Miss 26 months began showing an interest in scissor skills at 20 months, after months of observing me. I first introduced the IKEA Mala scissor set to her at 22 months. At the start, she spent a long time experimenting with different hand and finger positioning and mostly used both hands to open and close the scissor blades. At that time, she requested my help frequently to hold the paper in place for her to cut.
Between 24 - 25 months, she progressed to using just one hand, her master hand, to open and close the scissors. Gradually, she stopped asking for my help and could hold the paper herself while using the scissors. From making small and random snips, she progressed to making controlled, precise and consecutive snips. That was when I got her the Crayola Blunt Tip Scissors which cuts more smoothly than the IKEA Mala scissors, and provides a comfortable grip for her hand.
In weeks, she was cutting straight lines, angled lines and complicated shapes like ovals and circles. My heart swelled with enormous pride seeing how her precision of scissors grip kept improving with consistent scissors practice.
I leveraged every practical life opportunity possible to invite Miss 26 months to use her scissors, such as cutting long noodle strands into shorter lengths, cutting tape off delivery boxes, cutting clothing labels and tags off and cutting paper scraps leftover from art activities. My toddler delighted in cutting a variety of materials which provided different levels of tactile resistance and sensorial experiences.
Do you know? A number of fundamental skills have to be developed for mastery of scissor skills, such as bilateral coordination, finger and hand strength, hand-eye coordination and precision of grip and release. Scissor skills development happens most naturally and easily through play!
10+ Creative Scissors Cutting Activities for Children
As such, on top of above-mentioned practical life cutting activities, I introduced these 10+ fun and creative scissor skill activities to my toddler. Scissor cutting activities are great for enhancing not only fine motor control but visual motor integration and cognitive abilities.
1. Flower U-Pick Cutting Activity
We missed the Skagit Tulip Festival in Washington this year due to COVID-19, so this was my way of not missing out on tulip harvest and bringing the experience indoors.
I cut tulips from colored construction paper, taped them to straws of varying lengths, poked holes in an egg crate and stuck the flower stems into the holes so they could stand. Then I used hot glue gun to secure the flower stems to the egg crate. Finally I completed the setup by placing a flower vessel for her to place the cut flowers beside the egg crate, her scissors and a bilingual label of 自己摘花 (Zìjǐ zhāi huā / U-Pick).
My toddler first experimented with pulling the flowers out of the egg crate. She failed to do so as the straws were glued tight to the egg crate. I explained the meaning of U-Pick to her and invited her to use the scissors to cut the flowers and arrange the cut flowers in the flower vessel.
I would love to replace the paper flowers with real flowers someday for a more sensorial and tactile experience.
2. Trim the Goatee Cutting Activity
A defining feature of a goat's physical appearance is none other than its beard (otherwise known as a 'goatee'). When my toddler set eyes upon this goat activity, she immediately came up with the storyline, "The goatee is too long, the goat needs it cut!"
The setup is simple. I illustrated a goat's head and used a hole puncher to punch a number of holes along its chin. Then, I cut short lengths of baker's twine (any string would do) and tied them to the holes until the goat had a satisfactory volume of goatee.
Next, I illustrated a goat's body and taped the head to its body. This way, there is a degree of flexibility to the goat's head, allowing it 'nod'. My toddler could also 'lift' the goat's head away from its body to trim its goatee easily.
The bilingual label I wrote is '帮我修剪山羊胡子' (Bāng wǒ xiūjiǎn shānyáng húzi / Trim the goat's beard) and 'Trim my goatee'.
During the cutting activity, we talked about how a goat's beard is a direct inspiration for a human man's goatee.
I also shared other intriguing science facts I knew about goatees, such as the fact that female goats can also grow goatees and that the beard on a buck (male goat) tends to be grow longer and thicker than that of the doe (female goat).
For more scissors practice, this activity can easily be repeated by un-looping or cutting off the strings to reattach new ones.
Tip: Save string scraps for future art pieces! Children can place them on clear contact paper along with other loose parts to make open-ended artworks.
3. Sea Jelly Tentacle Grooming Activity
The storyline I created for this activity is fictional. My toddler enjoys activities with a mission or purpose so this storyline fueled her interest in the activity -- she couldn't wait to 'help' the sea jelly!
My storyline basically went, "This yellow sea jelly has extraordinarily long tentacles which often got entangled. It's looking for a hairdresser to trim its tentacles. Would you help?"
The sea jelly was easy to DIY. I cut wavy tentacles from paper and taped them to the inside of a plastic cup. As a finishing touch, I placed two white dot stickers on the cup and drew black pupils for them to look like the sea jelly's eyes.
My toddler was really tickled and enthusiastic to give the sea jelly a tentacle makeover.
Initially she needed me to hold the cup for her as she did the trimming, but eventually she managed to figure out how to grasp it on her own while cutting. I love how this 3-dimensional sea jelly activity provided an opportunity for problem-solving and unconventional hand/finger placements during the scissors work to work a different set of muscles.
4. Lion Mane Grooming Activity
I was inspired by Schooltime Snippets' lion mane paper plate cutting actiivty so I created my version with simpler resources -- just colored construction paper.
I drew a lion's face and cut it out, followed by a larger circle for the lion's mane. Then I glued the lion's face onto the mane and drew lines to represent the individual strands of fur in the lion's mane.
More lines (with less space in-between) could be drawn as the child's scissor mastery increases and the child seeks a higher level of fine motor challenge.
This cutting activity requires the child to rotate the lion, as well as angle and position the scissors differently with every cut. For successful completion of this activity, the child has to put in a substantial amount of motor planning and demonstrate patience and focus.
With each cut, I encouraged my toddler to count. One-to-one correspondence reinforces math skills.
Rich vocabulary used during play conversations boosts language development. I also talked about how this activity brought to mind a dandelion (which I thought of as 'dandy lions' in my childhood) and how the individual strands of the lion's mane resemble dandelion puffs.
The bilingual label I used for this activity was 修剪狮子鬃毛 (Xiū jiǎn shīzi zōng máo / Trim the lion mane).
5. Potted Plant Pruning Activity
Inspired by the sea jelly activity, I used similar resources to create this potted plant for my little budding gardener to prune.
We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines is a perfect accompaniment for this activity to get children into the spirit and mood of gardening.
During this activity, I introduced the word 'Bonsai' to my toddler. 'Bonsai' is a Japanese term which refers to the East Asian art form of gardening to cultivate miniature plants in pots that mimic the appearance of full-sized trees.
6. Tree Pruning Activity
This activity is an extension of the potted plant idea above and invites children to trim off excess leaves or branches.
I taped illustrated leaves onto recycled plastic straws and stuck the straws into holes made in a long cardboard tube.
During play, I talked about how tree pruning is important to protect the structural integrity of a tree so that there is less risk of it toppling over or branches breaking and falling off.
I also introduced the term 'arborist' to my toddler, which I explained is a skilled person whose job is to plant, care for, and maintain trees.
- Hot glue the straws to the cardboard tube so the branches don't get tugged or yanked off easily during the activity
- Cut a circular hole in a cardboard box that fits the cardboard tube and hot glue the cardboard tube to the cardboard box so the tree can stand firm and upright
It would be fun to repeat this activity during seasonal changes to reflect the changing appearances of a tree, such as green leaves for summer and brown leaves for fall/autumn.
7. Hair Grooming Activity (2-D)
I was inspired by A Crafty Living's paper plate haircuts so I created a version using just colored construction paper. I cut the vertical, individual strands of hair so my toddler could focus on cutting the hair horizontally to yield desired hair style.
I introduced the names of different hair cuts to my toddler and showed her pictures of different hair cut styles such as crew cut, buzz cut and bowl cut.
After my toddler was done with the hair cut, she asked for 'more', evidently craving more scissors work. A brainwave hit, so I created paper 'teeth' and taped it to my illustration's hollow mouth for my toddler to cut out, terming it 'baby teeth replacement'.
I talked about how baby teeth are shed and replaced with permanent teeth.
Tip: Use masking tape to secure the hair and teeth to the face of the illustration so the cut hair and teeth could easily be peeled off without damaging the face and could be replaced for a repeat of the activity.
8. Hair Grooming Activity (3-D)
I made this manly cardboard tube doll (superman-themed) as a Father's Day craft with baker's twine for hair so my toddler could give the doll a hair makeover in a more realistic and tactile manner. Refer to the link for DIY details.
For more scissoring opportunities, involve your child in the doll making process by tasking her to cut short lengths of string for you to attach to the cardboard tube doll.
I used a range of adjectives to describe the cardboard tube doll's 'before' hair look, such as 'messy', 'disheveled', 'uncombed' and 'bed hair' to acquaint my toddler with rich vocabulary.
For the 'after' look, I described it as 'clean', 'neat', 'tidy' and 'polished'.
I also talked about hairdressing as a profession, explaining the job of a hairdresser as someone who is skilled at cutting and styling hair as an occupation.
9. 'Who's Hatching?' Egg Cutting Activity
An extension of this activity could be helping older children learn which animals lay eggs (oviparous) and which animals have live births (viviparous). Pre-K Pages has a great post to teach preschoolers and kindergarteners about species laying and hatching eggs.
As an early introduction to this concept, I read the "Who's Hatching? Tap-tap-tap" lift-the-flap book with my toddler, which depicts a lizard, alligator, chameleon and turtle hatching from eggs.
10. Rocket Anatomy Puzzle Cutting Activity
This activity was inspired by Amazing Machines: Roaring Rockets by Tony Mitton, a book which my toddler loves. I drew a rocket with the same anatomy as shown in the book using recycled aluminium foil.
To kickstart the activity, I read the book and got to the part about fuel tanks falling off after use. I explained that the fuel tanks were designed to be disposable and were discarded after the initial burst of rocket launch to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
Then I used my index finger to point out the 'cut line' and invited my toddler to cut off the fuel tank after simulating a rocket launch.
My husband even showed my toddler a video of Space X's recent launch -- the Starlink Mission to give her a visual and more concrete idea of how rockets are thrust into space from Earth.
The Roaring Rockets book has a page at the end on rocket anatomy. We talked about each rocket part and I invited my toddler to cut it out before finally piecing the cut pieces together to re-construct the rocket.
11. French Fry Cutting Activity
This idea originated from Happy Tot Shelf's French Fries fraction learning activity.
I provided this activity to my toddler when she started making precise, controlled scissor cuts and attempted to cut by following lines.
Variations I intend to make with this curly fries cutting activity would be supplying zig-zag scissors for my toddler to make 'crinkle-cut fries' as well as drawing swirly lines instead of straight lines for my toddler to make 'curly fries', both of which would require a more advanced level of scissors mastery.
I also added labels to the french fry packaging to familiarise my toddler with English and Chinese print (薯条 (Shǔ tiáo / French fries)).
Another learning opportunity I seized during this activity was reinforcing counting skills. I counted aloud as I pointed to each cut french fry and invited my toddler to follow suit. This is a great way to encourage one-to-one correspondence.
I hope your child enjoys these fun and creative scissors cutting activities!
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.