Cutting activities are important for fine motor skill development and hand-eye coordination. Check out these 10 tips and tricks from a school-based occupational therapist to help preschoolers and kindergarten students improve scissor skills. Learn the order for scissor skills development. Grab the worksheets for fine motor activities and cutting practice (39 downloadable PDF pages.)
Cutting activities can be tricky for kids, especially when they’re first starting to learn. Practice helps… but focusing on scissor skill development increases success.
There’s a specific order to follow for cutting skills to help young children. Check out the easy tricks and tips that you can try to set up kids for success. Additionally, using a sequence of worksheets for cutting practice gives kids confidence as they build skills (find the worksheets at the bottom of the post.)
Why are Scissor Skills and Worksheets for Cutting Practice Important for Kids?
Cutting with scissors is a great fine motor activity for kids. Scissor skills activities are a fun way to support physical development, brain development, and learning.
It’s so important for preschool and kindergarten programs to provide opportunities for pre-cutting skills and cutting practice. I love seeing first, second and third grade lessons that also incorporate cutting activities into lessons. (Even better for kids of all ages!)
Cutting with scissors is one activity that requires SOOO MANY different skills. Here I go again with my activity analysis… I can’t help it, it’s a big part of my job as an occupational therapist!
Cutting activities address the following skills:
- Core Stability
- Grasp Development
- Motor Separation in the Hands
- Fine Motor Hand Strength
- Thumb Stability / Opposition
- Eye Hand Coordination
- Bilateral Coordination
- Arm Stability
- Control of Fine Motor Movements
- Speed and Efficiency of Movements
- Visual Focusing
- Listening Skills
- Ability to Follow Directions
- Independent Work Skills
- Visual Convergence
- Visual Tracking
This is a quick list off the top of my head! All of the skills addressed during cutting activities are also important for holding and controlling a pencil, managing clothing fasteners, opening packages and containers, etc.
The visual skills involved are important for reading and attending to learning tasks.
Cutting worksheets for practice (or arts & crafts) should be a routine part of preschool and kindergarten learning activities.
For kiddos who have trouble with scissor skills, I have some tips that will help you help them!
10 Tricks & Tips to Help Kids with Scissor Skills When Completing Cutting Worksheets
Recently, a seasoned kindergarten teacher asked me for some tips with cutting for her students. She had a group of kids who were really struggling with simple cutting tasks. She even thought they might need referred for occupational therapy.
I showed her 3 simple things to try with these kiddos. Two weeks later… she said they were keeping up with the other students and weren’t struggling anymore! She was amazed at how the simple tricks helped them improve their cutting skills!
Here’s a list of tricks & tips to help set up your kids for success with cutting activities:
1. Make Sure Kids Sit with Good Posture
A properly sized chair is important to keep the feet flat on the floor. Kids can sit on the front edge of their chair to help their feet stay flat on the floor. Plus, this keeps the body more upright so they’re not tempted to lean into the back of the chair.
Sitting upright with good posture gives stability to the body so the hands can cut with better control. (Click the link for more info on seated positioning for all fine motor tasks.)
2. Keep Elbows in at the Sides
This is my favorite tip… it has worked for so many kids! They will have much better control if their elbows stay close to their trunk.
I’ve found it extra helpful to have the children slide their chairs away from the table / desk. Then, children’s elbows relax more naturally at their sides.
When kids sit close to a desk or table, they tend to prop their arms on the table surface which pops their elbows out (and they lose stability and control.)
3. Use the Skill Fingers to Hold the Scissors
This is a tough one to encourage since so many kid scissors have a large oval opening on the bottom. (And since many kids lack hand strength.)
Ideally, it’s best to use scissors with two small circular openings for grasping: the thumb goes in the top opening, the middle finger goes in the bottom, and the index finger goes in front of the bottom hole opening. The pinky and ring fingers are curled into the palm for stability.
4. Keep Both Hands in Front of the Body when Cutting
A child’s hands should remain in front of the body when using scissors. This helps with visual attention, hand-eye coordination, and visual motor integration. It requires stability (from the core / shoulders / forearms / wrist) and coordination of both hands (and both sides of the brain!) Using tips 5-7 will help kids keep both hands in front of the body.
5. Hold the Scissors with Thumbs Up and On Top
If the elbows are at the sides, it’s easier to keep the thumbs up. The forearm should remain still to keep the wrist and thumb in the same upward position when cutting.
6. Helper Hand Holds the Paper with the Thumb Up
Again, stability will be reinforced when even the helper hand’s thumb is on top of the paper. More importantly, the helper hand has to slide the paper when cutting (see tip #7)
7. Shift the Paper in the Helper Hand
This is an important skill during cutting that I point out to kids and teachers! With the thumb on top, the fingers in the helper hand move along the top of the paper. This is an important fine motor skill needed to keep the elbow in at the side and to control the paper when cutting.
8. Right Handed Kids Cut to the Right
Picture a child cutting circles or complex shapes. It’s better for them to hold the circle or shape at the bottom (with the left hand, thumb on top) and cut with the scissors to the right side. This allows for better visual focus on the cutting line. And it helps with coordination of both hands (it’s awkward if they cut across their body to the left side.)
9. Left Handed Kids Cut to the Left
Kids who are left-handed hold various shapes or pictures with their right helper hand (thumb on top.) They cut to the outside left side. The right hand shifts the paper as noted in tip #7.)
10. Follow the Proper Scissor Skills Development Sequence
Cutting worksheets for preschool or kindergarten students should match their skill level. Make sure the task is not too difficult. It will only cause frustration and decrease confidence in an important skill!
Pre-Cutting Skills & Scissor Skills Development (to Help Make Sure You Pick the Correct Worksheets for Cutting Practice)
As with any gross motor or fine motor skill, you have to start with the basics. Then, you gradually progress through the steps as kids start to have success.
Pre-Cutting Skills & Readiness Skills for Scissor Use
Before cutting lines and different shapes, kids should demonstrate good postural stability. Core strength and upper arm stability is needed for good control. (For simple ways to improve core strength / stability during your current routines, check out how to use vertical surfaces and the floor. Or check out 40 core strengthening exercises for kids)
Also, kids should be able to automatically use both hands together during tasks. This means they show hand dominance and can perform a different action with each hand. One hand is the worker, the other the helper.
(For more practice with this, check out bilateral coordination activities. These tasks can help encourage kids to use both hands together before they begin snipping and cutting.)
Kids should also be good at using their skill fingers (thumb, index and middle.) There are many pre-cutting activities that help the skill fingers strengthen and develop. This fine motor craft is super easy to practice pre-cutting skills (minimal supplies needed!)
The thumb muscles also require hand strength and coordination. Activities that promote pencil grasp development are also good for cutting.
Before beginning the cutting sequence below, make sure kids can hold scissors in their dominant hand with their thumb up. Both elbows should rest at the sides. Then, proceed with the cutting skills worksheets!
Scissor Skills Development and Cutting Practice Sheets Sequence for Preschool & Kindergarten
Follow the sequence of scissor skills to help preschool and kindergarten students have confidence and success.
I teach young learners to snip paper, snip on targets, and cut with a forward motion. Then, kids learn to cut along a variety of lines, cut simple curvy and simple zig-zag lines, and cut simple shapes. Finally, they can practice cutting out complex shapes and pictures.
I also make sure they can use the helper hand to move the paper as they cut. This hand dexterity skill is important for scissors skills (and for many other fine motor skills such as writing.)
To practice snipping, you can use strips of playdoh, construction paper, index cards or straws. Kids love to snip straws! They’re nice and sturdy for them to hold as they get used to keeping the scissors in the same position. (Plus, the straws fly all over – then they get to work on grasping with the skill fingers when they pick them up!)
When snipping lines and cutting forward on paper, kids need to be able to keep the scissors perpendicular to the paper.
You can save scrap paper and make a cutting bin for a fine motor center. Some of my “busier” and “more active” preschool kiddos who have limited focus typically attend really well to cutting tasks.
When starting to practice cutting on simple straight lines, basic shapes and pictures, I copy pages onto card stock, oak tag or some other firm paper. The stable paper gives better control and more confidence in young students.
After a child has success with each step on thicker paper, then I print on regular paper.
Older students can work on the practice pages for cutting complex shapes.
Worksheets for Cutting Practice – Scissors Skills Cutting Paper (PDF File)
As I was writing this post, I started creating a cutting activity for my kids…
I got a little carried away!
What started with me creating just one activity, turned into the creation of an entire bundle of worksheets for cutting practice!! The bundle addresses all scissor skills in sequence listed in this post. It can also be broken into skill sets.
The various pages of the bundle can be used as part of classroom lessons, homework, or for a fine motor center.
You can grab the entire bundle here for a discounted price of $11.50 or click on the image below. Additional options have been added to this page so that you can buy a smaller readiness bundle for $7.50, or you can buy each individual skill set for $2.00 – 2.75 each. (You can also go to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store but the prices are higher there.)
Contents of the Cutting Worksheets for Preschool and Kindergarten – PDF 39 Page Bundle
You can purchase the entire bundle for $11.50 or buy any of the individual skill sets for $2.00-2.75 each. The entire bundle contains:
- 4 shape wheels for hand dexterity / in-hand manipulation (2 with color, 2 black and white so that children can color)
- 1 page of sample directions for the shape wheels (build in-hand manipulation skills needed for cutting with the shape wheel – improve hand dexterity while addressing colors, 15 shapes, left/right directionality, and following directions)
- 6 pages of snipping activities
- 4 pages of cutting forward to a target with paths and dotted lines
- 2 pages cutting on straight lines
- 4 pages of cutting curvy and zig-zag lines (2 levels of complexity)
- 2 pages of cutting 4 simple shapes with a dotted border – this helps kids see the actual shape inside when cutting accuracy is emerging (8 shapes total)
- 2 pages of cutting 4 simple shapes with a thick line for cutting (8 shapes total)
- 6 pages (3, 2-page sets) of simple-complex picture shapes for coloring, cutting and gluing by following directions (page orientation, left-right, top-bottom)
- 7 pages of complex picture shapes (some contain two practice pictures per page)
Related Posts Addressing Fine Motor Skills and Visual Motor Activities for Kids:
Super FUN & Easy Visual Motor Activity Using Magnets (A kid and teacher favorite!)