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OT's Guide to Scissor Skills

Updated: Apr 10

Properly using scissors is a complex skill that utilizes hand strength, bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination, sequencing, and focus. Achieving these skills takes practice and repetition and will help children during learning and play.

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Like other milestones, there is a developmental progression to accomplishing this skill. All children will develop differently, but there is a linear progression to mastery of the skill. Most children should be proficient in scissor skills by 4-5 years old.


Before you hand a toddler scissors, there is a step by step process leading up to introducing them to scissors, and there are various scissors they can use to assist depending on their needs. Here is what our Occupational Therapists suggest:

1. Ripping paper

2. Introduce to child safe scissors

3. Cut play dough with play dough scissors (these are plastic and made for this task, not so great with cutting paper and paper scissors aren't so great for play dough)

4. Fringe cuts (tiny snips along the edge of paper)

5. Cutting a straw (small target, helps with "open, close" pattern)

6. Learn “open, cut, open, cut” to cut longer lines

7. Begin working on zig zag or curvy lines

8. Basic shapes like circles


You can make a scissor skills station at home to help with this specific skill, and there are other activities you can do to help boost proficiency with scissors (we'll share those further down)

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For your scissor station, be sure to include:

- Paper with various weights (tissue paper, card stock, newspaper)

- Markers (to draw cut lines)

- Scissors (loop, spring loaded, traditional, child safe)

- Stickers

Benefits of scissor Skills

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Activities to boost scissor skills

- Make a collage by cutting out pictures in magazines

- Snip or tear different texture materials (tissue paper, construction paper, felt, plastic, newspaper, etc)

- Use tongs or tweezers to move pom poms between containers

- Cut straws into pieces and thread onto string to make a bracelet or necklace

- Make a watercolor painting with a squirt gun

- Dance to Baby Shark to practice large and small movements

- Cutting to music helps develop a steady "open, cut" rhythm

Tips and Tricks from an OT

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- Put a smiley face or sticker on their thumb to encourage thumbs up cutting

- Place a folder in the armpit to encourage keeping their shoulders level and arms at their side

- Place stickers or smiley faces on the paper for helper hand to help rotate the paper

- Use stickers as stopping points when cutting long lines

- Use stickers as a line or target to chomp in half with the scissors to help with accuracy

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- If the kiddos can’t reach the floor with their feet, put a phone book or stool under their feet for 90/90 position

- Put googly eyes on scissors to make it a scissor monster that takes big bites out of paper

The most important part of developing a new skill is patience and variety! Have fun while working these new skills and share any scissor skill tips or resources you love with us in the comments!

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