Stages of Cutting with Scissors

cutting pic with logo flat

I'm supposed to let my preschooler use SCISSORS???


I must be pretty darn crazy because I gave Ellie scissors when she was two years old!  Why so young?  Well, we had been building up her fine motor skills for quite some time and she seemed up for the challenge.

By 18 months old she was stacking blocks, playing with chunky puzzles, and coloring with sturdy triangular crayons.  We even had her threading "beads" with this great set I found on Amazon by Alex (affiliate link).  It states that its for children 2 years and up, but Ellie had it in her travel backpack, for the car and doctor visits, just after she turned 18 months.  (I did remove the chicken as it was the smallest piece, plus I always kept an eye on her while she was using them.)

Next, I decided to add some tongs and tong-like tools (like tweezers and eye droppers) to her sensory table, and they were a big hit!  I added them in with some colored rainbow beans that I had dyed.   In a blink of an eye she had those tools figured out! I couldn't believe it!  Definitely one of my better purchases!

rainbow beans txt

That night I dug out my pair of child-safe scissors (that were at least 8 years old) and let her have a go with them and some play dough the next morning.  It was a flop!  The scissors required TOO much force to open the blades so she got frustrated.  After reading a post similar to this one by Coffee Cups and Crayons titled "Scissor Practice Tips for Preschoolers" I decided to find some scissors that would be used primarily for cutting play dough and I found the perfect ones on (you guessed it!) Amazon!  They're made by Crayola, but I definitely would NOT recommend them for use with paper.  They just don't cut it! (Pun intended.) At the time I didn't know about the scissors with the spring that helps open the blades back up automatically, otherwise I might have gone that route.  However, these Crayola Safety Scissors (affiliate link) worked absolutely perfect with play dough and Ellie became a play dough cutting fool!

Since then Ellie has progressed from cutting play dough snakes to snipping paper.  Which required better, stronger, scissors (okay, I'll admit this was scary for me at first, but I did it and we survived...minus one of her shirts that now has a hole near her tummy.  That ought to teach me to let her cut while I'm on the phone with the insurance company!) and more time to practice cutting.

Around age 2 children typically begin making random snips on paper and eventually progress towards cutting across a piece of paper.  For more information on the different stages of cutting check out this handout from Super Duper Inc.

At 2 and a half, Ellie's favorite thing, by far, was to snip a piece of paper as small as she could possibly get it.  To help her move on to the next level I purchased "My First Book of Cutting" (affiliate link).  I had heard really good things about it, but upon receiving it I realized that it was too advanced for Ellie as the first pages start a child cutting along a fairly skinny line across the length of the paper.

Cutting Strips white

Now that she is 3 and still not able to cut across the entire length of a piece of paper I wanted to find something that would help her progress.  So I created some Color, Cut & Paste pages (pictured to the left) that focus on using skinnier strips of paper and thus shorter lines that are easier for her to cut across.  I wasn't sure if she would actually try to cut on the lines or just go crazy snipping but she actually did pretty well.  After a bit more practice with these I think we will give the "My First Book of Cutting" another try!

Below are the steps that I recommend for helping your little ones become better cutters:

1st: Build fine motor strength by serving finger foods, coloring, play dough and play dough tools, building with blocks, chunky puzzles, beading, pegs, fine motor manipulatives, stampers and ink pads.

2nd: Use tools that relate to cutting (tongs, tweezers, eye droppers).  We also found some other gadgets at a thrift store like an infuser spoon (yes, I had to google it to find out what it was called!) and added them to the sandbox outside.

3rd: Cut play dough with scissors.

4th: Introduce better stronger scissors and give more CUTTING time.  Offer a variety of things to cut such as: straws, paint chips, and long (but skinny) strips of paper.

5th: Increase the width of the strips of paper so that it requires the child to open and close their scissors more than once to cut across the paper.  After they're comfortable with that it might be time to try cutting on a (wide) line.  Eventually they will progress to thinner lines, zigzags, curvy lines and finally shapes.

For a complete list of the products I mentioned in this post you can check out my Amazon Wishlist:

 Stages of Cutting

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