Learning to Cut with Scissors

  Filed under: Education & School, Parenting Tips

Cutting with scissors is an important developmental skill that builds fine motor strength; increases hand-eye coordination; and encourages bilateral coordination. Believe it or not, there is a developmental sequence involved with learning to use scissors, and if your child follows the sequence, it will be a much easier skill to learn. The scissor usage developmental milestones you can watch for include:

  • At 2 years of age, a child should be able to snip the ends off a paper.
  • At 3 years of age, a child should be able to cut along a darkened line.
  • At 4 years of age, a child should be able to cut out a circle that has been outlined.
  • At 5 years of age, a child should be able to cut out a square that has been outlined.

You can use these tips to help your child learn to use scissors properly:

Work on the open/close hand motion

When using scissors, your hand makes an open-close motion pattern. Encourage your child to work on this movement by playing with items that naturally open and close including such as clothespins, serving tongs or toy castanets.

Rip paper

Ask your child to tear paper into long strips to build up the finger muscles needed for using scissors.

Select the right scissors

If your child is a leftie, be sure to get her left-handed scissors. Make sure the scissors of choice have a blunt point and can cut the paper.  Dull scissors will often bend the paper rather than cutting it.

Talk about scissor safety

Be sure to talk with your child about what she may use her scissors to cut. It is also important to remind her that she may not walk or run with scissors; they are to be used at the table or desk.

Use a thumbs up position

Your little one probably knows that the “thumbs up” sign means something good. The same applies to scissors. Teach your child to put her thumb up in the smaller hole on the top part of the scissor handle rather than down below in the larger hole.

Snip different textures

Let your child snip playdough, straws, thick cardstock, soft foods, etc. to practice cutting different textures. As she cuts through the different items, she’ll be building hand and finger strength as well as endurance.


Is your child ready to cut straight lines? These tips will get her started.

Cut in rows

Use stickers to make two rows on a piece of paper and ask your child to cut in between the rows.

Draw wide lines

Using a dark maker, draw wide lines up to 1/8” thick; have your child cut on either side of each line.

Count as you cut

Count with your child as she cuts forward to the end of the line.

Sequence the movement

Cue your child with words like “open, push, cut,” while she is cutting the line. Assigning words to each cutting step will help her remember the action sequence as she cuts towards the end of the line.


Perhaps your child is ready to cut a circle—these are the tips that will get her there.

Make a curved path

Place stickers along a curved path and ask your child to follow the sticker path with their scissors to make her cuts.

Use a paper plate

Let your child cut out the inside of a paper plate or even just along the edge. 

Make spirals

Cutting spirals will help your child learn how to cut using a circular movement—not to mention, she can play with the curly creations afterward.


Has your child mastered a circle? You can help her start snipping squares with these tips. 

Stop at the corners

Draw a square on a piece of paper with stickers or dots at each corner. Tell your to child cut along each line until she reaches the sticker or dot with her scissors. Ask her to cut through the sticker or dot and then turn the paper to work on the next line.

Use smaller pieces of paper

Draw squares on small pieces of cardstock or index cards to make it easier for your child to cut off the excess paper.


Although learning to use scissors can be a complex skill to develop, encourage your child to practice in a positive setting. The more she practices, the easier it will be for her to use scissors independently.