“Open, shut. Open, shut. That’s the way we cut!” – Occupational Therapy & Teaching to Cut

By AASLMarch 17, 2018

Teaching Kids to Cut

Learning to cut efficiently is a complex skill that requires fine motor strength and coordination, separation of the hand, bilateral coordination, and visual attention. How can you boost these skills to prepare your child for cutting?

Fun Occupational Therapy Activities To Boost Cutting Skills

Here are a few ideas: have your child play games using tongs to stack and sort items, squeeze and wring out sponges, squirt a spray bottle, twist open bottle tops, make finger puppets, clip clothes pins, make confetti with a hole puncher, string bead jewelry, play “flick football,” or create a water color picture using an eye dropper. Once your child’s hands are nice and strong and able to work together to cut and manage paper simultaneously, they are ready to start working with scissors.

How To Teach Cutting

Start out with some simple snipping, stressing the position of your child’s wrist, so that his/her thumb joint is inside the top loop and pointed to the ceiling, giving a “thumbs up.” The index finger rests on the outside of the scissor and the middle finger should be through the other loop (if your child has small fingers or if space allows, he/she can put the index finger in the loop with the middle finger). The ring and pinky fingers get tucked away into the palm, which can pose a challenge for some children. If your child is having trouble with this, you can help by having him/her hold a little pom-pom or cotton ball in the last two fingers.

To help maintain proper wrist and finger position, have your child practice cutting upwards (tape the paper against the wall or hold it at his/her eye level), this way the wrist naturally falls into the right position. If the scissors seem to be the problem, look for ones with oval loops (versus circular), they are easier to stabilize.

Adaptive Scissors If Standard Ones Don’t Work

If standard children’s scissors don’t seem to be cutting it (ha-ha), there are a great variety of adaptive scissors that you can explore. Here are a few examples: “benbow” and “fiskars” scissors are made to fit young children, “easy grip” and “loop” scissors have one continuous plastic loop and spring themselves open when pressure is relieved, “dual control” scissors have two sets of loops so that the adult can help guide the movement, and “mounted” or “push-down” scissors are perfect for children with use of only one hand or with weak grasp.

Left-Handed Scissors

On a side note, if your child is left handed, they should use a left-handed scissor (toy-stores sell “ambidextrous scissors,” but there really is no such thing). The blades on left-handed scissors are affixed in a way in which enables the child to see the lines while cutting, and in-turn, manage the paper more efficiently.

Next Steps After Mastering Proper Scissor Grasp

Cut With Heavy Materials First

Now that your child knows the proper grasp and has the right pair of scissors, it’s time to get snipping! Snip paper bags, index cards, straws, or card-stock paper; heavy materials help the child keep control versus lightweight materials that may flop around and be more difficult to manage.

Use Fringes!

When he/she has got that down, try fringing the edge of a paper and then snipping in a forward direction; see how many snips in a row you can get! Try to snip all the way across the page to cut your paper in half! As your child’s scissor skills become more refined, he/she will be ready to cut along a line.

Cutting Along Lines

If this seems tough, try one of these quick tips: place stickers along the line or highlight the line to draw awareness to it, use puffy paint, glue, yarn, or wicky-sticks to make “mountains” along both sides of the line for feedback when the scissors are veering off course.

Make sure your lines are thick and bold when starting out, moving towards mastering thinner and longer lines. From there, move on to zig-zagged lines, then curved lines and circles! Before you know it, your child will be cutting out squares, triangles, and any other shape they choose!

Practice makes progress! For more tips and tricks, consult with one of our occupational therapists today!

Jennifer Schwarzschild, M.S., OTR/L

Occupational Therapist


DISCLAIMER: Information published about one particular disorder does not necessarily apply to every individual who has the disorder discussed in this content. Treatments and therapies are highly individual and must be customized to the needs of each person to be effective. Do not make changes to your/your child’s treatment plan as a result of what you read in this article (or any content published by AASL) without consulting your/your child’s physicians and therapists. This content does not necessarily reflect the opinions of All About Speech and Language or its therapists. To understand the opinions and recommendations of your/your child’s AASL therapist, schedule an appointment with your therapist to discuss your concerns.

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