The last thing you'd think would be a great idea is to give your 3-year-old a pair of scissors. You remember back to your little sister's lopsided haircut when her preschool friend chopped off the entire left side of your sister's long, silky tresses. Learning to cut is a valuable preschool skill, because it develops fine motor skills and encourages creativity. You'll supervise this scissor activity, of course, to avoid the nightmares that are running through your mind. And always give your child safety scissors to prevent even more catastrophic events -- like a finger that requires a visit to the emergency room for stitches.
Draw a series of lines on a piece of paper and ask your 3-year-old to cut on the lines. If she's a beginning cutter, draw straight lines. As she becomes more scissor-savvy, include wavy and jagged lines to challenge her even more. When she's turned into a cutting expert, draw more complicated patterns such as swirls or loops. These kinds of lines improve her cutting and fine motor skills because they require her to also turn the paper to stay on the line.
Give your 3-year-old a stack of magazines and encourage him to cut out pictures of whatever he wants. Make sure the magazines are age-appropriate though because you'd hate to have him see something you aren't ready to explain yet. Let him glue the pictures to a piece of paper to make a collage. Coloring books and images printed off your computer work well for this activity too. He'll get to color them himself, which is another way to improve his fine motor skills.
Draw shapes, such as triangles, circles, squares or hearts on colored construction paper and encourage your child to cut on the lines. Get more elaborate and draw animals, foods or cars as your preschooler becomes more talented at cutting. You might even use this activity at holidays. Draw pumpkins and ghosts for Halloween, trees and snowflakes for winter holidays and eggs for Easter. Use the paper cut-outs as decorations around your house.
Hand your 3-year-old a piece of colored paper. Ask him to draw a face on the bottom part of the paper. Show him how to cut fringe at the top to make hair. Since he's not cutting the paper all the way down, he'll learn how to maneuver and handle his scissors better. You'll have an adorable piece of artwork to hang on the refrigerator, too. Encourage your child to make confetti by cutting tiny pieces off of a large piece of colored paper. Cutting small shapes teaches your 3-year-old how to control his scissors.