Our daughter is 22 months old. She absolutely HATES getting her toenails clipped. If we ask, she immediately says no. If we try, she yanks her feet away and cries. We usually have to hold her down and just do it. Distractions don't really help either, she'll be totally distracted til we touch her feet, and she freaks out. Even just feeling her toenails to see how wicked they are will infuriate her.

She's not a big fan of having her feet touched in general, so we've been working on that, just lightly touching them, holding them, etc. It's helped somewhat in general touch, but she still hates getting them clipped.

We've never hurt her while clipping them, or clipped them too short, so I don't think it's a pain thing.

Any suggestions?

  • Might she have an ingrown nail or some little accident where the clip cut her skin? Something that currently or previously hurt her and that she now generalized to "my feet got touched/my nails got clipped and it hurt"? Have you tried asking her why she does not like it, with suggestive questions, not just generally?
    – skymningen
    May 5, 2017 at 9:16
  • I have an 18 month old. I have resorted to switching on the TV for clipping nails. 5 mins a week should be OK :-)
    – user61034
    May 8, 2017 at 14:42

6 Answers 6


Ask her if it hurts to touch them (specifically around the nails). I sometimes get ingrown toenails if I don't clip them "just right". I have to keep mine slightly longer than "normal" to avoid this. There is never any VISUAL indicator that they are starting to dig into my toe, they just hurt to touch until they grow past that point on my toe.

If her toenails are REALLY long they may also be digging into the neighboring toes and hurting her that way.

Both situations could cause her to associate discomfort or pain with toenail touching/clipping. If you can figure out if/where it hurts though, then you may be able to mitigate it.

Edit: I had a second idea (assuming any discomfort has been dealt with or was non-existent) - how about just bribing her? "If you let us cut just one nail, you can have a treat/cookie/whatever". Then if that works, gradually increase the required number of nails clipped to get a cookie.

  • We went with bribing. We had to start with a jellybean for each nail (seriously - she HATES it). She still cried almost the whole time, but more of a fuss than an OH MY GOD STOP YOU ARE KILLING ME wail while yanking away.
    – Drew
    May 17, 2017 at 19:17

With a two-year-old it may be a bit of a breech of trust but with my eight-month-old we trim his finger and toe nails when he's asleep. He's too squirmy otherwise. When he's asleep, he's calm and relaxed and doesn't move much at all so it's an easy, non-stress procedure.

Of course, you can't continue to do this her entire life... probably doesn't make sense to slip into your 14 year old daughter's room to cut her nails but, hopefully, by then she will be out of the phase of not wanting you to touch her feet.

Another option that might be fun is to include her in the process of you cutting your nails. Show her how you do it yourself and that it's not painful. I've seen kids even this age at nail salons getting "mani/pedis" with their moms - she might allow someone else to do it if she sees other people around her having the same thing done and the technician (if successful) may be able to give you some tips for working with little ones.

  • The cutting nails at sleep worked for us and by 3 she did not have problem with it anymore.
    – Ola M
    May 5, 2017 at 15:51
  • 2
    +1 for the idea of "... slip into your 14 year old daughter's room to cut her nails..."
    – SQB
    May 5, 2017 at 18:47
  • 2.5 years later, our daughter is now 4.5 and I still clip her toenails once a week right after she falls asleep. Periodically she seems to express some surprise that they never grow, so I'm not sure how long this will last, but so far she's no more willing to let me near her feet with nail clippers
    – Drew
    Jan 17, 2020 at 2:55

Have you tried involving her more? I've noticed that sometimes, when they feel they have some control, toddlers will more easily accept something they don't like. Ask if she will do it with you, let her play a little on her own with the clipper, then try to help without taking it away from her.

You could also try a file instead of a clipper. Again, introduce it slowly and let her play with it if she wants to. It's ok if you don't get anything done the first time.

  • 7
    +1. We have tricks for kids who are afraid of doctors, and they all give them some degree of control. To examine their ears, for example, we allow them to put their hand over ours and control the approach or stop the moment they are feeling overwhelmed. With patience, almost every child, from toddler up, can be fully examined with minimum emotional trauma. May 4, 2017 at 18:47
  • If you let the child use the clippers with your hand doing the controlling, make sure the nails are soft. It could be as simple as the noise of the cut is scary and soft nails won't make that sound.
    – WRX
    May 4, 2017 at 19:30
  • We've tried. She's very interested in clipping our nails, but if we even touch her toes while she has the clippers she freaks out. I'll give the file a try - good idea. Now her toenails are so long it'll take me 20 minutes to file them, but better than nothing :)
    – Drew
    May 4, 2017 at 19:47

A simple tip from a medical professional and father is to do it after the shower. He will be relaxed and playful if he could have played with some water toys. Most importantly, the nails will be much softer and cutting them less annoying for him and easier for you.


Yeah our three year old has issues with getting his nails, hand and foot, cut. We have done a couple of things to help in this matter.

  1. Cut your nails with them first so they see you doing it. The whole youre getting big now like mommy and daddy and we need to do this.
  2. Make it fun. So my mother taught my son this little "rhyme". Thumbo, Lizby, Longman, sugarstick, and little Jackie Dandy. Yeah dont ask me, but doing it helps entertain and keep him slightly occupied. For feet, try the 'this little piggy' "rhyme".

While he doesnt sit still he does stay still long enough to get his fingers cut.

Basically try to make it a game or make it fun, or reward her afterwards for the great job she did in staying still.


I have two little boys and I find the best way to clip their nails, whether it be toes or fingers is to offer them a treat. I know you mentioned your daughter doesn't seem to be phased with distractions. But what if you gave her a small package of fruit gummies or smarties, while you cut her nails. Or if she's more into stickers, try that. When I first started cutting my boys' nails, I found it easier to cut one set of nails one day and the other the next. So maybe you try the left foot one day and the right the next. When she knows she's getting a treat, it may not be so bad. Good luck!

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