Types of Scissors

Types of scissors

Did you know there are many different types of scissors to support development of scissor skills? It’s true! No matter the motor skill ability, there are different type of scissors that supports that ability or skill development. Cutting skills, like writing, are a foundational fine motor skill.  Just as you would spend time selecting the right pen/pencil, makeup, hair accessory, or pair of shoes, it is important to select the correct types of scissors.

Types of scissors and why each different type is used

Why do different types of scissors matter?  

What do you look for when selecting that perfect pair of shoes?

  • Fit
  • Size
  • Price
  • Durability
  • Reputation, reviews
  • Quality
  • Functionality 

Believe it or not, the same care can be placed in selecting the correct pair of scissors.  This is especially important if your learner has fine motor delays, hand weakness, difficulty with motor planning/coordination, small/large/irregular hands, or a diagnosis impacting their skills.

Here are a few real life examples:

  • Lula is 4 years old with dwarfism.  Her hands are tiny.  Her parents would be very unlikely to buy her shoes that fit a grown man.  At her school, Lula was provided with regular sized scissors, thus struggling to learn this important skill.
  • James is 7 and has Down Syndrome.  Not only are his hands weak, but they are small.  While care is taken to select the right shoes and clothes for him, selecting the right scissors is just as important.
  • Marcy is 5 year old and has cerebral palsy, limiting her hand and arm movements.  She too should have extra consideration in the type of scissors that she uses.
Different types of scissors

What are the options for types of scissors?

*Disclamer – Many of the following product recommendations are affiliate links from AmazonThis does not mean these are the best, just the easiest to find.  If you prefer another vendor, check out the examples below, then type them into your Google search bar.

1. Small Sized scissors

Beginner small-sized scissors- These scissors are all small in size.  They are not just for small hands.  These are great for learners with all types of fine motor issues, and hand weakness.

These beginner scissors are Amazon affiliate links.

  • I like these toddler sized scissors because they are very small.  They are great for tiny hands, or learners with fine motor weakness.
  • This learning pack of scissors contains toddler sized scissors, as well as training scissors.  See below for more information about training scissors.
  • Sewing scissors are great because they are tiny, however, they are SHARP!  If you are going to use these, either dull the edges with a file, or be extra careful with your learners.
  • These Benbow Scissors, made by Mary Benbow are the gold standard of training scissors.  

2. Training Scissors

Training scissors should be used as a stepping stone to graduating to a higher level type of scissors, once they are mastered.  If training scissors are not mastered, your learner can use these indefinitely.

The training scissors listed below are Amazon affiliate links.

  • Self-opening scissors: many learners are able to pinch their fingers together long before they can open them during cutting at will. The key to motivation is success.  While using these scissors, the hands get valuable feedback of this cutting motion. These self opening scissors fit the price and durability category, but they do not fit the functionality definition. These blunt scissors, while inherently safer than sharp scissors, do not cut well, and cause more frustration than progress.
  • Spring-assist scissors- This pair of self opening scissors or these soft-grip scissors fit the function, and durability categories. They are more expensive, but cut better than safety scissors.  They are larger than the toddler scissors, so be sure that size is not a concern first
  • Double loop scissors – While I do not like that these are labeled “mother and child scissors” (because this is not inclusive), they work well.  People learn by doing.  Kinesthetic awareness is learning by moving.  These double loop scissors give your learner the feedback needed to practice and learn the cutting motion
  • Trialing two kinds of scissors- This scissor pack has double loop scissors and self opening scissors to trial different kinds of scissors with your learners, or progress forward as they develop skills.

3. Scissors for Special Needs

There are times when traditional scissors do not work and a specific adaptive scissor type is required. If your learner has weakness, a hand injury, tremors, increased/decreased muscle tone, or another long term condition, various scissors for special need areas are a good option. 

Scissors in this category include loop scissors, block scissors, tabletop scissors, and electric scissors.

For learners with small hands, or who are developing hand strength, I would recommend self opening scissors first, or using these adaptive scissor types for a very short period of time.

These different types of scissors designed to meet specific needs are Amazon affiliate links.

Loop scissors – These are also described as self-opening scissors.  Some learners can not isolate their fingers enough to work traditional scissors, or have a sensory aversion to sticking their fingers into the little holes on the handles of the scissors. These spring open once depressed.  They do take a fair amount of strength to grip for a prolonged amount of time, so these may not be the best choice for your learners with low tone or decreased strength (unless of course you are looking for a tool to increase strength).  

  • While these mini loop scissors at 5.5 inches are smaller and take less grip strength, they also do not cut very fast, instead making small snips.
  • These larger loop scissors at 8 inches are a great choice for stronger hands.
  • These self opening loop type scissors are popular. They require less dexterity than traditional scissors, but they do not cut very well.  Because the mouth of the scissors does not open wide, they do not make large cuts.

Scissors for Limited mobility –  For learners missing digits, or with limited grasp, such as amputees or quadruplegic patients, use of just one upper extremity, visual challenges, or other mobility and coordination concerns, these tabletop scissors can be fastened to a table with a clamp or velcro to assist in opening containers.  They are not great for intricate cutting, as they are labor intensive and can be frustrating, but more usable for self help skills. 

Power option – for learners with limited mobility or fine motor dexterity, electric scissors can be a motivating option for cutting.  They take some strength and coordination, but can be helpful for learners who can not use traditional scissors. These types of scissors take some practice to get used to them.

Left handed Scissors

Similar to questions on left-handed writing, teachers and parents are forever inquiring about left handed scissors and how to help with left handed cutting. 

What is the left handed scissors difference?

There is definitely a difference between left-handed scissors and right-handed scissors. Right-handed scissors have the right blade positioned on top, whereas left-handed scissors have the left blade positioned on top. This prevents unnecessary bending and tearing of the paper. This difference between left and right handed scissors also allows each user to maintain a clear visual view of the cutting line.

Scissor handles are often molded to accommodate either the left or right hand. When manufacturers claim they have created a pair of ambidextrous scissors, be aware that such a thing does not exist. They have simply created a “neutral” handle accessible for the both left and right hand. The blades are still right-hand oriented. Thus, left-handed users should not be given scissors marketed as being appropriate for both left-handers and right-handers.

True left handed scissors have the cutting blade positioned on the top. Neutral scissors or scissors that can fit both left and right hands may cause additional frustrations.

Read more on the term ambidextrous and what this means for functional tasks such as cutting with scissors.

There are several types of scissors for lefty’s available, but what are the best left handed scissors?

These basic lefty scissors (affiliate link) are ideal.  If it wasn’t such a right handed world, I would recommend these to all lefties. 

Being a lefty myself, I understand the benefit and fit of left handed scissors. The majority of scissors your learner will encounter will be right handed, so it is better to learn and adapt to traditional scissors. There are only a few left handed items that are necessary (can opener, ice cream scoop, binder, ladle, vegetable peeler.)

Tips for Left handed cutting:

  • Use sharp scissors – this way the blade has less chance of just bending the paper instead of neatly slicing through it
  • Don right handed scissors upside down – for some reason putting the thumb in the fingers hole changes the blade position, and makes cutting easier. 
  • Lefties cut CLOCKWISE.  Righties cut COUNTERCLOCKWISE.  This is important.  If your learner cuts in the wrong direction, this leaves them without the ability to hold onto and turn the piece of paper that is being cut.  Try it!

time to learn to cut

Now that you have selected the right fit, durability, functionality, and quality of scissors for your learner, it is time to learn to cut!  The OT Toolbox has multiple posts and products available for practicing scissor skills.  There is a comprehensive scissor skills guide available also.

The key to cutting skills

  • Thumb and middle finger in the scissor loops.  You can add ring finger into the loops if they are large.  Pointer finger stays out and points the way.  This adds to hand stability and opens the arches of the hand further.
  • Thumbs up!  The helper hand grips the object being cut, with their thumb facing up.  This gives the object being held greater stability, and ease of movement. All of the various types of scissors could have a sticker added as an additional adaptation to help with positioning.
  • How to hold scissors – check out this helpful post on the OT Toolbox
  • Steps of scissor skill development
  • Scissor Skills
  • Scissor Skills Crash Course

Guide to Types of Scissors

Want a printable guide to the various types of scissors? You are in luck. We have a one page printable guide that shows images of the different versions of scissors on the market. These are the different scissor types you might see in a therapists’ therapy bag!

Now you can quickly share information on why each type of scissor might be used and determine which type of scissor to use based on the individual needs of the learner.

To get your copy, just enter your email into the form below.

This handout set is also available in our OT Toolbox Member’s Club.

Current Membership Club members can log into your account and head to the dashboard toolbox labeled “Scissor Skills Downloads“. Print off the handouts without the need to enter an email address.

Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

Level 1 members gain instant access to all of the downloads available on the site, without enter your email each time PLUS exclusive new resources each month.

Level 2 members get access to all of our downloads, exclusive new resources each month, PLUS additional, premium content each month: therapy kits, screening tools, games, therapy packets, and much more. AND, level 2 members get ad-free content across the entire OT Toolbox website.

Join the Member’s Club today!

FREE Handout: Types of Scissors

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    a final note on selecting the correct types of scissors

    Pamper your learner with a great pair of scissors, just like you do when you purchase those amazing shoes.  Fit and function over price. Quality always wins.  Fiskars are the gold standard for traditional scissors, and the one type almost every therapy provider has in their OT bag of tricks.  They cut paper well and come in tons of sizes and designs. 

    So…what are the worst scissors?  Most therapists agree that those “safety scissors” that don’t cut anything except maybe playdough are absolutely the worst.  Save those for playdough, and upgrade when it comes to cutting anything else. 

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

    *The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability, however this information is relevant for students, patients, clients, children of all ages and stages, or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

    Looking for tips, strategies, and activities to support development of scissor skills? Grab a copy of The Scissor Skills Book!

    The Scissor Skills Book breaks the functional skill of cutting with scissors into several developmental areas including:

    • Developmental progression of scissor use
    • Fine motor skill involvement
    • Gross motor development
    • Sensory considerations and visual perceptual skills

    Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

    • Help for kids who struggle with cutting accurately
    • Creative tips to keep things interesting for kids who lose interest easily
    • Quick, practical strategies that can be put into action today!
    • Ideas for kids who cut too fast or too slow
    • Support for kids who can’t grasp scissors efficiently
    • Strategies for right-handed and left-handed children

    Click here to get your copy today.

    Ultimate Guide to PLAY DOUGH MATS

    Play dough mats

    After reading below about the benefits of playing with play dough mats, go grab some of them for FREE. When using these fun play dough mats, you will start helping children work on important developmental skills. In addition to all the fun children will have while using these mats (which is a win), they will be developing the necessary fine motor hand skills needed for everyday functional tasks such as; fastener manipulation, classroom tool use, grasp patterns, and overall dexterity/manipulation used in multiple fine motor tasks. Be sure to check out our resource on playdough activities for fine motor skills to support this area.

    Play dough mats

    The benefits of using play dough mats

    Play dough is an AWESOME tool in itself!  We know that in itself, there are so many benefits of play dough in building skills in kids.

    With all of the attractive colors, and the sensory feel of it, playdough can be very enticing to children. With a little preparation and care, play dough mats can be almost mess-free! If pieces fall off, just tap with another blob of dough, and it blends back in with little need for clean-up. (Just avoid the carpet!) While engaging with these super fun play dough mats, children can stay occupied for a lengthy time in either independent play, or cooperative play with a partner.  

    You can easily use play dough mats during an OT session, as part of a home program, or as a fine motor station in the classroom. Each mat provides a theme to compliment any learning or skill building you might be looking for. After you read about all of the benefits, you’ll want to get all of these mats and start right away, but first let’s look at those specific skills they help develop. 

    Play dough can easily be made or purchased, and used with play dough mats to focus on developing so many skills.

    Many Benefits of play dough mats:

    • Hand and finger strengthening skills – squeeze, press, poke, and pinch the play dough while manipulating. Hand strength is a skill needed for most functional tasks. This helps build intrinsic hand musculature, and improves fine motor endurance.
    • Grasp skills – Tools such as plastic knives, scissors, cookie cutters, pizza cutters, and rolling pins, provide the opportunity to work on varied grasp patterns.
    • Bilateral integration skills – use both hands together in a coordinated manner to manipulate the play dough, therefore building bilateral coordination. They adjust the dough’s size, shape, and weight as needed for mat play. Bilateral coordination skills are needed for functional tasks like writing, dressing, cooking, and essentially all functional participation.
    • Manual dexterity skills – manipulate the putty to shape and pinch the dough to match the theme the of each mat. This gives them the opportunity to develop precise finger movements and thumb opposition.
    • Self-regulation skills – When children squeeze, press, poke, pinch and roll out the dough, they get deep proprioceptive input, which can be soothing and calming to a child. As an added benefit, these emotions play dough mats support the social learning and identifying emotions names to help with emotional self regulation.
    • Eye-hand coordination skills – While creating and placing the shapes on the play dough mats to match the theme, learners are coordinating their hand and eye movements, working on important visual motor coordination skills. Eye hand coordination skills can impact functional participation.
    • Gross motor skills – Engaging with play dough works the larger muscles of the upper extremity (shoulder and arm) in order to push, pull, press, and roll the dough. Don’t forget, development occurs proximally to distally, so those larger muscles need engagement!
    • Creativity and play skills – Learners use their play dough creativity and imagination to add their own details to the mats, with their own play dough creations.  They can add small beads, sequins, buttons, or pegs in addition to their playdough shapes. 
    • Social skills – If mats are used with a partner, children will have the opportunity for cooperative and collaborative play They will be learning self-control and communication, coupled with pretend play, as they work to build items together on a single mat, or by trading mats and sharing details. These would make a great tool for social skill groups!
    • Visual perceptual skills – Play dough mats work on visual figure ground skills, as learners visually scan the boards to locate the circles for play dough ball size, location, and placement. Visual discrimination skills are needed to identify any size differences in the circles, and make the play dough balls larger or smaller as indicated. 
    • Olfactory skills – Adding a little scent, such as an essential oil to the play dough will provide children some olfactory input, making the experience more multi-sensory. 
    • Tactile skills – The addition of a little glitter, rice, or sand to the play dough, will provide children further tactile input. For some learners with tactile aversion, working with playdough may be difficult at first.

    Play dough does not need to be store bought. Go to our link here for some of the Best Dough Recipes.

    how to use play dough mats

    How to Use Play Dough Mats

    Using play dough mats is pretty self explanatory. Kids love using the fun and engaging play activities and often times don’t realize they are developing skills at the same time. You can definitely pair these play dough mats with theraputty exercises for more strengthening!

    These steps will help with using your play dough mats in therapy, the classroom for a fine motor brain break, or in the home for a play activity:

    1. You’ll need to print off the play dough mat that works for your needs. You can find different printable playdough mats for different themes.

    2. Laminate the page, or slide it into a page protector sheet.

    2. Select play dough, either home made or store bought. Select play dough consistency and resistance based on the individual’s needs.

    3. Consider how to adapt the activity based on the needs of the individual. Some considerations include thinking about fine motor skills, bilateral coordination needs, visual motor needs, or sensory needs.

    4. Position play dough mats and play dough to meet the needs and areas of development for the individual.

    5. Work on opening and closing the play dough container if this is an area of concern (it’s a great functional activity!)

    how to use play dough mats for occupational therapy

    Adapting Play Dough Mats

    Play dough mats can be used in occupational therapy to develop skills and work on goal areas through play. They can also be used to support needs and integrate adaptations in play for practice.

    Play dough mats are a fun way to play and build skills at home, too. They can be used in the classroom for a brain break, a sensory break, or a tool to build fine motor skills with a classroom theme.

    How can you adapt playdough mats for specific skill adaptations in OT sessions? There are so many ways…

    Motor Skill Needs- For individuals struggling with motor skills, you can tape the page protector sheet to the table surface. Another idea is to use sticky tack on the back of the page protector. This can secure the play dough mat to the table and limit it’s movement during play.

    Another motor skill strategy is to use a play dough mat with larger areas or smaller areas for the play dough. This can require more or less small motor movements, and can offer more or less opportunities for precision work.

    Bilateral coordination needs- Encourage bilateral coordination by asking the user to hold the play dough mat on the table. This is a great way to encourage paper positioning during writing tasks, too.

    Sensory needs- Play dough consistency will provide a varied tactile experience such as, sticky, slippery, firm, and partially dry. Much like different grades of thera-putty, different play dough recipes can be used to build fine motor skills or offer more or less heavy work through the hands.

    Some play dough to meet tactile preferences and tactile challenges include:

    Some play dough to meet tactile preferences and tactile challenges include:

    Regulation needs- Building on the sensory aspect, you can offer movement-based heavy work through the hands and upper body by offering less resistant play dough (more of a silky and fluid feel to the play dough consistency) or you can offer more heavy work using a heavier grade to the resistance.

    Visual needs- For users with visual processing needs, there are ways to adapt the play dough mats. Try outlining the areas where play dough is placed for a darker visual cue by using a dark marker. You can then slide the sheet into a sheet protector and play from there.

    Core strength/Stability/Visual Gaze- For some, maintaining an upright posture is difficult. You can easily position play dough mats on a slant board, easel, or vertical surface using sticky tack, tape, magnets, etc. This positioning strategy can be used to either support positioning and visual gaze needs to to challenge these areas to reach a “just right” level in therapy sessions.

    Free Printable Play Dough Mats

    Each of the free play dough mats below can be printed off and used over and over again. A few tips for using play dough mats in therapy or in the home or classroom:

    Space Play Dough Mat | gives learners the opportunity to strengthen their hands while developing essential skills that are needed for pencil writing, as well as the dexterity and precision skills that are needed for many daily, fine motor tasks. The simple thing about this outer space mat, is that it works on a specific set of muscles in the hand. 

    Astronaut Play Dough Mat | can be used as part of space theme, or a solo activity. Ask your learner to pull off a small piece of play dough and roll it between the fingers and thumb of one hand. It’s important to use just that one hand as it’s part of the challenge! Doing this hand activity will help build hand strength, dexterity, coordination, and endurance of the smaller muscles of the hand and fingers. 

    Play Dough City | complements any geography lesson as children fill in the circles of the city sky, while helping them to build their fine motor skills and endurance, which are needed for tasks like writing/coloring, pencil control for forming letters, functional pencil grasp, manipulation of clothing fasteners, opening/closing containers, and so much more. This cute mat can be used along with any other city activities including books, travel, and anything about city life.

    Ice Cream Play Dough Mat | create small balls of play dough that fit on ice cream images, while working on hand strength and other motoric skills needed for pencil grasp, endurance for coloring, accuracy with scissors, and dexterity for manipulation of buttons, zippers, and coins. This mat can be a great take home mat for use over the summer break. Be sure to include instructions on what you want the child to do!

    Toy Theme Play Dough Mat | helps children use their fingertip and thumb to roll a small ball of play dough, placing and pressing the dough onto the circles on the mat. They need just a small piece of dough to make the ball small enough to fit into the circles. This is a great activity for developing and defining the arches of the hand, strengthening the intrinsic musculature, and boosting visual perceptual skills too! This toy theme mat builds on the fundamental “job” that kids have, which is play! Use this themed mat during down time, or a rainy day, to add a little productive playtime.

    Play Dough Bird Mat | gives kiddos a hand workout, while they create small balls of dough rolled with their fingers, to match the circle sizes on the mat. There are various sizes to challenge the child’s precision and dexterity. Children can count the birds and match the colors of the birds too.  Another way to use this mat is to write numbers or letters in the circles in random order and then have the child scan the mat to challenge their visual perceptual skills.

    Roll and Write Play Dough Mat Bundle | all about helping kids warm-up their hands prior to handwriting. It makes handwriting more fun when using one of these 7 themed play dough mats. Children warm-up using dough, then work on letter formation, words, and sentences. 

    These printable play dough mats include a themed play dough area plus a writing area. Use the play dough as a fine motor warm up and then move to the handwriting aspect.

    Numbers 1-20 Sky/Ground Play Mats | helps children to work on 1-20 number formation, provides sensory input, encourages motor planning, and spatial relations. 

    A-Z Sky/Ground Play Mats | work on upper case and lower case A-Z letter formation, provides sensory input, encourages motor planning, and spatial relations. 

    Intrinsic Muscle Strengthening Play Dough Mat– This simple play dough mat limits the visual background and offers different sizes of circles. Users can create small balls of play dough to build intrinsic hand strength.

    All of the free play dough mats are available in our Member’s Club. There, you can just click and download the play dough mats!

    Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

    This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

    Level 1 members gain instant access to all of the downloads available on the site, without enter your email each time PLUS exclusive new resources each month.

    Level 2 members get access to all of our downloads, exclusive new resources each month, PLUS additional, premium content each month: therapy kits, screening tools, games, therapy packets, and much more. AND, level 2 members get ad-free content across the entire OT Toolbox website.

    Join the Member’s Club today!

    A final note on play dough mats:

    Do you want to use any of the play dough mats multiple times? Simply laminate them, or place in a sheet protector so children can use them repeatedly, any time they want. Play dough mats are a fun and engaging way for young children to work on problem-solving, pretend play, pre-academic skills, and other developmental functions. They don’t even know they are doing it, as they are having so much FUN!

    Regina Allen

    Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!

    Note: Only use play dough with the appropriate aged children. take sensible precautions with small or differently abled children, as play dough and small manipulatives can be a choking hazard. Adult supervision should be provided.