Day 19: Cutting and Pasting

by | Adapt & Modify Activities

31 days medal 400 by 400 red

A part of school life includes cutting and pasting. It can hardly be avoided.  From art activities to cutting up fractions – being able to cut and paste is a skill required to complete them.  However, a disabled child may never get to découpage because he’s struggling between holding a pair of scissors and wanting to taste the glue.

You can find scissor and glue skills practice on Pinterest, without a doubt.  And, while tearing and expecting mom to glue the bits together is fun to do, it can only go so far.  If you feel saddened by the fact that your child may never be able to create a ‘Thank You’ card for his grandparents, this post is for you!




Cutting and Pasting

A child needs to be able to cut and paste in order to complete many of the craft ideas found on Pinterest.

Why cutting and pasting may be a challenge for children with special needs

  • Children with fine motor delays will struggle with holding a pair of scissors while holding a piece of paper and coordinating the cutting sequence.
  • Children who still mouth objects may want to lick the glue.
  • Squeezing a glue bottle is a challenge for those with fine motor difficulties.
  • Children with visual-motor difficulties will find cutting on a line to be tricky.

Cutting and Pasting

Suggestions for adaptations/ modifications for cutting and pasting

  • Model.  Before expecting your child to engage in activities that involve the use of scissors or glue, be sure to have your child observe you as you use the materials.  Talk through it: “Look.  I’m cutting the paper. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. All done!” “I’m sticking the paper to the scrapbook. Dot, dot. Tap, tap, tap. All done!”
  • Offer the proper supplies.  It might take a little while (and a little money) to find just the right tools for your child.  Look through catalogues that market to children with special needs.  You might be able to judge by just looking at a pair of scissors or a bottle of glue that they may be too difficult for your child to manage.  However, you can’t fully know until you give it a go – so keep an open mind.  If you don’t want to spend money, ask your child’s OT what she could lend you for a week as you test things out.
Variety of scissors - Cutting and Pasting

Here are a variety of scissors. Try everything from the standard to the adapted kinds to find the right match for your child.  Don’t forget to experiment with zig-zagged edges if your child has mastered holding a standard scissor.

Adapted scissors cutting - cutting and pasting

This is an adapted scissor that I use with my son. It rests upright on the table, and all he needs to do is press the top pallet down. We do this hand-over-hand at the moment, but this is a pair of scissors I know he’ll be able to use on his own one day.

Variety of glues - Cutting and pasting

These are a variety of glues and glue bottles. The smallest is very easy to manipulate – even if it’s fabric glue. The all-purpose bottle is softer than the school glue, and although round, can be squeezed pretty easily. The twist glue is flatter, making it quite easy to hold as well. If your child insists on mouthing glue, consider double-sided tape. You will need to tear and remove the strip on the tape pieces yourself, but it offers a sticking option that makes pasting a success for your child.

adapted scissors - cutting and pasting

Pictured behind the scissors are traditional school or white glue and a glue stick. Glue sticks come in a variety of sizes. You might want to start with the widest held in a fist first.

Colored glue - cutting and pasting

When purchasing stick glue, consider purchasing the colored kind. Your child can see what’s going on the paper and get an extra sensory experience. My son loves this glue stick because it glides and marks at the same time. It eventually disappears, so be sure to stick quickly!

If you worry that your child will mouth liquid glue, make some homemade glue instead (1/2 c flour, 1 ½ c water, 1/3 c sugar, 1 tsp vinegar, heat through until thickened.  Let cool before use.)

  • Work through it hand-over-hand.  After several days of observations, and hearing the verbal routine, guide your child through cutting and gluing. Below are some specific tips for each skill.


  • Work through a simple cutting activity.  Begin by just cutting the paper in one spot and celebrating!  Then, in two spots.  Yah!  Work up to cutting straight across the page, then zigzags, then curves, then simple shapes.
  • Use verbal routines : “Cut, cut, cut, stop!” (for straight-line cutting) or “Cut, cut, cut, turn!” (for cutting around a shape)  or “Zig, zag. Zig, zag” (for… you got it – zig, zag lines).


  • When working with liquid glue, have some glue out on a paper plate and use a craft stick to scoop it up.  I would avoid using a spoon of any kind – especially with a child who mouths things. He may confuse this gloop on a spoon with food.
  • Don’t avoid squeeze bottles altogether.  The bottles on the market are actually child-friendly in design as they are flatter than, say, a condiments bottle.  Work your way up to teaching your child the hand skill of squeezing.  Having glue contained in a bottle will make it less likely for your child to want to stick his hands in it and then lick them!  (Although, my little one is quick – even with a dot of glue).
  • Work on making dots with glue, then lines, then zigzags, then squiggles.  Your child will love it – even if you’re doing it hand-over-hand.  My son loves the word “squiggle” and always asks for MORE.
  • Use verbal routines: “Dot, dot, dot, tap, tap” (with squeeze bottle) or “Scoop, tap, tap” (with craft stick) or “Whoosh, whoosh, tap, tap” (with glue stick).  (“Tap, tap” is for actually sticking the paper onto another paper/ object, etc.)

In what ways does your child struggle with cutting and pasting?  Do you have a tool or trick to share?



  1. Chantal Halle

    Excellent post once again!

    For a child who is not too aversive to touching playdough, cutting playdough with scissors can strengthen the hands and give sensory feedback a piece of paper or construction paper can’t.

    I found for my son that cutting through a thicker piece of paper was easier, as a thicker piece of paper is less wobbly.

    Probably the cut, cut, STOP routine would have helped my child stop cutting on command. As my son will continue cutting straight through, his occupational therapist used sticky tack to indicate when it was time to stop cutting.

    Only disadvantage: my little fellow learned in no time that he could cut around the sticky tack… At this point, we created a whole line of sticky tack for him to really get the idea to not cut through the whole length of the sheet.

    • Gabriella Volpe

      I am so glad you mentioned the thickness of the paper. That’s a great point when first learning to cut, and hold the sheet at the same time. I can see how the “crunch” sound of a thicker paper (like cardstock) provides sensory feedback as well.

      I love that your son learned to cut around the sticky tack! And, that’s such a neat trick, by the way – using it as a stopping point. Brilliant!

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