How to Teach a Preschooler How to Use Scissors

Learning to use scissors is a developmental skill your preschooler is likely anxious to learn, but he will not be physically capable of successfully cutting with scissors until his dexterity is developed enough to move his fingers separately. Preschoolers will likely be ready to begin learning to use scissors as young as 3, but some might not master scissors until closer to kindergarten.

1 Small Motor Development

Begin developing a preschool child's small motor skills before introducing scissors. An effective way to introduce the concept is having him to tear paper into small pieces. Encourage using a three-finger grasp -- thumb, index, and middle finger -- to do small motor activities. This grasp strengthens small hand muscles necessary for cutting, while familiarizing a preschooler to materials commonly cut by scissors.

2 Model Proper Technique

Demonstrate with your own hand to show where the fingers are placed when cutting. Emphasize that the preschool child must always keep his fingers out of the way of the blades as he cuts. Although your preschooler is unlikely to practice with sharp scissors, he should learn to respect their potential sharpness and realize they are not toys. Think of a simple song or poem to help him remember scissor safety rules, such as “This is the way we hold the scissors, to keep fingers safe!”

3 Initial Scissor Introduction

Look for specially designed scissors suitable for very small hands that are not as sharp as conventional scissors when you first introduce a preschooler to scissors and cutting projects. Offer left-handed scissors if your child tends to complete most small motor activities with his left hand. Scissors with a spring automatically open after each cut, and can help to introduce the motion of cutting to young learners. You might need to experiment with a few different types of children's safety scissors before finding a pair that your child is comfortable using.

4 Practice Makes Perfect

While he might be cutting straight lines by 3 or 4 years, your preschool child will need substantial practice before he is skilled enough to cut out more complex shapes and make precise cutting movements. Offering materials of varying thickness, texture and color helps him practice cutting smaller shapes and designs. Have scissors available at all times, but remind him that not all materials are suitable for cutting. Keeping a basket of scrap paper near his scissors is a great way to encourage him to practice. Providing old magazines for cutting colorful pictures and gluing of collages or other artwork can help him begin integrating other small motor skills into his scissor practice.

Amy Pearson earned dual bachelor's degrees in management and horticulture. She is a licensed elementary teacher for kindergarten through sixth grades. Pearson specializes in flower and vegetable gardening, landscape design, education, early childhood and child development.