Scissor Skill Development… What To Expect

When can kids use scissors safely?

Scissor skills progress over time, with consistent use.  Children should start to use scissors early on, as toddlers (around 1.5 years old).  Contrary to general opinion, scissors can be used safely at this age.  As a therapist, I’ve experienced a general reluctance from parents when it comes to putting a pair of scissors in the hands of their child.  I totally get this! Scissors can be dangerous if not used carefully. Children may hurt themselves or someone else.  But there is a way around this. Simply use plastic safety scissors containing a blunt tip (with adult supervision of course).  This is a safe way to teach kids how to use scissors and they will begin to develop the motor skills needed to acquire this skill.  Young kids can practice by cutting play dough or modeling clay. 

Early on, around 1.5 years old, children will use both hands to open and shut scissors. Around age two, he or she can do so using only one hand. In this post, I will cover the developmental progression of scissor skills. You’ll learn what to expect from the very beginning, til when scissors skills have matured, around age 6.

Using Both Hands 1.5 years old

Age 2

Able to open & close using the correct grasp

Able to snip 

Able to hold the paper with the opposite hand


Age 3

Cuts a piece of paper in two (5″ square)

Cuts a 5″ line within 1/2″ limits

Age 4 – 4.5

Cuts a 5” line within ½” limits

Cuts a triangle with 2” sides within ½” limits

Moves paper while cutting

Cuts a 5” circle within 1/2” limits

Cuts a 5” circle within 1/4” limits

Age 4.5 – 5

Cuts a 5″ circle within 1/2″ limits 

Cuts simple shapes (circle, triangle, square) within 1/4″ limits

Age 5

Cuts a 5″ curvy line within 1/4″ limits

Age 6-7

Cuts out complex shapes

Source:  Brigance Inventory of Early Development  ©1991 Curriculum Associates

               Peabody Developmental Motor Scales  ©2000, 1983 Pro-Ed., Inc.

Fun Strokes Freebie!

Trying to remember where a child should be developmentally isn’t always easy. I’ve been practicing OT for over 20 years and still need a point of reference when completing evaluations or writing goals. I love a good infographic that provides the information I need at a glance, like this one below.

Scissor Skill Development Chart Free PDF

Conveniently use this handy graphic as a quick reference to determine where a child’s scissor skills fall on the developmental timeline. Click the button above to get your free PDF today!

I hope that this post provides you with a better understanding of how scissor skills mature and when it’s safe to get kids started. Have a question or comment? Leave a reply in the box below. I’d love to hear from you!


The Fun Strokes blog is designed for educational and informational use only for therapists, teachers, and parents. It is not intended as medical advice or therapeutic treatment that would be provided in an individualized treatment plan. If you suspect a child has delays, please consult an occupational therapist.

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Published by Linda Craig Dennis

Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Author and Creator of Fun Strokes Pre-writing Program

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