The Busy Toddler: Cutting and Gluing Tray

Daisy has discovered scissors and glue. ?In some ways this is my worst nightmare. Some of the children took a very long time to learn what they could and couldn’t cut and glue. In fact some of the older ones are still not very clear on this point. Still, it’s developmentally appropriate for Daisy to be learning to use scissors at 2.5 years so it’s up to me to figure out the best way to give her opportunities to learn not only how to use the tools in terms of technique but also the proper etiquette.


This year, we are doing lessons all over the downstairs ( which has made our days so much more peaceful!), and the younger two and I have a designated space for lessons. We have a low table and a set of cubbies for books and work trays. What could fit into this space better than a tray for cutting and gluing?

I had a drawer organizing tray that just wasn’t working in the drawer I had it in, so I cleaned it out and pressed it into service.


One thing I have learned after five toddlers using scissors is that it is much easier for them to cut if what they are cutting is a fairly small sheet. Therefore I stocked Daisy’s cutting tray with 1/3 sized sheets cut from printer paper, strips of cardstock, and circles,squares, and triangles cut from colored paper. There is paper for her to cut, or if she just wants to glue there are some loose parts ready for her.

Of course, the drawer organizer is too wide to fit in the cubbies (aargh!) so it has to sit on top of them. The scissors and glue stay in her school box for now and I put them in her tray when we begin lessons. I expect in a week or two, I’ll be able to leave them in the tray for her to use as she pleases. She is doing quite well with remembering to only cut and glue the things in the tray, and to sit while she has scissors in her hand.

Basic tray:

  • strips of cardstock
  • 1/3 sized sheets of printer paper (cut by folding a stack of paper into thirds and cutting it)
  • purple triangles and squares
  • brown circles
  • safety scissors
  • one glue stick (the kind that goes on purple and dries clear)


  • cut the larger pieces into smaller ones
  • glue colored paper pieces onto larger white pieces
  • cut the glued on papers back into bits
  • pick up and throw away scraps

Extensions: (Things I’ll add as she learns)

  • gluing shapes in particular places
  • cutting on lines and then gluing things
  • making patterns with shapes
  • making pictures with shapes

Daisy finds this tray to be very absorbing right now and will spend as much as 30 minutes cutting, gluing and throwing away scraps! This is a huge help when I am trying to teach something tricky to the other children as her level of attention to her own work means she is quiet and much less distracting! I love to watch her work and really appreciate the concept of trays helping her learn to keep her work space tidy.


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