Preschool Leaf Cutting Tray: A simple scissor skill activity for Autumn

This preschool leaf cutting tray couldn’t be simpler to set up! All you need are some leaves and a pair of kid scissors – honestly, it’s so easy in reality that it hardly warrants a blog post! With that being said, please do read on so you can find out the benefits of this quick activity, along with ideas for what to do with your leaf confetti afterwards.


The Importance of Scissor Skills for Preschoolers

Before we jump into the how-to of setting up your Preschool Leaf Cutting Tray, let’s touch on the significance of scissor skills. Mastering the use of scissors is a developmental milestone. It not only fine-tunes motor skills but also sets the stage for academic skills like holding a pencil or using a ruler. In essence, a preschool leaf cutting tray does more than keep your child entertained; it prepares them for the future.

When it comes to child development, mastering scissor skills is often overlooked, but it’s much more than a simple cutting action. Here are some of the reasons why this skill is important:

  1. Fine Motor Skill Development: Using scissors involves the precise movement of fingers and hands, which refines the fine motor skills essential for activities like writing and buttoning a shirt.
  2. Bilateral Coordination: Cutting with scissors requires children to use both hands together, each performing a different task. This promotes bilateral coordination, which is important for activities such as eating with a fork and knife or tying shoelaces.
  3. Focus and Attention: Learning to use scissors properly demands concentration. Kids need to pay close attention to the cutting line, training them to focus on the task at hand. This helps improve their overall attention span.
  4. Hand-Eye Coordination: Aligning the scissors along a cutting line and following it as they cut boosts children’s hand-eye coordination, crucial for many sports and daily tasks like threading a needle or playing a musical instrument.
  5. Practical Life Skills: Knowing how to use scissors is not just for arts and crafts. It’s a life skill that they will need for everyday activities like opening packages, using a pair of kitchen shears, or even basic grooming like cutting tags off clothing.
  6. Pre-Writing Skills: The pincer grip used for holding scissors is similar to holding a pencil. By strengthening this grip, children find it easier to hold a pencil correctly, which in turn benefits their writing skills.
  7. Cognitive Skills: Scissor activities often involve following specific patterns or shapes, which can enhance a child’s spatial awareness and understanding of geometry. This cognitive exercise lays the foundation for more advanced skills like problem-solving.
  8. Boosting Creativity and Independence: Finally, being proficient in using scissors gives children a sense of accomplishment and the confidence to undertake creative projects on their own.

By acknowledging and investing in the development of scissor skills, you’re providing your child with a well-rounded skill set that will serve them in both academic and everyday life.

Benefits of the Preschool Leaf Cutting Tray Activity:

The advantages of this simple activity go beyond scissor practice:

  1. Sensory Exploration: The colours and textures of autumn leaves stimulate your child’s senses.
  2. Hand-Eye Coordination: Picking up leaves and cutting them helps with visual-motor skills.
  3. Learning About Nature: This activity can serve as a conversation starter about the changing seasons and the lifecycle of leaves.

an overhead image of a 4 year old girl in an orange pumpkin t-shirt using a leaf cutting tray

Setting Up Your Preschool Leaf Cutting Tray

Assembling your Preschool Leaf Cutting Tray is straightforward:

  1. Collect Leaves: A fun activity on its own! Find leaves that are relatively flat and dry.
  2. Prepare the Tray: A shallow tray or a large plate works perfectly.
  3. Tools: Provide child-safe scissors.

How to Use the Preschool Leaf Cutting Tray

Place leaves on the tray and show your child how to safely hold and use the scissors. Encourage them to cut the leaves into small pieces, which then become your ‘confetti’. Remember to supervise at all time and talk about the safe use of scissors.

It’s helpful to establish some guidelines, especially if your child isn’t that familiar with scissors. For example:

  • no running with scissors
  • hold the blade down towards the floor
  • don’t attempt to catch scissors that have fallen from your hands
  • cut away from the body
  • Use the ‘thumb up’ position for better control

Safety Tips for the Preschool Leaf Cutting Tray Activity

  • Always supervise children while they use scissors.
  • Make sure the scissors are appropriate for your child’s age and skill level.
  • Check that the scissors you’ve selected work first – there’s nothing more frustrating than scissors that don’t actually cut anything!
  • A child sized desk works best as it’s hard for children to cut accurately and safely when they can’t quite reach the table!

Extension ideas for the Preschool Leaf Cutting Tray:

Here are some ideas for what to do with your preschool leaf cutting tray once you have finished with the inital activity

  • Sorting: Before the cutting is done, sort the leaf pieces by colour or size.
  • Glueing: Use the leaf confetti for an art project. Stick them onto paper to create a unique Autumn scene.
  • Dramatic Play: Use the leaf confetti as ‘ingredients’ in an Autumn themed play cafe
  • Loose Parts Play: Use the confetti in transient art or as part of loose parts play. 
  • Play dough decoration: If you’ve made pumpkin spice play dough, use the leaf confetti to ‘decorate’ the pumpkin pies and cakes your little one will make.


Final Thoughts

The Preschool Leaf Cutting Tray isn’t just an activity; it’s an experience that offers multiple avenues for growth and development. So, why not seize this Autumn opportunity to help your child build vital skills while having a ton of fun?


Autumn Blog posts to read next:

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt story basket

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt pre-writing skills  activity 

21 Autumn Ideas for the Entire Family

Autumn Activities for Kids: 25 Playful Prompts

Autumn Loose Parts Play

You can also search the keyword ‘Autumn’ in the blog search bar for the most up-to-date Autumn blog post listing.


Are you currently planning all things Autumn?

If you enjoyed this hammering pumpkins activity idea, you might just like my exclusive membership, ‘How I drink my Coffee Hot’ too. The membership costs just $5 per month and you get access to 10 mini courses on a range of topics including sensory play, play spaces and starting school. Here are some membership posts that you might enjoy:

Autumn at Home Art and Sensory Camp

Family Rhythms for Autumn

Autumn Break with Kids 

Halloween with little kids? 


Sian Thomas
an image of This Playful Home founder, Sian Thomas. The photo includes a photo of her daughter when she was around 18 months old

I’m Siân (rhymes with yarn), a play advocate, proud parent to three, and former teacher. My mission is to infuse more joy and less overwhelm into the lives of parents. Discover play-based activities with me that not only make learning FUN but also forge deep connections with your young learners, creating memories to cherish forever.