Cutting Up - Part 3: Staying On The Line

You’ve bought the scissors, they’ve snipped the paper and now you actually have a “cutting fanatic “ on your hands. How can you encourage them to cut and improve their accuracy, without worrying about all the things in your house having snips in them? Give them something to cut . . . and make it fun!

Cutting Across Paper

Now that your child can snip, it is time to begin moving those scissors across the paper. This is trickier than you probably remember, but if you use the alligator technique, I've found that it makes it much more fun and successful. After marking the thumb hole with an “eye”, I like to draw “teeth” on the blades of my scissors to indicate the alligator’s mouth. 


Next, I hold the scissors in my own hand and tell them that I have a special alligator friend that likes to swim through the water. After placing the scissors on my own fingers, I slowly open and close his mouth (not completely closed) and explain that he swims very quietly as he opens his mouth. So it goes like this: (close scissors) chomp, (open scissors) swim. Repeat.

Give your child a sheet of paper and let their “alligator” swim/chomp all the way across the paper. (Remember that it is easiest if their scissors do not completely shut each time.) 

Cutting On Lines - Straight First, then Curved

Just like when they are learning to write, cutting along straight lines is easier than curved lines, so let’s begin there. Using that same alligator trick, draw a thick line across the paper. (Or you can put a piece of tape across the paper, as pictured.) Explain to your child that the line is the “river” and that when the alligator chomps OFF of the line, he tends to get a tummy ache. As long as they keep his nose on the line, and keep moving slowly, he will be able to move all the way across the paper without getting sick.

Using tape provides a wider area on which beginner cutters can cut, and still remain "on the line".

Using tape provides a wider area on which beginner cutters can cut, and still remain "on the line".

Cutting curves and zig-zags is a bit more difficult!

Cutting curves and zig-zags is a bit more difficult!

Repeat this same process with curved lines, and then with zig-zag lines and your child will be ready to cut most anything you put in front of them. 

Making It Fun!

There are all sorts of “scissor skill books” out there, that have straight, zig-zag and curved lines to practice on. And those are fine, but not at all necessary. You most likely have everything you need, in a never-ending supply, right inside your house!


Coupons - I don't know about your house, but here, every Tuesday, we receive flyers in our mail that contain coupons for a variety of stores and restaurants. Let your child cut them out for you! Coupons generally have bold, straight lines around them making them perfect for practicing those new-found skills. The paper on flyers is sometimes a little bit flimsy, but with practice, your child can become quite efficient at “coupon clipping”. If you don’t actually plan to use the coupons, consider taking a field trip to a local food pantry, where your child can make a difference by donating the coupons they have cut to those needing a bargain here and there. 


Old magazines/catalogs - I know that magazines aren’t quite a prevalent as they once were, but I still receive some catalogs from time to time that are perfect for this activity. My favorite one for cutting comes from the Postal Service and shows the most up-to-date stamps available. Your child can practice cutting across the page and even cutting on the lines surrounding various photos, stamps or coupons. You can even let them glue the items on a piece of paper for some added fine motor work.

Junk Mail - Again, this is stuff that usually ends up in my recycling bin anyway, so why not let your little cut it up first?! They can glue things they cut out to index cards or small pieces of paper to make new mail for their loved ones. The old envelopes can even be used for the “mail” they’ve made.


Yarn/string - Cutting yarn and string only involves snipping, but because it is so flexible, it is a bit more difficult than snipping paper. They can clip pieces just for fun, to be used in an art project or even to leave outdoors for a bird to use in their nest.

Once your child has mastered cutting on straight and curved lines, you can expect them to be able to cut out more complex shapes as well. It takes lots of practice to be really accurate in cutting, and some children are much more interested in this sort of thing than others. That is completely natural. But, giving them some fun ways to practice can only help!