If your preschooler is struggling with how to use scissors, you’re not alone. Many parents find that their young ones grapple with this essential fine motor skill.
It’s common to see kids holding the scissors awkwardly, cutting in an uncontrolled manner, or becoming easily frustrated. These challenges can often be traced back to improper scissor use.
But don’t worry, teaching your child to use scissors correctly is a vital part of their development and is easier than you might think. In this blog post, we will provide clear examples of incorrect scissor usage and detailed steps on how to guide your preschoolers and toddlers in mastering this important life skill.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means that at no cost to you, I may earn a small sum if you click through and make a purchase.
Mastering the use of scissors is an essential milestone for preschoolers.
It requires coordination, strength, and precision, making it a complex skill to acquire.
As such, it’s not uncommon for preschoolers to use scissors incorrectly as they navigate this new territory. In this article, we highlight typical errors children often make while learning to use scissors. These examples will help you identify any issues your child might be experiencing, and guide them towards correct scissor usage.
Recognizing the signs of improper scissor use is the first step towards helping your child learn how to safely use scissors.
For instance, if your child holds scissors in a fist-like grip or uses the thumb and middle finger instead of the thumb and index finger, these are clear indicators that they’re not using scissors correctly. Similarly, uncontrolled cutting or difficulty following along a line may also signal incorrect scissor use.
The good news is that these issues can be addressed with some practice and guidance. Teaching your child how to use scissors not only aids in the development of their fine motor skills but also equips them with a crucial life skill.
What Age Can a Child Cut with Scissors?
Children can start learning to use scissors at different ages, but it’s generally considered safe and appropriate to introduce safety scissors as early as age three.
By the age of 4.5 to 5 years old, a child should be able to cut out a square shape within 1/4 inch from the cutting line. Children aged 4 years and above are expected to cut basic shapes such as circles, squares, and triangles independently.
However, mastering scissor skills might take some time and practice.
Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and each child’s fine motor skills develop at their own pace. Read this article about the prerequisite skills for scissor cutting.
Here is a post that explains more about preschool scissor cutting development.
What is the Correct Way to Hold Scissors?
The correct way to hold scissors involves placing the thumb in the smaller hole of the scissor handle and the rest of the fingers, except the index finger, in the larger hole.
The thumb should be facing upwards.
For children who are just beginning to learn how to cut, they can place their thumb in the top loop, with their index and middle fingers in the bottom loop. As they mature, they can transition to the standard method of holding scissors.
This preschoolers is doing everything just right. He is holding the paper in one hand and the scissors in the other.
His thumb is through the smaller handle in the scissors, and facing the ceiling, while his pointer and middle fingers are looped through the larger handle, facing the table.
His elbows are tucked in by his ribs and the scissors are pointing away from him. He is not only using scissors properly, but also safely.
How to Use Scissors Properly
The steps of how to use scissors properly and with safety is the same.
Here is another example of how this preschooler is using scissors properly:
- scissors pointed away from the body
- elbows tucked in by ribs
- thumb facing up and is through the top or smaller handle
- pointer and middle fingers are threaded through the larger handle
Making sure your preschooler follows all these steps will ensure that they can master cutting skills safely.
Holding Scissors Incorrectly
A preschooler holding scissors incorrectly may present a challenge not only to their learning process but also to their safety.
For example, they might grip the scissors with all their fingers in the larger loop and the thumb in the smaller one, effectively reversing the standard grip. This incorrect hold can make the scissor action awkward and inefficient.
They might also use their whole arm to open and close the scissors, rather than just their fingers. This could lead to tiredness and frustration, hindering their progress in acquiring this essential skill.
Moreover, they might carry the scissors point-up or pointing at themselves, posing a potential safety risk.
It’s crucial to correct these habits early on to ensure proper development of fine motor skills and safe use of scissors.
Holding Scissors with Elbows Out
A preschooler holding scissors with their elbows out is a common sight in early learning environments. This posture usually indicates that the child is still developing their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
When a child holds scissors with their elbows out, it means they are using their entire arm to control the scissors instead of just their fingers and wrist.
This can make the cutting action less precise and more taxing for the child. It could also lead to discomfort or fatigue over time.
While this is a normal part of the learning process, teachers and parents can help guide the child towards the correct form by encouraging them to keep their elbows close to their body and use their fingers and wrists to control the scissors.
Keeping the elbows tucked in close to the ribs will also help ensure that the child is cutting away from their bodies.
Cutting Toward Oneself
When a preschooler holds scissors in such a way that they are cutting towards themselves, it can be a cause for concern.
This method of cutting not only poses a safety risk but also hinders the proper development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It is likely that the preschooler is still using their whole arm for scissor control.
Cutting towards oneself can lead to accidents as the sharp edge of the scissors is directed towards the child’s body.
Additionally, this grip often results in less precise cuts and difficulty following cutting lines.
To correct this, simply help your preschooler tuck their elbow closer to their body. Then orient the scissors so that the cutting action moves away from their body, ensuring safer and more effective use.
Snipping Toward the Body
As preschoolers learn to use scissors, snipping towards the body is a common but potentially unsafe practice that needs to be addressed promptly.
This method involves the child angling the scissors towards themselves while cutting, which can pose a risk if the child loses control of the scissors. This preschooler has his arm ticked into his ribs, thus following proper procedure, but the angle of his wrist will cause fatigue.
Looking at the sharp end of the scissors, it is clear that this method of cutting is unsafe. The preschooler should not be snipping paper below the hand holding the paper.
Rather, the snipping should occur above the holding hand so that there is no risk of snipping oneself.
Using Two Hands to Use Scissors
As preschoolers begin learning to use scissors, it’s not uncommon to see them using two hands to operate the tool. This often due to a lack of hand strength and hand-eye coordination.
While using two hands might initially give them more control, it can limit the development of unilateral control and dexterity in one hand, which is essential for many tasks, including writing.
Additionally, this method is simply inefficient and non-sustainable.
Teachers and parents can help children transition to using one hand by demonstrating the correct grip and providing ample opportunities for practice. They can also provide child-friendly scissors that are designed for a single-hand grip to encourage proper scissor usage.
Holding Scissors Upside Down
When preschoolers are learning to use scissors, holding them upside down is a common mistake. This usually happens when the child is still figuring out the correct hand positioning and orientation of the scissors.
Holding scissors upside down can make cutting more difficult and less precise, as the natural motion of the hand doesn’t align with the direction of the cut.
More importantly, it can be unsafe, as it increases the likelihood of accidental slips or cuts.
The proper use of scissors must be explicitly taught to preschoolers to ensure safety and promote the development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Demonstrating the correct grip and providing guided practice can help children understand and remember the right way to hold and use scissors.
Best Scissors for Preschoolers
When it comes to selecting the best scissors for preschoolers, safety and ease of use are paramount. The best scissors for preschoolers are designed for young hands, featuring a blunt tip for safety and a comfortable grip for control.
Here are some of our favorites because they have been met with with most success in cutting practice.
- Kids’ Safety Scissors: Available in a neon pink…
- Premium Blades: Our safety scissors for kids…
- Left- Or Right-Handed: Equipped with molded,…
- Adaptive 5.5″ Inch Loop Scissors – These…
- Home or Classroom Use – Our kid’s loop…
- Automatic Blade Re-Opening – Designed with just…
- Safety Blunt Blades with Protective Cover: These…
- Professional Kids Scissors: Ideal for children…
- Multipurpose: kids scissors are ideal for children…
Scissor Cutting Activities for Preschoolers
One of the best ways to teach preschoolers how to use scissors is by giving them ample opportunities to practice scissor cutting. Here are some fun scissor cutting activities to keep your preschoolers practicing.
- Snipped Paper Collages
- Spring Themed Cutting Tray
- Fallen Leaves Sun Catchers
- Easy Scissor Cutting Station
- Scissor Cutting Printables
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.