Practicing Cutting With Scissors: A Pediatric Occupational Therapist’s Perspective

As a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, I know how important practicing cutting with scissors is and how hard it is to do in a preschool setting. 

I’m often asked about activities to support scissor skill development in young children. Scissor skills are a vital component of fine motor development, and it’s important for children to have exposure and practice cutting with scissors early on. In this blog post, I’m going to share my experience with cutting for preschool and the strategies that have worked for me.

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Understanding Scissor Skills Development

Before we dive into strategies for practicing cutting with scissors, it’s important to understand scissor skills development. Children typically begin to develop scissor skills around the age of two. However, it’s normal to see variations in skill levels within the same age group. For example, some children may still be tearing paper while others can cut out basic shapes. By the time a child reaches four or five years old, they should have mastered basic cutting skills and be able to cut out more complex shapes.

When children struggle with cutting with scissors skills, it can indicate other areas of development that may need extra support. Scissor skills rely on bilateral integration, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. Learning and mastering scissor skills requires practice and exposure. It’s essential to building a foundation for more complex fine motor skills.

infographic on correct scissor grasp

Challenges with Practicing Cutting with Scissors in Preschool 

In my experience as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, I find that many children don’t get enough practice cutting with scissors in preschool.  

In school, children often only get exposure to scissor skills through cutting worksheets. This approach can be limiting and monotonous, often leading children to lose interest and motivation.

Building foundational scissor skills in preschool is often not given enough one-on-one time. Teachers cannot always give the students the attention they need, leading to large skill gaps between children. It’s common for only a few children in the class to have advanced scissor skills while the rest may still be struggling with the basics.

Group for Cutting Practice for Preschools

When I work with preschools, I find that it’s essential to develop cutting practice strategies that cater to different skill levels. The goal is to have a group that includes different skill levels, is manageable for staff, and can be consistent. Teachers and occupational therapists should work together to implement cutting practice for preschool that works for everyone.

One strategy I’ve found to be very effective is incorporating a weekly group session for scissor skill development. 

It’s important to have a safe and organized setup because many people may be hesitant to allow young children to use scissors due to safety concerns. Typically, scissors are kept safely locked away, but providing opportunities for scissor skills practice is crucial.

Activities for Practicing Cutting with Scissors

Now, let’s dive into some fun activities that teachers and occupational therapists can use to support scissor skill development in young children.

1. Paper Pizza

One activity that has worked well in my experience is making a paper pizza. This activity involves giving crinkle paper to children and having them tear it. The activity can be catered to different skill levels, with onions or red pepper for those at the snipping level, and salami or pepperoni for those at the cutting circle level. Each child will have something prepared for them according to their skill level. The goal is to have each child contribute to building a pizza at the end.

pizza activity for practicing scissor skills

2. Spring Poster

Another excellent activity is creating a spring poster. The activity involves different levels of scissor skills, with some students cutting out the circles and others snipping the stripes or flowers. The example project I give in the podcast is making a spring poster. The project allows for children of different abilities to be involved, with some cutting short pieces and others cutting more complex shapes. This approach brings unity, child investment, and pride in the end result.

spring activity for scissor skills cutting practice

3. Ice Cream Poster

A similar activity that can be adapted for other projects is creating an ice cream poster. Older children can cut out shapes like ice cream cones and circles, while those practicing snipping can cut out sprinkles. Children who are working on cutting lines can cut out lines to stick on the cones. Tearing and crinkle paper can also be incorporated into the poster, allowing every child to contribute to the final product.

ice cream cutting practice scissor activity

Back to Basics

When practicing cutting with scissors, it’s important always to start with the basics. Building strong foundations is what is ultimately important in achieving success in scissor skills development. Tearing paper is an excellent way to build that foundation. Starting with simple shapes and gradually introducing more complex shapes will help children build their confidence and skill level. Always remember to be patient, and encouraging, and to celebrate even the small victories along the way.

In Conclusion

Developing scissor-cutting practice for preschool is an essential component of occupational therapy and education. Practicing cutting with scissors helps to build fine motor and scissor skills development. Introducing children to cutting at an early age is essential, and it’s important to provide opportunities for them to practice these essential skills in a fun and engaging way. Incorporating cutting practice strategies that cater to different skill levels is key to success. Remember that building a strong foundation is what is ultimately important in achieving success in scissor skills development.