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I often loose patience and am anxious about accidentally cutting skin when I try to cut my 18 month old's hair. Please suggest approaches that you've used that work to get the hair cut safely with the least frustration for parent or child.

What we have tried: using comb and scissors in the high chair (little success) and in the shower (some success). Thanks for your time and consideration.

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Compiling answers from below: go to a barber, cut it while the infant/toddler is sleeping, pace yourself (do a little now and a little later), work as a team (one distracts, other cuts), use clippers (and set example). Thanks all. –  Paul Cline Jun 21 '11 at 20:54
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10 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You didn't specifically say you want to do it yourself, so:

Obviously a professional hairdresser does a great job with much less risk of injuries, and much quicker. And you don't have to clean up afterward! :-)

Our local hairdresser (part of a nationwide drugstore chain) does toddler haircuts for free. The whole operation from entering the store until leaving takes less than 15 minutes and goes very smoothly. Ask your local shop what their rates are for a toddler, you might be pleasantly surprised.

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I have not used a professional yet. Glad to hear it can go well. –  Paul Cline Jun 21 '11 at 18:34
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Just a head's up, Ihad my daughter's done professionally at first, but after three horrendous haircuts, I realized, the professionals don't know how to deal with a moving child any better - even if tehy are better with scissors. It was easier for me to do the cuts for a while because I could talk and distract her through it in ways the profs near us couldn't (without paying an arm and a leg at a "children's salon") Once she moved less we went back to the professionals again. Point is, ask even the professionals how often they do children's cuts before giving them carte blanche. –  balanced mama Feb 28 at 5:40
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We did it this way:

once done with bath/shower, we used to put her sitting on the washing machine (where we usually change her). One of us would talk to her, non-stop, and the other one would go about the business of cutting her hair telling her to be still: she was 16 to 24 months old at the time. We used to use very small and non-pointy scissors, to reduce risks.

This has produced some very funny looks, but also great results and she used to be (still is) quite proud of her dad being her hairdresser.

Lately we just ask her (she's 3) if she wants her hair trimmed and if "yes" I do that, quickly.

Some times we found the need to have another bath or simply a quick shower to remove hair (usually short) that we didn't catch when cutting. Not to say: wasn't funny for us, but surely two baths for our daughter (albeit the second being very quick) was cause of great joy.

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I use the clippers (buy a fairly good set - like Wahl - as dull clippers hurt!) and have since my kids were ~12 months (both boys). It's pretty easy to do, and pretty quick, and it looks decent as long as you pay some attention to leaving some parts shorter/longer appropriately (I follow the directions that came with the clippers). They sit quietly for me more so than for a professional (as I found out the one time I used one).

To keep the kids happy, I give them something like a cheese stick or a piece of fruit to hold and eat while I am doing it, and I let them play with the clippers (they're fairly safe if you are right there - just keep the guards on). Both of them had also played with my (electric) facial razor before, so that helped them be familiar with the noise and vibrations.

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We struggled through a good half dozen haircuts with our son on our own. We always had to stop early* when he cried too much for us to bear.

His most recent haircut (21 months) was by far the best yet. We actually used a Flowbee (yes, the as seen on tv product from the '90s!) He sat in front of the tv, we cut his hair with the Flowbee, and the vacuum took care of the trimmings.

For those unfamiliar, it's a shaver attachment that connects to a vacuum cleaner. It has various tubes that keeps the cutting blades a certain distance away from the scalp. The vacuum sucks the hair straight and into the blade, gobbling up all the cut hair as well.

Finally no more cries of "eyes itchy!"

The Flowbee is more expensive than we expected. It was about $130 on Amazon. But I'll probably get my own haircuts with it too, so it'll save money in the long run. And hundreds of reviews gave it 4.5 stars!

The biggest complaint we have is how loud the bugger is. We had to do a lot of coaxing to ease him into the thing. Letting him flip the switch to turn it on helped. We also never got too close to the ears, due to the volume. But it's definitely a lot louder than we anticipated.


Edit: having given him his second haircut with it, we tried a few solutions to the noise:

  • Headphones help with masking the sound, but don't block enough to make it much less scary
  • Earplugs didn't seem very effective, and seemed to be uncomfortable
  • The best solution turned out to be my wife plugging his ears while I cut. The human touch.

* I had to try really hard not to use the pun "cut it short" here

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Just a thought about the loudness - perhaps some earbuds with trickling water playing (not so loud as to drown out the vacuum sound but just to muffle it with something more pleasant) would help - even just earplugs would probably help some. –  balanced mama Feb 28 at 5:34
    
That's a great point. I'll definitely try that. I'll edit this post to report back after his second haircut with it –  mhlester Feb 28 at 5:36
    
For anybody else who's not up to speed on their 1990s American infomercials: flowbee.com –  jpatokal Mar 31 at 5:00
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I always sucked it up and paid for the expensive child salon with my first child, but when two and three came along there was no way I was dropping $65 every six weeks for crappy haircuts.

I am by no means a barber, but I manage to give my boys reasonably decent looking cuts. It's nothing fancy, but it's off their ears, and out of their eyes. My kids are 3 1/2 and 2, and have been cutting their hair since they were about 16 months old. I have learned to cut a moving target. I minimize the movement by confining both of us in the tub, with the doors shut. The boy sits on a step stool and holds my iPhone to watch a video. In order to avoid injury, I sharpened a pair of children's scissors-the kind with the rounded tip- so that nobody gets poked. I focus on the most important areas (bangs, sideburns, over the ears, and the back) first, that way if worse comes to worse and the boy won't sit, we can go a few more weeks and try again. Clean up is easy in the tub. I use a vacuum to suck up most of the hairs, then I remove the stool and phone, and turn on the shower to rinse the hairs off the boy and the tub. All done!

My kids hair is too coarse for the clippers, and all three of them are terrified of it.

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My wife has done it while our youngest is asleep, she can get the sides easily enough using a comb and scissors and just does the back really quickly while he is awake and distracted. We tried clippers but he didn't like the sound of the clippers near his head. Sometimes while in the bath it works, since the baby is sitting in the tub and very distracted, just need to make sure you use blunt scissors to avoid accidents.

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Since we use clippers for both my husband and my son's hair I find it's helpful to have Matthias help with cutting his father's hair first, and then vice versa. He sees how it's done and can see that it doesn't hurt Dad (even if it is a bit loud), so he doesn't freak out (much) when it's his turn.

On a side note: Be sure he hasn't changed the settings on the clippers before letting him go gung-ho on your hair. My husband looked ready for enlistment the last time we cut his hair!

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Unfortunately, we are pursuing a longer hair style than clippers seem to allow. But I'll keep this one in reserve if that changes. –  Paul Cline Jun 21 '11 at 20:56
    
My son had the cutest ringlets when he was 14-18 months, and then one of the kids in his daycare brought lice in with them. My son was infected and he, in turn, infected me. It was easier to give him a buzz cut than try to keep a screaming toddler still for the combing required to remove the critters. ....as for me, I spent 6 hours+ a day combing out my hair - which was down to my hips at that point in time. –  Darwy Jun 21 '11 at 22:06
    
Demonstrating on a parent first is a good idea... +1 –  Beofett Jul 19 '11 at 15:21
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Thank goodness it grows or my kids would be living a life of embarrassment. Here's what we tried:

  1. Two people work better than one, even at a salon.
  2. Have the child close their eyes. This way they aren't getting distracted. Have them count to 10 out loud, or sing the alphabet or another song, then open their eyes. This will let you know how much time you have. Also, you can play a game with this. There can be a different object for them to see when they finish counting.
  3. Have them look at a fixed point on a wall. This will help their head from "drifting" down or towards the scissors.
  4. Play the freeze game or have a staring contest to keep them occupied but still (very good when you have an accomplice).
  5. Don't cut it. Use elastics or clips to keep the hair out of their face.
  6. Use clippers. They are faster than scissors and feel nice. It can take a bit to get used to the noise.

One of my son's has hair that prefers to be in tangles. He likes it long but refuses to take care of it. So, now that they are older, I give them (slightly less than) the money that would have been paid to have their hair cut when they let me cut it at home. This has ended the fighting about whether or not the hair gets cut: win win!

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How many 18-month-old do you know that can count to 20? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 20 '11 at 6:48
    
LOL! Fingers and toes would just have them moving about. You are so right! Still, there are ways! –  nGinius Jun 20 '11 at 10:03
    
nGinius, thanks for the answer. Some of these I'll have to wait on. :) –  Paul Cline Jun 21 '11 at 20:57
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This is one area where I call in a professional. Because they work with shears all day and are used to making quick, sure cuts without stabbing anyone, they're going to be better at it than I am. For my toddler, it's a 3-person process: hairdresser, my mom, and me. The latter two hold/distract her. She still screams like a banshee, but it's enough where my lightning-fast hairdresser can just get in there, snip snip, and it's done. It's a lot less drawn-out and drama-ridden when the process takes only 5 minutes.

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Oh and as an aside, my hairdresser charges $10, but I splurge a bit on my hair. Many chain salons will charge less or maybe give you the baby cut for free if you bring the child in with you for your cut. –  Corvus Melori Jun 20 '11 at 7:19
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I think our best improvement in the process is to have both parents involved. Our son usually sits on mom's lap while I do the cutting. This keeps him engaging with mom and he hardly notices the scissors. This doesn't always work, in fact sometimes it's a total bust... thankfully unless you're totally changing the hair style, most folks don't really notice that a kids hair is lopsided... so you can stop when they're not into it and come back at it tomorrow. We've had to do that a few times; I'll get one side done but not the back or the other side then he has had enough and we call it quits. The next day I'll get the other side and the back. So for a day his hair looks a little "off"... oh well.

I'll also admit that it's FAR simpler, and gets a MUCH better result to occasionally just pay the money to let an expert do it... we have a place in town that specializes in little kids hair cuts.

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