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.
My twins, however, needed haircuts much sooner. Especially one of them whose straight hair didn’t hide my crazy attempts with the scissors as well as his brothers’.
The problem? A haircut is a new experience. One that involves a stranger in an even stranger place getting real close to his personal space. And if you have a toddler, he might feel anxious about getting a haircut.
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
Once you’ve decided where to take your child, let’s take a look at the tips that will make it much easier.
1. Describe what your child can expect
Even if you’ve never been to the salon, you can describe a typical haircut experience. Knowing what to expect will help your child better prepare himself. You might tell him:
- He’ll sit in a chair and wear a cape
- Someone will spray water on his hair to make it easier to cut
- She’ll use scissors to cut his hair so it doesn’t feel so heavy
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 snack or a meal so he has one less thing to fuss about.
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. I’ve taken my eldest to a salon with tons of vintage posters and cool-looking swivel chairs that kept his attention.
4. Ask for someone with experience cutting children’s hair
Not all stylists are comfortable cutting children’s hair. Cutting a squirming child who doesn’t always follow directions is a challenge. (“Look down. No, look down, not at the mirror.”)
If you’re familiar with your salon and its stylists, book an appointment with someone comfortable with cutting children’s hair. Their lighthearted interaction with your child can make for a positive experience.
5. Have your child sit on your lap
One downside of a children’s salon is they only cater to children, not adults. Some children might be too scared to even sit on the seats alone. If you’re at a regular salon, one option is to forgo the booster seat for children and have your child sit on your lap instead. You’ll both wear capes, and he’ll feel comfortable sitting with you nearby.
6. Get a haircut, too
What better way to understand this haircut business than to see your own parents getting their hair cut too? For one of my kids, my husband got a haircut at the same time he did. He was able to see that everyone gets haircuts and that they were in this together.
At my regular salon, I’ll sometimes see other parents doing the same thing. 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.
For one of my twins’ haircuts, the stylist asked if I’d like to clean it up with clippers. Except he was terrified of the buzz and sensation. Could his hair have been more polished? Yes. But I wanted to focus on a positive experience, even if it means coming home with funny-looking hair.
8. Praise your child
After your child’s haircut, praise him for giving it a shot. Yes, even if he cried the whole time, thank him for sitting on the seat and trying. And of course, if he took to his first haircut like a pro, then praise him for his willingness to try something new.
Going through a new experience, especially one so invasive, can be terrifying for many kids. Regardless of the outcome, acknowledge the effort it took for your child to do his best.
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Your child’s first haircut is a new experience for 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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