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3 min read

Scissor skills are great to have going into kindergarten, IF your child is interested and ready.

If they're not showing interest then don't worry about introducing them early. It's something they can learn once they've entered JK.

Regardless of interest, it's good to offer infants and toddlers plenty of activities to develop hand strength.

Good hand strength is essential for writing, using scissors, getting dressed, opening and closing backpacks/lunch bags, and many other kindergarten skills.

It will give your child the confidence and ability to do more for themselves.

How To Develop Pre-Scissor Skills

Before your child begins using scissors, they need to prepare their hands.

Provide your infant and toddler with manipulatives that will strengthen the hand in ways that mimic scissor movements - squeezing/opening and closing their hands.

Children also need to develop bilateral coordination before they're ready for scissors (the use of both hands working together) because they need to be able to hold paper with one hand and control scissors with the other.

Here's a few great pre-scissor activities:
  1. Playdough
  2. Ripping paper or scrunching tissue paper.
  3. Tong transfer activities - serving themselves a snack or tong transfer toys, i.e. tweezers, jumbo eyedroppers, or tongs.
  4. Turning Animals puzzle (or other screw activities)

Is Your Child is Ready for Scissors?

Here's a few things to look for:

  • Are they showing an interest? Does your child want to try them when they see you using the scissors?
  • Are they capable of controlling their fine motor movements? You want to ensure your child has enough control to keep the fingers on their opposite hand away from the scissors.
  • Can they sit or stand still?
  • Do I think they are capable of handling the scissors safely? You know your child best. If you're nervous or think there is a chance your child may use them dangerously, then just wait until they’re a little older.

Introducing Scissors - in 6 Stages

If you think your child is ready for scissors, here's how to introduce them:

      1. Demonstrate - Because scissors are a sharp tool, insist on presenting to your child first, rather than letting them figure it out for themselves. You can say "I’m going to show you how to use the scissors and then you will have a turn." This is usually a good gauge of whether or not they’re ready. If they are eager to get their hands on the scissors or don’t want to watch you present first then it might be best to wait.

        When demonstrating, use minimal language. However, saying "open" and "close" is helpful.

      2. Start with playdough and plastic scissorsPlastic scissors are not sharp enough to cut through skin so they are a safe place to start. This gives your child the opportunity to get used to holding them and using them properly.

        You can work with your child to roll the playdough into a "snake" or flatten into a pancake and then cut it.

      3. Introduce child-safe scissors and blank strips of paper. Choose scissors designed for very small hands to make it easier for your child to manipulate them, like these.

        Next, pre-cut strips of paper that are approximately 10 cm long and 2 cm wide/tall so your child can cut through it with one snip. It's best to do with before your child joins you.

      4. Introduce vertical lines. Once they are comfortable cutting through the blank strips, draw vertical lines on the paper strips, approximately 2cm apart. Cutting along the line develops control of their movements.You can also download this PDF of strips with vertical dotted lines printed on them.

        Cutting strips for toddlers
      5. Introduce diagonal lines. After vertical lines comes diagonal lines (strips are same size as previous and diagonal lines are approx. 2 cm apart).

      6. Introduce horizontal lines. These strips can continue to be 10cm but now the line is drawn horizontally from one end to the other. Strips are now a little wider/taller so there is room for your child’s fingers on either side of the line. The skill here is sliding scissors along the line to cut.

        You can make your own or download this PDF of strips with vertical dotted lines printed on them.

        Free download, Toddler cutting strips, horizontal lines

Don't Rush It!

Most children do not reach steps 4-6 before kindergarten and there is no rush to move through them. As always, follow your child's lead.

You'll know when they’re ready to move on to the next step when they’ve lost interest and you observe they may be ready for more of a challenge.

If you're interested in learning more about scissor introduction, Katie does a fantastic job teaching this skill through video in our at-home program. You can check that out here:

What about all those paper snips you end up with?

Picking up the snips is great for developing the pincer grip. You can also throw them in a sensory bin or use for some sweeping practice.

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