The Steps to Cutting Paper


Birth to 5 years
One of the most important things you can do for your child is tummy time. Tummy Time is not just for  infants and toddlers.  The basis for all motor skills is back and tummy strength.  By age 5, a child should be able to play on his or her tummy, on the forearms and elbows, for 8-10 minutes without getting tired.  They need to be reaching, tossing, pulling, and putting on vertical surfaces. All this is necessary for good hand skills.  If you are worried about your child’s motor skills, you need to get back to tummy time.  If you child hates tummy time, get a therapist to figure out why.

Age 2  1/2 to 4  years
Get the hand ready by using tongs.   Transfer items with  tongs.  The tong should be held between the thumb and index finger.  Start with ice tongs and then find shorter and thinner tongs ie strawberry huller, sugar tongs, toast tongs.

Ages 3 to 5 years
Get the wrist ready by having the child use a slightly heavy paddle to hit an 8 inch ball.  The child needs a strong wrist to keep the wrist bent backwards while cutting.  The child sits criss-cross and hits a ball slowly rolled to his or her dominate side.  The thumb remains up as the swing occurs.

Age 3 to 4 years – Step One
Have the child work on picking up scissors by self with digits in holes, thumb up –  Often we put the scissors in a child’s hand. The child needs to learn how to get their digits into the correct hole by themselves.  Leave the scissors on the desk and direct the child’s hands into the holes vs. holding the scissors up for the child.

Ages 3  to  4  Years – Step Two
Have the child snip long, thin strips of business cards.  After each snip, a piece should fall off the thin strip.  The child is learning to use both hands at the same time. One hold the paper, the other snips.  The child is learning to position the scissors and the strip in space.

Ages 4 to 5 years – Step One
The child cuts index cards in half.   The stiff paper helps the child learn to cut vs tear. It helps support the child as he or she learns how to hold the paper and scissors correctly to get the blade to line up correctly with the paper.  Remember thumb needs to be positioned upwards not downwards toward the table.

Ages 4 to 5 years  – Step Two
The child cuts on an index card to a sticker.  The concept of on-a-line is abstract.  The sticker gives the child a target to cut towards.  He or she knows when the sticker is cut.  After the child has cut several stickers, I take the time to have the child put the 2 pieces back together i.e. fix the puzzle

Ages 4 to 5 years – Step Three
The child cuts on a line.  I start with a line to a sticker.  I slowly transition, at this time, from index cards to real paper.

Ages 4 to 5 years – Step Four
Cut of a large circle (4 inch diameter), then a large square.

Ages 5 years
The child needs to have good skill at using both hands together to cut. As he or she cuts, he should move the non-scissor hand as he or she cuts with the dominate hand. If this is hard, I draw a large spiral on a sheet of paper and then  have the child cut the spiral.  Repeatedly emphasis move the non- scissor hand


2 thoughts on “The Steps to Cutting Paper

  1. The development of fine motor skills are very complex and parents never really have reason to understand this until they have a child who have significant fine motor issues. For many children cutting is not a skill that is even on the agenda as it is so complex. In all the years of working with my child I have never heard or seen this skill, which as you have shown is really a skill set, broken down into individual components and explained as simply and skillfully as you have here. Thank you.

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