The motor skills behind using scissors

little boy using scissors under mom's supervision

The use of scissors requires and enhances many developmental skills. Cutting allows children to build the tiny muscles in their hands since they have to continuously open and close their fingers. Cutting also enhances the use of eye-hand coordination, which means children must be able to move their hands, while looking at something. Since the brain is required to work with two systems, cutting might be a difficult task. But don’t worry, little hands can develop fine motor skills by learning the proper way to use scissors. Keep reading to learn more!

What skills do we need to use scissors?

Cutting with scissors requires multiple skills, and one of them is the hand separation. This is the ability to use the thumb, index, and middle fingers independently from the pinkie and ring fingers. When your child practices cutting with scissors, they are also using abilities like hand-eye coordination and bilateral coordination because each hand is doing something different.

Although these skills are used during the activity of cutting, they can also be practiced throughout your child’s day. Simple tasks like throwing and catching a ball, using a spoon, or zipping a coat are things where your little one develops their hand coordination, finger dexterity, and builds strength in the little hand muscles.


When children reach 42 months, they begin doing activities that involve cutting with scissors. But before they get there, you can begin stimulating the abilities they need by practicing simple and everyday actions like:

  • Using a fork when eating
  • Pulling up their pants
  • Zipping up a jacket
  • Brushing their teeth and hair
  • Playing with playdough (practice pinching, rolling, and squeezing to make different figures)
  • Paste stickers on paper
  • Using spray bottles (to do things like water the plants)
  • Use clothes pins (place pins around an egg carton and make a fence for some farm animals!)

Practicing these will build the muscle control and grasping abilities needed to use scissors.

When your child is ready, introduce plastic scissors:

  • Make sure they have a proper grip while grabbing the scissors.
  • Before cutting paper try easier materials like playdough, straws, yarn, or foam.
  • Begin easy. Give a long piece of paper or playdough to your child and have them cut through the width, this way they will just need to open and close the scissors once.
  • Practice snaps around a circle.

What to encourage when using scissors?

  • Thumb in one hole and middle finger on the other, while the index serves as support. “Keep giving me a thumbs-up.”
  • Holding the paper over the table with the other hand, so that your child can practice bilateral coordination. This will prevent children from using the scissors upside down.
  • Cutting straight lines and circles.

If you want to learn more about this subject, check out the following sites:

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