Little Locks: Haircuts for Young Kids
Kids' haircuts can be a big deal for both parents and young children. Here are some valuable tips for minimizing struggles while making the experience both fun and rewarding.
When to Get the Cut
Whether your little one was born with a full head of curls or as bald as can be, eventually he’ll need a haircut. Having a child’s locks cut can be a sentimental event for parents, but an uncertain and possibly scary time for babies and toddlers. That initial trip to the salon or barber deserves special attention—because when it comes to your child getting his or her first haircut, planning can make or break the experience.
Have you been trying in vain to brush your son’s bangs from his eyes or clip your daughter’s hair back, yet it’s still unruly? It’s likely time to take action. Heidi Swan-Mikich of WhimsiKidz, a boutique and children’s hair salon in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, says kids usually have their first haircut before or around age one, though their salon’s stylists have cut the hair of babies as young as two or three months. “As soon as the hair starts to wisp and looks straggly and unkempt, we recommend a good haircut to keep it healthy,” says Swan-Mikich.
Choosing Your Salon
While some parents opt to trim their baby’s or toddler’s hair themselves, many find it’s too difficult to safely hold a squirming child while wielding a pair of scissors.
After struggling with at-home haircut attempts, Heather Arredondo, a mother of two in West Chester, Ohio, tried taking her older son to a kid-friendly salon with hopes of finding a “tantrum free” experience—but the attempt failed. “The salon was dirty, and the stylist was very quiet and did not interact with my son, Diego. He cried the entire time. We left before the haircut was finished,” says Arredondo.
The family tried several walk-in salons with no success and had almost given up on a good haircut experience when they learned of Cookie Cutters, a new shop in the area. Arredondo decided to see the shop with her son before scheduling a cut. “I wanted him to have fun in the salon, and by checking it out I was able to ask questions about the place, the cost, the stylists, and the selection of videos.”
Her efforts paid off, and the new salon was a real success. “My son loves the opportunity to play video games and play on the slide before a haircut. His ‘choice of seat’ is always the yellow sports car. He is also excited about picking out a balloon when he is done!” Arredondo now takes her younger son to the salon too, and he loves the slide and watching a video.
Swan-Mikich encourages parents to find a salon that will fit their needs, and that includes finding stylists trained in working with kids. “The number one thing that our stylists do is to get on a child’s level and converse with them … [then] the kids know you are interested in them. Kids love for you to learn about them, especially toddlers.”
Arredondo echoes the importance of choosing a good stylist. “The staff is always friendly and energetic,” she says of her local salon. “We have a stylist who focuses on the boys. The stylists capture their attention and somehow make them unaware of the haircuts they are receiving.”
Timing is Everyting
Once you’ve chosen a salon, it’s time to schedule an appointment. Your best chance at a good, fuss-free experience is to schedule the haircut for after nap and snack time to avoid tantrums. “Lollipops are also a great way to entertain the children during the event, but be prepared to rinse off hair or throw the lollipop away before the experience is over,” says Arredondo.
Because getting a haircut is outside of the normal realm of a child’s usual experiences, it can be stressful, says Dr. Victoria Carrington, a former board-certified psychiatrist who now works as a parent coach. “Babies and toddlers are generally creatures of habit, and any change in routine can be frightening. Of course, due to differences in temperament, some may have a harder time handling new experiences than others,” she says.
Dr. Carrington adds that it is normal for small children to fear the unknown, explaining why it’s not unusual for children to be wary of “the stylist (usually a stranger) at the hair salon who comes at the child with a huge bottle of shampoo and scissors and makes them sit in a big chair in front of bright lights and mirrors. Even at home, the act of a parent doing something noisy to your hair with an instrument that they will not let you touch is also frightening.”
Dr. Carrington recommends taking your child with you while you get a trim so she can see that getting a haircut isn’t scary and doesn’t hurt. If you know where your youngster will be getting her hair cut, stop in for a “preview” so she can see others having fun getting styled and become familiar with the salon’s surroundings.
“We have some customers who come in, sit, and watch the other kids getting their haircuts,” reports Swan-Mikich, who says kids feel very at home with the variety of children’s videos and toys available. “They are comfortable when they see our child-friendly atmosphere.” She adds that reading a book with a positive spin on haircuts is also helpful.
Sometimes it’s just concern over the scissors and strange-looking instruments that bother little kids. “Allow the child a chance to handle or at least touch some of the instruments—comb, shampoo bottle, etc.—and demonstrate the noise that the scissors will make,” suggests Dr. Carrington.
Name Your Style
Swan-Mikich says her stylists—experts at caring for children’s hair—are happy to offer their professional opinions of what style would look best on a child, but that parents need to be specific about the type of cut they’d like for their little one, just as they would be for their own haircuts. Bringing in a photo may help, as will having ideas about how much hair you’d like taken off, whether you want something simple or a more layered cut, and so on.
Preserving the Memory
For many moms, a baby’s first haircut is a milestone to be documented in photos, baby albums, and scrapbooks—so don’t forget to take your camera. For fun, parents can buy frames touting “Baby’s First Haircut” or even “photo cards” specifically designed to share a picture from this special day. Many salons even offer a special certificate to commemorate a little one’s haircut.
Don’t forget to take a small envelope with you to the salon so you can salvage a ringlet of that soft hair and tuck it away in a scrapbook, baby book, or even in your dresser drawer; the lock is a precious reminder of your little one’s beautiful baby hair. Some gift shops offer special keepsake containers for preserving that treasured wisp.
Accentuate the Positive
Lastly, remind Swan-Mikich and Dr. Carrington, don’t forget to praise or even reward your child for a job well done—or for acts of bravery—once the haircut is finished. When your child is proud of himself, he’s more likely to be receptive and enthusiastic about future haircut adventures.
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