Fine Motor Activity: Cutting Straws

Fine Motor
Preschoolers29 Comments

As a learning activity to help Henry learn to use a scissors better, I set out the above items on his play table during his nap.

It includes straws, Magic Loops -affiliate link- (plastic strings), and a pair of child scissors.

I really didn’t expect Henry to be as excited as he was when he woke from his nap to find this bowl.

He began snipping right away.
He struggles quite a bit with the scissors, but did manage to cut up quite a few straws!

I’m not sure what kind of cutting skills to expect of a three year old.
(The day care he goes to one morning of the week kind of gave me the impression he needed to work on it. Any thoughts?)

I know his main problem is how to hold the scissors.
He always holds it upside down.

I usually try one time to show him how to hold it correctly.
He refuses to do it that way and goes on the way always does.
He still snipped a lot of straws and really enjoyed doing it though!

I intended for Henry to practice threading the cut straws onto the Magic Loops. That never did happen.
Instead, Henry had his own plans for the Magic Loops.

I don’t think an activity would be complete without adding a machine to the mix.

Over the two days of cutting straws, Henry ‘decorated’ his combine (his words, not mine) with the Magic Loops and combined the straws his snipped!

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  1. Lindsay says

    I think he did great for his age.. Sammy is just now starting to really get the hang out of scissors (he is 4). One thing Sammy really liked to do is cut out stickers. I would put stickers on to strips cardstock (so it wasn't so bendy when trying to hold it) then he would cut between two stickers thus making little pieces of paper with stickers on them. Then he could glue them onto another paper. He felt like he was really do a whole art project by doing this!

    • tracy says

      Really? At age 3 1/2 using scissors?? I nevr woulda thought to let my son use scissors and cut things…..ooooookay….ill buy some next time I go to walmart. Thy can’t hurt themselves with the child scissors????

      • Jamie says

        Tracy, you will still need to supervise your child, and they need to learn to use a scissors properly, but yes, its very common for a 3 year old to learn to cut with a scissors. Henry’s 4 now and quite good with it. There are different types of scissors for kids, this one is a blunt tip one (with a rounded edge). We’ve since found one with a pointed tip and it works much better and makes it much easier for him to cut. He first cut in preschool class at 3 years old and I had never done it at home before that either, but he was definitely ready. Try it and be there to help and guide him!

        • Jett says

          Some kids are like ducks and water, some need to learn to swim. We have one 3.5 yr old who’s graduated to big person’s (light, plastic handled) scissors and cuts paper into squares as needed. She was using blunt-nosed kids scissors competently from 2.5 yrs old. But that’s earlier than any of the other children or grandchildren in our family. By the time they’re a couple years older, they’re all much of a muchness and some children who started slower, often become the undisputed craft kings and queens of the bunch. Most important thing is to make sure they have the opportunity (scissors or whatever) at hand.

  2. Terri says

    My 4-yr-old is just now getting the hang of scissors. She used to always hold them upside down too. She likes cutting strips (strips of paper with sticker or pictures & she has to cut between them). She also like it when I give her scrap paper and scissors that she can cut however she wants.

  3. Holly Ann says

    Cutting is a skill kids work on in Pre-K a lot. It's developmental. My 3 1/2 year olds are at about the same level as Henry here. I think they'll be a lot better at it by the end of Pre-K though. :)

    Thanks for sharing the activity! I want to try this too!

  4. Alissa says

    Haha, perfect with the machine- that's how everything around here is too: not complete unless a digger is involved somehow. Cutting straws is very popular here.
    Didn't he start cutting up the magic loop stuff too? I can just see that being snipped into teeny tiny bits.

  5. Anonymous says

    I remind my little man that the thumb goes on top with scissors- great activity that shows how the simple focus of a tasks is enjoyable for children this age – thanks for sharing

  6. Melissa @ The Chocolate Muffin Tree says

    C has always did very well with cutting. It it great to roll out play dough snakes and let children cut those! (or they can roll out the snakes) C always enjoyed the Kumon and Gakken cutting workbooks too! Put out some strips of paper for henry to cut and create with too! You could have Henry pretend the scissors are creating a road for his vehicles too. Many times children with start cutting by using two hands so at least he is using one hand.
    I did a post on cutting with scissors a while back:

  7. OneMommy says

    My 3 year old holds them upside down, too. I think it is quite common. I'm going to have to try that sticker idea one from your above comment…
    I love the idea of cutting straws. Never thought of that one, but she loves playing with straws…

  8. Deb Chitwood says

    Great activity! I think your son is doing fine developmentally with cutting. For that age, I typically demonstrated often how to hold the scissors and made sure there were lots of interesting cutting activities available. It's wonderful that you found a cutting activity he enjoys … and it's awesome that you let him extend it into his play! Visiting from Mom Loop. Deb @

  9. Rachel says

    I wouldn't worry about your son holding the scissors upside down; most 3 years do that because otherwise they can't seem to cut paper properly, i.e. they somehow always get the dull side of the scissors.

    You might have some luck showing him how to hold the paper in his other hand…but it's better to just let him work on cutting accurately- while having fun of course!

    In the link below is a post I wrote (with pix) on how to help the child who has trouble cutting with scissors.

    As a plus, you can use different colors of paper to make it more exciting, if you like.

  10. Jenny @ Adventures of the Smith Family says

    We've been working on cutting skills here too. I have a non-cutting related question though. Where did you get Henry's combine, and does it come with a regular header (as opposed to the corn header)?

  11. Jeanette says

    I work in a preschool and when they start, I sit in a chair right behind them to gently nudge their elbow in on the cutting side, they can’t hold elbow out and turn scissors upside down. Once they start getting the cleaner cuts they catch on fast.

  12. Ashley says

    A GREAT way to practice cutting without the risk of cutting themselves is to use the plastic ‘scissors’ and playdough. Loads of fun for the littles without the risk of the wrong things being cut, because well let’s just face it, things happen even when mom is sitting right there!

    Have you tried letting him cut with the opposite hand?? Perhaps the reason he holds the scissors upside down is that he is left handed? I’m a lefty and at 27 years old still find it awkward if I don’t have ‘lefty’ scissors.

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