5 Fun activities to strengthen toddlers’ and preschoolers’ scissor skills. Using materials other than paper can be the easiest way for kids to learn how to use scissors. In this post, I’ll share several of my favourite materials for cutting practice exercises that you can use with your children.
A couple of questions that I often hear from parents with young children are: “how can I help my child improve her scissor skills“, and “when should my child start using scissors“. Read on to see how I introduce the toddlers and preschoolers in my daycare to using scissors with a variety of fun and simple materials for cutting.
We don’t have an end result in mind when we’re using these materials. These activities are all about experimenting, having fun, and the excitement that the children ones express whey they have success.
I’ve put these cutting exercises in order ranging from easiest to most advanced.
When can your child start using scissors?
You may be wondering when your child can start to use scissors. The answer to this will vary from child to child, but in my daycare, the hooligans start experimenting with scissors at age 2 or earlier. Most of the children are cutting quite well by the time they’re three.
As for what kind of scissors to introduce your child to, a pair of basic safety scissors are a great way to start, but if your child finds them difficult to use, these beginner scissors are super to start off with because they’re spring loaded, and the child manipulates them with their whole hand rather than with their fingers.
Pro tip: How to teach kids how to hold scissors the right way:
If you’re using regular safety scissors, a good tip to help your child remember how to position his or her hand is to draw a smiley face on the thumbnail of their cutting hand, and remind your child that they should always be able to see the smiley face while they’re cutting. This prevents the child from turning their hand upside down while cutting.
5 cutting activities for children:
this post contains affiliate links; thank you for your support
Using scissors with play dough:
Whenever the hooligans play with play dough, I set out several pairs of scissors. They’re always one of the most popular tools on the table. Play dough is easy to cut through so it’s great for helping kids who are just learning how to use scissors. You can give your child regular safety scissors for this activity, or you can use plastic scissors designed for cutting dough.
Cutting up drinking straws:
Colourful plastic drinking straws. Straws are fun and fairly to cut through so they’re one of the hooligans favourite things to practice cutting with. This activity is a lot of fun because the straws make a satisfying snap when they’re cut, and they fly into the air causing hysterical fits of laughter.
Bonus: Once your straws are all cut up, you can string some yarn through the pieces to make a necklace.
Cutting styrofoam meat trays:
Styrofoam meat trays are another favourite for the hooligans to practice their scissor skills with. Like the drinking straws, styrofoam makes a nice sound when you cut through it. Scissors slice through the styrofoam easily, and the pieces can be used later for crafting (see our mosaic art with styrofoam pieces here).
Note: Before crafting with meat trays, sterilize them in your dishwasher first.
Cutting paint chip samples:
Cutting up paint swatches is a popular cutting activity here, and one that the hooligans ask for several time a week.
Kids can practice cutting in a straight line by following the white lines on the paint chip cards. We use the cut up paint chip samples various art and craft projects. Click here to see our Paint Chip Mosaics, Paint Chip Candy Canes and Paint Chip Fall Trees.
Using Scrapbook scissors or scissors with a fancy edge:
Older children who have mastered their cutting skills love using my scrapbook scissors to make scalloped and fancy cuts. These scissors are sharper than regular scissors so use your best judgement when introducing these scissors to your child.
More Scissor Skills Activities:
Here are Five More Cutting Practice Activities for your kids to try.
Follow the Hooligans on Facebook
Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.
this is right on time because I just bought them scissors yesterday and they have had a ball cutting paper- oh the mess though!
At my centre we have children that cut want to cut all the time. We have a box of scrap paper and get them to cut into a tub and eventually we make recycled paper with it. Saves on mess and waste.
Great idea, Rachel. Any activity that involves re-using and up-cycling is a hit in my books!
Erin- The Usual Mayhem
I’ve never tried it with meat trays! I will have to add that to my collection of ideas. Thansk Jackie!
Thanks a lot!
My two year old hooligan wii love the ideas )
Thank you for this. I need to get my nephew to do these. He has totally hand dexterity.
JDaniel’s preschool teacher just told me he need to work on cutting. Thank you for these great ideas.
You’re welcome, Deirdre! Perfect timing!!
Scissor skills are so important, and in my art class for three year olds, I find parents so reluctant to get kids started on this! Thanks for these bright ideas.
You’re so welcome, Travis. Nice to think you’re all for getting them started early too!
Mine love cutting straws!
I need to remember to leave the pieces for making necklaces!
I never would have thought of cutting play dough. Such a good idea! Especially as my little one just turned 2 and he’s obsessed with scissors. I just wasn’t sure how to introduce them for him to use them properly and avoid too much frustration.
Glad you found some ideas that will work for your little one, Marie!
We often cook up some spaghetti (add food colour and glitter for interest) and put on a tray for cutting and snipping. Adding raw spaghetti offers a contrast too.
We’re always using scissors to cut plants and he hedge outside to make nature collages, rose petal perfume, add to our small world lands etc ….
We do that here too, Susie! Don’t they love it?!
Pasta is a great idea! Cooked, it would be so easy to cut through for little ones!!
Good tips! Styrofoam does seem like a safe option, too, doesn’t it?
Helen Neale (@KiddyCharts)
These are really great ideas – thanks so much for linking up to the Parenting Pin it Party 😀
rebecca at thisfineday
Awesome! I’ll add these to my list- great timing too. My last post was about using up Junk Mail to hone scissor skills!
Perfect timing, Rebecca!
Thanks for linking this fun post to Tuesday Tots. I’m featuring it this week on Learn with Play at home. 🙂
In my case it’s difficult because I visit the child at there house, I leave home work For the child, when I return the following week the mother says that she had no time to practice with him/her, so this leaves me to work with the child during our home visit, which is difficult, because my lesson plan is Held back a week, what can I do?
You don’t mention the age of the child, Ofelia.
I always taught children how to carry or pass scissors correctly too. That can get scary with young children!!! Oh and to put them down when they are not actually cutting!
Good points, Lynne! Oh, ha! No pun intended!
My two year old is just getting into cutting. Perfect timing! Loving spaghetti and straw ideas. We snipped and made paper snowflakes today
How do you clean/sanitize the foam meat trays? What do you recommend? I teach infant and toddlers and right now we are only using construction paper. Thanks for any helpful tips.
I run them through my dishwasher, Amanda. I mention that in all of my other styrofoam posts, but I over-looked putting that tip in this post. Thanks for asking! I’ve just edited the post, and added that recommendation. The toddlers will love cutting play dough. That’s the easiest to get them started with. 🙂
I think it’s important to note that the scissors should be good enough quality that they actually cut. I have seen many people buy plastic scissors that look safer but take advanced skill to actually cut anything. It causes frustration, and improper use of them and that can be more dangerous that buying a quality pair of child size scissors to begin with.
Good point, Shannon. That can be so frustrating.
These are good ideas. My daughter loves to cut. We’ll have to try these out!
The children in my class also used to cut up Mardi Gras Beads!
Yes! We love cutting up small strings of craft beads! We’ll have to move on to our dollar store necklaces one of these days!
Can’t beat letting kids use scissors. We have some with the fancy edges too – they are great. I am featuring this post on The Sensory Seeker as part of this weeks Kids Co-op.
Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one!
To contain the mess of toddlers snipping paper, I’ve seen teachers use a rigid wading pool as a “cutting center” in their classrooms……the toddlers climb right in and snip, snip, snip away!
Brilliant idea, Joan!
I love the idea of marking the thumb! Brilliant!
thanx alot u have helped us with this great ideas i have already started with strews but the foam and plough are brilliant
Susen Malkowski Kuchta
I always forget to put the scissors out with playdough, I have to remember to do this next time!!
Some lovely tips, thanks. Particularly like the idea of the face on the thumb. I will use this along with a rhyme I often sing to the tune of Frere Jacque ‘Keep my thumb up, keep my thumb up, when I cut, when I cut, I can cut with scissors, I can cut with scissors, open, shut, open, shut’.
Love your song, Debbie!
The face on the thumb when using scissors is upside down
Thank you for sharing your observation, Linda. Please do go ahead and draw yours the other way around if you think it might have an influence on how this technique might work for your child.
It’s just that when the child is cutting they should see the smiley face looking at them when their thumb is UP correctly when cutting.
Good point. What I find is that children tend to turn their hand upside down when learning to cut. Putting anything, even a sticker or a dot on the thumbnail reminds the child to keep their hand in the thumb-up position.
Hi ! Thanks for the article. I tried to open the link to “how to hold and use a pair of scissors”, but it takes me to the Yahoo main page and then the article does not stand there. Do you have a direct link to it? Thanks in advance! 🙂
Thanks for that heads up! I guess the website or the post that I linked to no longer exists because I can’t pull it up either using the direct URL I had for it. I’ve removed the link my site. Thanks again.
Thanks for that heads up! I guess the website or the post that I linked to no longer exists because I can’t pull it up either using the direct URL I had for it. I’ve removed the link from site. Thanks again.
love the idea of the paint chips! my 3 year old is just getting into cutting ,or just being allowed to cut 😉
i’m definitely going to parlay it with the paint chip mosaics!
Glad you liked these ideas, Lauren. The paint chips are a huge hit here!