Hello! My name is Megan Smisek, and I am an occupational therapist (OT) at Partners In Excellence. I have been practicing as an occupational therapist for 2 years, and treat clients at the Burnsville location. One of the reasons I love Partners is the ability to teach through play, and being able to see my kiddos grow and use their skills in many environments!

Today, we will be looking at and discussing Scissor Skills.

Before beginning to practice and build scissor skills, kids should have these skills first:

  • Body and Core Stability – Being able to sit upright, while staying balanced and stable is key, as well as safe when working with scissors.
  • Arm control – Being able to use scissors appropriately and accurately involves each part of the arm doing a different job, including isolating the thumb and fingers to open and close the scissors, as well as keeping the shoulder stable.
  • Bilateral Coordination – This is the ability to use both sides of the body together to complete a task. In the case of scissor skills, this looks like the ability to use the dominant hand to hold and operate the scissors, and the non-dominant hand to hold and rotate the paper.

The development of scissor skills comes in stages, and there are a variety of activities that can be done at home to promote and grow scissor skills at each stage.

**Be sure to talk with your child’s occupational therapy practitioner about how to best utilize these activities in your home, as well as with any questions or concerns related to your child’s scissor skill development.**

**Always supervise and monitor your child while using scissors for safety purposes**

Stage 1 – Holding Scissors

  • For the first stage, being able to hold the scissors is the goal, either with one hand or both!
  • At Home Activity Ideas: Let your child explore the features of and practice holding safety scissors (and with supervision!)

Stage 2 – Opening and Closing Scissors

  • Once your child is comfortable with holding scissors, now it is time to practice opening and closing the scissors. It is in this stage we can teach and model the “thumbs up” position, this is the most functional position to hold and use scissors!
  • At Home Activity Ideas: Practice opening and closing scissors to cut a variety of materials – Play Doh, Clay, Plastic Straws, String, Ribbon
  • Tip: Draw a smiley face, put a small sticker, or even googly eyes on the thumbnail or top of scissors, this is a great way to remind your child to use the “thumbs up” position!

Stage 3 – Snipping

  • This is the stage where we can introduce paper, and a child can begin practicing opening and closing the scissors to make small snips in paper
  • At Home Activity Ideas: Cutting Noodles (Left), Free the Animals (Right), Toilet Paper Roll Haircuts (Middle)

Stage 4 – Snipping with Forward Motion

  • Once the open/close motion of snipping is done, the next stage involves making multiple snips in the same direction (not necessarily in a straight line)
  • At Home Activity Ideas: Cupcake Wrapper Flowers (Left), Lion Paper Plate Activity (Right), Octopus Activity (Bottom)

Stage 5 – Utilizing Helping Hand

  • Now that the preferred hand has the basic snipping motion, it is time to add in the helper hand to hold the paper! A thumbs-up position is still encouraged for both the scissors and paper.
  • At Home Activity Ideas: Placing dots or small stickers in places where the helper hand needs to be while cutting

Stage 6 – Cut Straight Line

  • To keep building skills, first we will practice cutting along a straight line (within ¼”- ½”)
  • At Home Activity Ideas: Cutting Paint Color Sample Slips (Left), Jellyfish Craft (Right)

Stage 7 – Cut Curved Line

  • Once your child can follow and cut along a straight line, now it is time to change the shape of the line, either with curves or zigzags (still cutting within ¼”- ½”)!
  • At Home Activity Ideas: Paper Haircuts

Stage 8 – Cut Simple Shapes

  • Starting with a circle, then moving on to a square and triangle, kiddos can now practice cutting simple shapes (within ¼”- ½”)
  • At Home Activity Ideas: Color-Cut-Paste Activity (Left), Snake Spiral (Right)

Stage 9 – Cut Complex Shapes

  • After practicing simple shapes, the final stage includes cutting any complex or abstract shape (within ¼”)
  • At Home Activity Ideas: Color-Cut-Paste Activity (Left), Creating Cards for Loved Ones (Right)

Our occupational therapy team is excited to contribute to our Partners’ blog to offer information and insight into our field. Be on the lookout for more posts from our occupational therapists and certified occupational therapy assistants!

Activity Resources


Twisty Noodle


Case-Smith, J. (2005). Occupational therapy for children. Mosby: St. Louis.

Folio, M., Fewell, R. (2000). Peabody Developmental Motor Scales. 2nd Edition. Austin. Pro-Ed.