First Hair Cut? 14 Tips for Tear-Free Trims

Toddler boy getting hair cut. Photo by Cameron Whitman/Stocksy United
Photo by Cameron Whitman / Stocksy United

It’s no surprise that some young children can, well, freak out before or during their first few haircuts. There they are, in a strange place, sitting in a chair with a large plastic blanket around their neck and a scissor-wielding stranger clipping around their ears. Yikes! Making the I’ve-never-done-this-before situation worse is the fact that stranger anxiety often rears its head in the toddler years.

If your wee one is feeling wary about her first (or second or third) haircut, fear not. A little preparation can go a long way towards making those initial trims less hair-raising—for everyone.

Before You Go

1. Be sure he knows what to expect.

Tell him what the salon will look like and where he will sit, (the chairs might look like a car or go up and down!). You also might want to talk about plastic cape he'll wear, the bottle for wetting his hair, and the all-important scissors. Most important, tell him what the barber will do: carefully trim his hair so that it doesn’t get in his eyes or tickle his ears.

2. Make it fun and games.

Pantomime the experience using a beloved stuffed animal, or “play barber shop” with him in front of a mirror—you might even trim off a small piece of your hair (or his) to demonstrate that it won’t hurt. Tip: Stick to the words “trim” or “style” instead of the more painful-sounding word “cut.”

3. If the hairdresser is nearby, consider stopping in a few days beforehand to get your child familiar with the space and process.

She might even be able to meet her hairdresser or practice sitting in the chair.

4. Consider using a kid-focused salon.

Many shops that focus on wee ones have play areas for kids to use while they wait, as well as barber chairs shaped like race cars or animals. They may also play videos during the cut, and finish looks with pretty barrettes or colored hairspray. Regardless of the setting, make sure you get a hairdresser who is experienced with children. Great kids’ hairdressers are patient, gentle, and know how to work with a potentially squirmy charge.

5. Talk to him about how Mommy and Daddy get haircuts, too.

If you plan to get your own hair cut, talk to him about your own experience. Let him inspect and feel your hair before and after the cut. He could even come along and watch if it’s Daddy’s haircut. (It’s certainly fine to attend Mommy’s appointment, too, but they tend to be longer than most toddlers can stand.)

6. Read books.

Who knew there were so many books about getting a haircut? Check out the Luca Lashes eBook or these suggestions from Little Parachutes. Many children handle new situations better when they can “see” (over and over and over) other children having the same experience first. To that end, you can also….

7. Watch videos of other kids getting haircuts.

Ask friends with children if they have videos from a first haircut, or simply do a quick search on YouTube. You might consider filming your child’s first haircut, and, assuming the experience goes well, showing the video to her before her second appointment.

The Big Day

8. Time it right.

Make sure your child is well-rested and fed before you head in. Bring a few non-sticky snacks as a backup.

9. Bring reinforcements.

A lovie, books to read her during the cut, and any other simple distractions or entertainment can help her happily pass the time. Also pack an extra shirt in case she really can’t tolerate the plastic cape.

10. Arrive early.

This will give him time to acclimate to the space and possibly watch a few haircuts take place prior to his turn.

11. Take pictures and video.

If your child is comfortable with it, record the moment to emphasize how special it is. Many children like seeing images of themselves, so remind her you can look at them together after.

12. Give the stylist space.

While many parents stay close during the cut, you want to be respectful of the stylist and let her do her job, both physically and emotionally (she may have a few tricks up her sleeve for dealing with fidgety, fussy, or anxious kiddos). Some children do better if their parents are not nearby.

13. There’s always next time.

If your child is completely losing it, consider taking a break to calm him down. If the situation remains tenuous, consider cutting the visit short (ha-ha).

14. Celebrate!

After the cut, congratulate your child on how she did, as well as her brand new style. Many parents save a lock of hair from the first cut for a scrap book, make a show of having the stylist sign a first haircut certificate, or celebrate with a special outing or reward.

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