Teaching your Child to Use Scissors

Three year olds can cut using scissors. If you have a three year old child, you know they are fascinated with scissors and their potential to cut anything and everything from paper to clothing and hair!


Using scissors requires a lot of skill and fine motor development, and these start to develop well before the age of three.


How do you help your child develop the muscles in their hands?

Anything which involves squeezing or pinching type actions will be good, for example:

  • Squeezing the water out of bath tub sponges;
  • Rolling, flattening and shaping playdough;
  • Pinching clothes pegs open;
  • Using small tongs to pick up pieces of salad, or small items such as pompoms;
  • Using an eye dropper with coloured water in to drop onto paper;
  • Squeezing water out of empty, clean plastic bottles and;
  • Using a plant mister with a trigger action.


Regular play as above will strengthen the small muscles in their hands, ready for scissors and writing.


What are the steps in learning to correctly use scissors?

  • Begin by having a set of rounded tip scissors, which helps minimize accidentally poking someone! Ensure they are sharp enough to actually cut the paper, otherwise you will have a very frustrated child.
  • Let the child explore the action of scissors – often they will start by using both hands to open and close them – which is fine. You might hold the paper for them and let them see how they can cut, using both hands.
  • Incidentally, it is easier for them to cut paper which is a bit thicker, like thin card. This is because paper will flop down over the scissors, making traction harder, whereas card stays firm.
  • When children do start using just one hand to cut, they can find it a challenge to open the scissors. This is less of an issue if they have had lots of small muscle play with the activities as listed above, which will strengthen the muscles. They will often have their cutting hand twisted down (ie thumb facing downwards) until they manage to twist their wrist and hand around so that the thumb is upwards.
  • As well as light card to cut in to, you can use old envelopes as they are double thickness, and sand paper is fun to cut into as it crunches! Roll some playdough into thin sausages and let the child cut the ‘sausages’ into small pieces.
  • Lots of practice will help children master this new skill.



How do I minimise ‘damage’?

  • Have a special place where scissors are kept, out of reach. One idea could be to have an old shoe box, where the scissors are kept, along with suitable cutting papers.
  • Each time your child is using scissors, sit with them and talk about how clever they are to cut paper – thereby reinforcing that idea.
  • Don’t leave scissors lying around when you use them – you can hardly be cranky at a child who cuts things because you left them within their reach!


I always remember visiting a family whose three year old daughter, Brodie, presented with very short hair. Mum explained that she had been cutting her husbands’ hair in the evening, and forgot to put the hairdressing scissors away, leaving them on the kitchen bench. The next morning Brodie found them while Mum was putting the baby to sleep in another room. Brodie decided to cut her own hair, just like she’d seen her mother do. She was so pleased with her hairdressing skills, such that when Mum came back into the kitchen and saw the new hair-do, Brodie proudly asked: ‘You like my new hair?’


Over time, with practice and encouragement, they will soon be able to cut in lines, and around shapes such as circles or pictures from a magazine.


Happy scissoring!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email