Choosing scissors for your preschooler

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on July 14, 2010

in Physical Development, Quick Tips for Preschool Teachers, Teaching Tools and Resources

I observed some children cutting today and realized there was an odd assortment of scissors on the table.

I noticed that some of the children were struggling with the ability to cut so I wandered about the quality of scissors. I decided to check them out myself.

This pair was unusual in that it didn’t open and close. This pair always remain open and only allows the scissors to close. To cut, you squeeze the handles close then let go. The edge seemed sharp enough but you had to really give a good squeeze to cut.

I wasn’t thrilled that these scissors did not invite the children to learn the open and close skill they will need later. I also felt that the scissors did not promote good control over the direction a child would want to cut. The focus would only be on squeezing the scissors and letting go. Update: But as a reader pointed out in the comments below, the scissors (shown above) may be a very good choice for children with special needs. She says scissors are not a “one size fits all” kind of deal!

This pair of scissors is surrounded by a plastic covering along the blade. It was almost impossible to cut with this pair unless you cut using only the back corner of the scissors.

The tip of the scissors just folded the paper.

This pair of scissors had a thick plastic covering which made it more challenging to see what you were cutting.

This pair of scissors cut fairly easily and the grip was comfortable but the thickness of the scissors seemed to block your view. It was hard to see what you were cutting which doesn’t lead to truly mastering eye-hand coordination as part of the cutting process.

This pair of scissors was certainly the most ordinary looking pair of scissors.

This pair of scissors cut easily and smoothly and the handle was comfortable to hold.

My unscientific observation resulted in the following…

  • Pair #1 seemed to be the most usable for teaching children how to cut properly and the best pair for promoting eye-hand coordination.
  • Pair #2 came in second for being sharp enough to cut well. I could see how it also helps to build fine muscle strength but not necessarily control.
  • Pair #3 came in third for having a sharp enough blade for cutting but I felt the handle was too large to promote fine motor control and eye-hand coordination.
  • Pair #4 came in last. It was just a frustrating pair of scissors to try and cut with. It was easier just to tear the paper. I would use a pair like this in the play-dough center!

Read more about teaching children to use scissors here!

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1 Scott July 14, 2010 at 8:11 am

Some very interesting thoughts, Deborah. I never thought about the differences. The scissors I have most resemble your #1 choice. I do have some of the thicker ones (#3) but never thought about the difficulty in seeing what you were cutting. Thanks for a great post.

2 Deborah J. Stewart July 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

Thank you for your comment Scott!

3 Andrea July 14, 2010 at 9:16 am

I will only use Fiskars(Pair #1) in my classroom. I discovered very quickly the others didn’t cut well. The only thick one I have in my room are the ones that cut different shapes and lines and those are for fun not accurracy! Thanks for sharing!

4 Deborah J. Stewart July 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

Andrea – I have the different shape scissors as well and find them a little difficult to use but they definitely are worthwhile in promoting advanced skills in cutting and more fun creating:)

5 Jody from Mommy Moment July 14, 2010 at 9:17 am

We use the same one in our home as your #1.
These are great for kids who have a hard time.×300/715.jpg I like that they become “regular” with the move of the 1 latch!

6 Deb July 14, 2010 at 9:23 am

We’ve really struggled getting scissors for little ones, they seem to all be plastic and extremely frustrating, or things like thread scissors that aren’t designed for small hands. We’ve finally found some good ones like #1 and they are guarded jealously so they don’t disappear! I think it comes back to the extreme overprotectiveness we seem to be stuck with at the moment. Sure, I can think of situations where scissors could be dangerous, but isn’t it better to teach kids about common sense and responsibility rather than protecting them out of the ability to cut?

7 Deborah J. Stewart July 14, 2010 at 11:11 am

Well said Deb – and I agree with your statement here – “Sure, I can think of situations where scissors could be dangerous, but isn’t it better to teach kids about common sense and responsibility rather than protecting them out of the ability to cut?”

8 Cindi July 14, 2010 at 10:29 am

As a early childhood special educator, I have had to try to wide variety of scissors to to support my students in developing their fine motor skill. I think it is important to remember that “one size fits all” does not apply here – I too have collected several different types of scissors and have found that #2 is very useful for younger student still developing the squeeze action and for children whose muscles and hands are not fully developed ( these can be very useful for children with special needs) I agreed to use scissors with play dough, for that #3 & #4 would be useful. I tend to agree with you on #1 for the general public, but for some children there may need to be other options of scissors and other activities that they will need before they are ready for them. Knowing our children and finding tools to support always helps – thanks for sharing.

9 Deborah J. Stewart July 14, 2010 at 11:13 am

You make a great point – there are times where scissors may need to be selected in order to promote a specific type of development. The key will certainly be to pay attention and not just throw scissors out without considering their value:)

10 Teacher Tom July 14, 2010 at 11:51 pm

We use the #1 style as well, but increasingly I’m just giving the kids my regular adult scissors because they actually do the job better than any of the kid scissors. Naturally, I point out to them that the blades are sharp and that they could cut themselves. They’re a little big for the kids’ hands, but most of them get the hang of it fairly quickly.

11 Jackie July 15, 2010 at 8:10 am

Is there a good age for introducing scissors. I tried with my 2 year old (26 months) and he seemed lost.

12 Deborah J. Stewart July 15, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Hi Jackie,
For a child this age – I would start with adding scissors to play experiences like play dough so that your child has a chance just to explore how the scissors move and what they can do. Grab a chair and sit with your child to so you can model the use of scissors but don’t worry about trying to teach the use of scissors yet – for now it is just about having time to explore. Also give your child other experiences that mimick the use of scissors (open and close motion) and help to build the fine motor skills. Tweezers and tongs for example, are both tools that can be added to many kinds of play experiences like sand play, water play, or set out on a table along with bowls to move items from one bowl to the next. Given many of these types of experiences, your child will begin to develop the fine motor strength and control to handle a pair of scissors in good time. Many three year olds are still working on this skill so no need to worry – your child has lots of time. Just give lots of opportunity to build those fine motor skills for now:)

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