Your child should be able to hold and use scissors when she reaches kindergarten (even if she doesn’t yet cut a straight line), so there’s no better time to practice this important skill than now. Toddlers can hold and manipulate toys and objects, which is all they need to start holding and using scissors. Teaching your toddler to use scissors now can strengthen the hand and finger muscles she’ll need to hold a pencil or play an instrument.
The Awe Behind Scissor Skills
Holding, opening, and closing scissors are things older kids and adults do without putting too much thought into each step. But babies and toddlers have to think about the process, consciously putting effort into figuring out how to hold scissors and how to move them to make a cut.
Scissor skills are actually quite impressive if you think about it! Being able to use scissors requires:
- Fine motor skills (coordinating fingers, hands, and wrists to work together)
- Hand-eye coordination to move the scissors along a line
- Ability to focus on the task in order to keep the scissors on a line
- Good posture to sit up straight and hold the scissors and paper properly
- Coordination between both sides of the body, or bilateral coordination, to hold and manipulate the scissors with one hand, and the paper with the other.
That’s a lot of work! Your toddler won’t master each of these skills during toddlerhood but will continue developing each piece for a few more years, usually through age 6.
How Scissor Skills Develop During Toddlerhood
During your baby’s first two years, she learns a lot of necessary skills she’ll need to start working with scissors, like:
- Sitting up by herself
- Making small, precise movements with her hands and fingers, like turning the pages of a book
- Manipulating small objects with her hands, like opening a snack bar wrapper or moving toy cars around a playmat
- Beginning to develop spatial awareness that can help her follow a line to cut
- Continuing to develop hand-eye coordination to help her eyes and hands stay in sync when cutting
Between months 24 and 36, what she’s learned so far will continue to evolve to improve her scissor skills.
25 – 27 Months
Your toddler will learn to open and close safety scissors with both hands rather than one. This is okay! She’s learning how they work and what they do as she figures out how to hold them.
28 – 30 Months
Your toddler will start to open and close scissors with just one hand, although she may still switch back and forth between each hand (she probably won’t choose a dominant hand just yet; that usually comes closer to age four). She won’t be able to cut paper yet, but she might be able to cut playdough or clay.
31 – 33 Months
Your toddler’s grasp will mature, making it easier for her to snip paper with her scissors. However, she will probably need your help holding the paper for her to cut.
34 – 36 Months
During these months, your toddler will start to use one hand to guide paper toward her scissors while she cuts with the other. She may now begin making forward cuts in her paper, but she may not be able to cut in a straight line yet.
Giving your toddler a few fine motor activities to do every day will continue to develop her finesse with using scissors. You can check the BabySparks development program’s fine motor suggestions to find fun activities that are right on target for your toddler’s age and skills.