Cutting is a complex, yet necessary skill for school. It requires your child to co-ordinate two sides of their body whilst executing refined, coordinated movements with their arms and hands. WizeTherapy Occupational Therapist, Olivia Firth has put together seven simple ways you can work with your child to develop and improve their skills outside of the classroom.

  1. Positioning

When holding scissors, ensure your child has their thumb positioned in the small hole of the scissors, on top of the larger hole with their other fingers. The non-dominant or supporting hand holding the paper should also have the thumb positioned on top. Try using the rhyme “thumbs on top to chop, chop, chop!”, to help your child remember this.

  1. Progression

The general progression of cutting follows being able to open and shut scissors, snipping the edge of paper, cutting straight lines, cutting curved lines, cutting simple shapes and then progressing to increasingly complex shapes. Don’t try and master everything at once! Just practice opening and shutting the scissors to start with.

  1. Variety

Practice cutting materials with thick and varying textures such as old birthday cards, paper plates, leaves, play dough, grass, curling ribbon and straws. This will provide your child’s hand with increased feedback to the muscles and joints, assisting with the development of fluidity and accuracy.

  1. Shark vs. Fish

Practice doing big snips or ‘chomps’ and little snips or ‘nibbles’, with your child. I like to use an analogy of a shark for ‘chomps’ (big snips) and a fish for ‘nibbles’ (little snips). Chomps are used when the scissor blades are closed completely and nibbles are used when the scissors are only closed partially. Typically, chomps are used at the beginning of a long cut and nibbles are used as you near the end.

  1. Thick markers and stickers

Use thick, bolded lines on the shape or line your child is cutting out. Drawing simple shapes or lines using permanent marker can be a helpful way to do this. If your child is practicing the control of stopping their cutting, then you can use a sticker to show them where they need to stop.

  1. Cutting song

It is helpful to use the same words with your child while cutting. Singing the song ‘Open, shut them, open, shut them, give a little snip’ can be helpful prior to commencing a cutting task. This song reinforces the cutting movement pattern required.

  1. Practice

Little bits of practice is better than one large chunk of practice. Here’s some ideas of how to incorporate scissor skills into daily life and routines!

  • When helping in the kitchen, your child can help you cut food including uncooked/cooked pasta, celery, banana, slices of carrot or bread.
  • When playing outside, your child can cut items such as weeds, leaves and grass.
  • Your child can cut pictures from old cards, books or magazines to make a collage, or cut out toys from a catalogue to make a wish list!


By Olivia Firth
Occupational Therapist