You may love getting a haircut: A dreamy scalp massage; a heavenly-scented shampoo; some grownup chatter while you get trimmed and styled to perfection. Amazing! A toddler who’s getting ready for their first haircut, however, likely doesn’t share your enthusiasm. In fact, you may have lost them at the word “cut.” (Cuts hurt, Mama!) Never fear! You and your tyke can still have a great first haircut. Promise. Here are some helpful tips to get there .

Skip scary language.

Cuts” are no fun! They can make you cry; they require bandages; they hurt! While you—a grown, experienced person—know that a haircut does none of those things, your still fresh-and-new-to-this-world toddler does not. Try your hardest to avoid any disastrous misinterpretation by using the word trim or style instead of haircut. But if your little one does hear cut and gets scared, never dismiss or giggle at their fears! Instead, respectfully validate their feelings (I can see why you’d think haircuts would hurt!) and gently reassure them.

Take out the guesswork.

Toddlers aren’t huge fans of surprises unless, of course, it involves ice cream, a new toy, or a visit from Grandma. So as the days inch closer to Toddler’s First Haircut (er, trim), search up some videos of other toddlers getting their hair done, too. (Tip: Preview the videos before you show your tyke. You don’t want to accidentally showcase tears and tantrums!)

Talk about what you see: The cool chair is in the shape of an airplane! I wonder what your chair will look like. That special cape looks a lot like Superman’s, don’t you think? Don’t leave out things like the squirt bottle that’ll be used to wet hair, the scissors, and electric trimmer. See how the nice lady carefully trims the boy’s hair with her special scissors, so his hair isn’t in his eyes anymore? He looks so good! Alternatively, you can cart your kiddo along to your next haircut. Just be sure to enlist another grown-up for toddler-watching duty while you’re there. (This also gives your kiddo an easy exit if your haircut runs longer than their patience.)

Play salon at home.

Prepare your kiddo for their first haircut with some good ol’ pretend play. (After all, children learn best this way.) Gather a brush, comb, and the spray bottle you stow under the sink. Swipe a superhero cape from the dress-up bin to wear backwards and if you have toddler-size safety or play scissors, use those, too. (Your pointer and middle fingers also make excellent scissors!) Finally, take turns being the barber or stylist, while the other sits in front of a mirror. This gives your toddler the chance to preview and touch hair salon items in a familiar, not-scary place, which'll help them feel more comfortable when the Big Day arrives.

Gossip about good behavior.

Toddler ears are always tuned in—and that’s especially so when they think they’re eavesdropping! Use this to your advantage to bolster your kiddo’s confidence (and excitement) about their upcoming haircut. When your tot’s in earshot, gossip to another person about how the visit to the salon is going to be so cool and that since your child is such a good listener with amazing patience, you just know they’ll do a great job! This works really well because kids (and adults!) are way more likely to believe something they overhear than if it’s told to them directly (especially if it’s whispered).

Enlist the experts.

Just because a hair stylist can cut hair, doesn’t mean they can cut a toddler's hair. Toddlers have a difficult time being reasonable and rational (and non-wiggly) when not in a new place filled with blow-dryers, strangers, and scissors. Because of this, you’ll want to enlist a pro who not only gets that—but has experience trimming the hair of wee people whose brains’ patience-control center is still pretty darn immature. More wins when going to a kid-focused salon: Cool chairs (rockets! cars! airplanes!); TVs ready to stream train videos, Disney movies, and more; and oodles of toys to occupy fidgety hands.

Bring comfort.

If your toddler has a cuddly companion, like a silky blanket or a fuzzy SNOObear, that they love to snuggle with, bring it along. These transitional or comfort items are meant to give your child assurance, soothing nerves, and cuddling away fears. But if tears do start to flow or lips begin to quiver, go ahead and acknowledge your little one’s feelings in simple toddler language (You’re scared!), keeping “don’t cry” to yourself. Also, ask the hairdresser if your child can get their trim while seated on your lap. This way you can offer that extra physical comfort your tot may need, and the stylist can continue working.

End with a special incentive.

While the standard post-haircut lollipop is often treat enough, it’s not a bad idea to create some other positive associations with your child’s trip to the salon. Think of this as your special haircut ritual that adds a dash of sparkle to your regularly-scheduled must-do, ensuring future salon visits are as smooth as possible. Remember, after the salon, we get to go to the playground with the double slide! Or have a fun lookin’-good song you play in the car on the drive back home. (“You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful,” anyone?)

For more advice on how to set your toddler up for success, check out “Happiest Toddler on the Block."

 

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