and perhaps using a timer for a bit of extra intensity)
  • Playing with finger puppets
  • Playing with squirt toys in the bath

PlayBiz Members Only Content

This content is especially for PlayBiz members. For a modest fee* you can gain exclusive access to even more foundation skill building strategies, including video demonstrations of our ‘teachable moment’ activities. Want an Access All Areas pass to a bigger, brighter future for your little one? Become a PlayBiz member today!

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Combined Videos

Combining several foundation skills, our PlayBiz Play-a-Long videos run for 10 minutes or so. We’ve carefully ordered the activities so they enable your youngster to have an optimal learning experience and develop the skills they’ll need for school by joining in the ‘teachable moments’. Picture a fun and educational TV program like PlaySchool crossed with an occupational therapy session that’s chock full of strategies. Ready, steady, learn! Please note: The Play-a-Long videos don’t need to be viewed in any particular order.