There was no denying it: My son needed a haircut. I’d been saving a ton of money by avoiding the salon, but my home cuts just aren’t, well… cutting it anymore. It was time for my child’s first haircut at a salon.
I avoided formal haircuts with my eldest for over two years, thanks to his wavy hair. The texture of his hair hid even the most lopsided, uneven haircuts I gave at home.
But when a heat rash showed up on the back of his neck, I knew there was no way I’d be able to snip off enough and have his hair look decent.
The problem? A haircut is a new experience. One that involves a stranger getting real close to his personal space.
What to do? Before I share the tips that worked for my kids, let’s backtrack and discuss the two types of salons your child can go to: your regular salon and a children’s salon.
Regular salon or children’s salon?
Benefits of taking your child to a regular salon:
- You’re familiar with the place and maybe even the stylists
- It’s usually less expensive than a children’s salon
- You can get a haircut and sit in the seats (which I’ll explain why later)
Benefits of taking your child to a children’s salon:
- The entire place is catered to children
- Stylists are used to squirmy and crying kids
- Many offer distractions such as favorite television shows and trinket toys
8 tips for your child’s first haircut at a salon
Whether you choose a children’s or regular salon for your child’s first haircut, coming prepared will make the experience more pleasant for everyone.
After all, this is the stage when toddlers are protective of their personal space and wary of people they’re unfamiliar. Plus, they’re asked to do the near-impossible: sit still while a pair of scissors is within inches of their faces.
Still, taking your child to his first salon haircut is absolutely possible. Take a look at the tips that will make it much easier:
1. Describe what your child can expect
What can your toddler expect at the salon? Talk about what he’ll see when he walks in, and what people do at a salon.
Explain how he’ll sit in a chair and wear a “cape” during the haircut. Talk about how the stylist will spray water on his hair to make it easier to cut, and that she’ll use scissors to cut his hair so won’t feel so heavy anymore.
You might even hop online and find pictures of the salon you plan to visit. Knowing what to expect will help ease his anxieties and reassure him once he arrives.
2. Pick a good time of the day to go
You might be tempted to take your child when it’s conducive to your schedule, or right when the salon opens to beat the crowd. But a successful experience is more likely if you go at his optimal time.
Usually this means he’s well-rested, so go after he’s had a a good sleep or nap, not when he’s about to have one. You should also go after having a snack or a meal so he has one less thing to fuss about. Tip: You can even offer two snacks: one before the haircut, and one right after.
Even better: Schedule an appointment, so you don’t have to battle the crowds or wait too long. And if the salon doesn’t take appointments, another alternative is to go during a weekday, when it’s less busy.
3. Pick a salon with plenty of entertainment
One of the benefits of a children’s salon are the many forms of entertainment they offer. Kids can read books while they wait or watch a cartoon while they get their haircuts. Many also offer prizes at the end of their cut.
Even regular salons can offer entertainment for children to focus on as well. I’ve taken my eldest to a salon with tons of vintage posters and cool-looking swivel chairs that kept him curious and occupied.
And if he’s especially fussy and won’t sit still, now would be a good time—or even to make an exception—and show him a cartoon on your phone. Hold the phone in front of him while the stylist snips his hair. This is especially useful if the salon doesn’t have their own television screens.
4. Ask for someone with experience cutting children’s hair
Not all stylists are comfortable cutting children’s hair, especially with a squirming child who doesn’t always follow directions. (“Look down. No, look down, not at the mirror.”)
If you’re going to a regular salon, book an appointment with someone experienced with cutting children’s hair. They’ll be more patient and will know exactly what to say to your child to calm him down or get him excited about his haircut.
5. Have your child sit on your lap
Worried that your child won’t even want to sit in the chair, much less allow his hair to get cut? Try sitting him on your lap.
One benefit of a regular salon is that their seats can accommodate adults. So if your child is too scared to even sit in the chair, you could hold him in your lap. Sitting with you—as opposed to sitting alone—can be just what he needs to feel comfortable with his haircut.
6. Get a haircut, too
What better way to understand how salons work than to see your own parents getting their hair cut too? One parent can have their hair cut while the other tends to your child. That way, he can see that everyone gets haircuts, and that it’s a normal part of family life.
During one of our salon visits, my husband got a haircut at the same time as our son. And even now at my salon, I’ll still see parents doing the same. Mom will get a haircut while her daughter is sitting next to her getting one, too.
7. Go for a positive experience over a neat haircut
Let’s say your child is reaching his patience threshold with his haircut and is just about ready to cry. Even with choppy and uneven hair, consider finishing the haircut now before he gets too upset.
Don’t worry about perfecting their lines or making sure the texture of their hair light. Yes, if your toddler lets you, fine-tune his haircut. But if he’s just about had it, be okay with “good enough” hair.
For one of my twins’ haircuts, the stylist asked if I’d like to clean it up with clippers. The problem? My son was terrified of the buzz and the sensation of the clippers. Could his hair have been more polished? Yes. But I wanted to focus on a positive experience, even if it means coming home with not-so-perfect hair.
8. Praise your child
Now it’s time to party! After your child’s haircut, praise him for the effort he put in and the successful turnout.
Did he cry the whole time? Thank him for sitting on the seat and getting through the experience. Is his hair a little lopsided because he kept turning his head? Praise him for his willingness to try something new.
And of course, if he took to his first haircut like a pro, then acknowledge his awesome ‘do and what a “big boy” he is.
Going through a new experience, especially one that can feel invasive, can be terrifying for many kids. Regardless of the outcome, acknowledge the effort it took for your child to do his best.
p.s. Want to better manage your time and feel less tired and overwhelmed? Join my newsletter and get my ebook, Time Management Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom! Download it below—at no cost to you:
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Your child’s first haircut is a new experience for the both of you. Be the supportive anchor he needs by describing what to expect and picking a good time of the day. Find a salon and stylist conducive for children. And focus on a positive experience over the neatest-looking haircut.
You may not be able to avoid another haircut for years like you’ve done in the past. But now you know how to make your child’s first—and subsequent—haircuts a smooth and seamless one.
p.s. Check out Wally Does Not Want a Haircut by Amanda Driscoll, a fun children’s book to help your child feel better about haircuts:
Get more parenting tips:
- Why You Shouldn’t Tell Your Child to Stop Crying
- Do You Know What to Do when Your Child Acts Out in Public?
- How to Run Errands with Kids (And Not Go Crazy)
- Top 7 Ways to Make Parenting Toddlers Easier
- 9 Coping Skills for Kids to Help Manage Big Emotions
Tell me in the comments: What steps did you take to prepare your child’s first haircut at a salon?
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