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A child’s ability to use scissors is influenced by their fine motor development. Scissor skills require the child to:

  • Hold the scissors correctly, with well-developed finger grip to allow for control of the scissors and to be able to make coordinated cuts in the paper.

  • Coordinate using two hands simultaneously, holding and turning the paper with one hand, whilst using the scissors to cut with the other - bilateral integration.

It is also important to select scissors that cut well, and to use left-handed scissors if necessary. Scissor skills are not reflective of handedness, meaning that a child's 'dominant' hand does not have to be the one holding the scissors. Although it's important that the child uses both hands through bilateral integration, it doesn't matter which hand holds the scissors, and which holds the paper.

Using scissors requires you to:
  • Open and close the hand.

  • Use Bilateral Integration - Coordinated use of both hands at the same time, doing something different.

  • Isolate and combine the movements of the thumb, index, and middle fingers.

  • Coordinate eye movements and what you see, with arm and hand movements.

  • Stabilise the wrist, elbow, and shoulder.

  • Keep the thumb of the hand not cutting, on top of the paper, in order to guide cutting and maintain good grip (see image below).

Steps to use:
  1. Hold scissors with fingers in correct holes.

  2. Hold paper with other hand, with the thumb facing up.

  3. Make snips or single cuts with the scissors, using the other hand to hold the paper.

  4. Make a continuous straight cut across a strip of paper.

The following are stages of skill acquisition:

  • Cut close to, or on a wide line, progressing to a narrow line.

  • Cut around a curved line.

  • Cut along straight lines and rotating the paper to change cutting direction (i.e., cutting around a square shape).

  • Cut around a continuous curve, such as a circle.

  • Cut out simple designs and pictures, progressing towards more complex images.

Types of scissors in scissor skill development:

  1. Safety scissors

  2. Left-handed scissors

  3. Spring-assisted scissors

  4. Regular scissors

  5. 'Easi-grip' loop scissors (allows for adult assistance if necessary).

Children may use slightly different grips to each other and this is ok. Some children will involve all fingers for scissor control while others may not use their pinky. Other children may place their pointer finger on the outside of the scissors for additional support and control (see images below).

How to hold scissors correctly:

Holding scissors right-handed.

Holding scissors left-handed.

Activities to develop scissor skills:
  • Creating a picture - cutting out basic shapes and gluing together to make an image (e.g., a triangle and a square to form a house).

  • Cutting thin cardboard - to assist with control and accuracy, start with thin cardboard, rather than thin paper. Old birthday cards are great for this activity.

  • Cutting play-dough - rolling play-dough with hands and using scissors to cut it up.

  • Using spring-assisted scissors - assists the opening and closing of the hand when cutting.

  • Pipe cleaner monsters - using scissors, cut up plastic straws and thread through a pipe cleaner to make a cool monster. Assists both scissor skill and hand coordination skills.

  • Cutting and pasting sequences - cutting out text and matching it to its relevant image to complete a sequence of events (e.g., steps when brushing teeth).

  • Using water pistols or spray bottles - this strengthens the hand muscles that help us use scissors.


Dobson, F., Smith, M., Taylor, A. (1997). Activities For Little Fingers. Helping Young Children to Develop Fine Motor Skills. Sylvania Community Health Centre.

Kiley, C. (2016). Developmental Progression of Scissor Skills: 35 Best Tips for Teaching Kids to Use Scissors.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. (2017). Scissor Skills.


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