Is hair cutting hard for your tot?

Self-care tasks, especially ones that include a variety of unfamiliar tools, can be perceived as scary and particularly tricky for kiddos. A haircut is a multisensory experience: multiple textures (water, sprays), sounds (clippers, sound of hair cutting cut, blow dryers), and sensations (hair falling onto neck, itchy) amongst a multitude of other factors. And, needless to say, a stranger is coming at your child’s head with scissors. What’s not scary about this situation for a kid? All the things that are forbidden - playing with scissors and talking to strangers - are suddenly happening all at once. Whoa. 

In preparation for this potentially stressful event, here are some activities to practice to make this task easier and more successful for your kiddo:

  • Read a story or create a personalized social story (including your child’s name and pictures) about getting a haircut.  Read it to your child daily.  
  • Playing barber, including cutting Barbie or Kens hair, is a wonderful way to integrate play and decrease fear and anxiety. If you’re brave, wearing a wig and allowing your child to cut your hair, then reciprocating this play is a great activity to simulate the way that the actual haircut will feel (spray bottle, hair falling on their neck) and sound (the sound of the scissors or clippers). 
  • Begin using a spray bottle in the bathtub for hair washing. Allow your child to play with the spray bottle in the bathtub.
  • There are also many phone or tablet applications, such as Toca Boca Hair Salon, that aid in familiarizing your child with the hair cutting tools and techniques. 
  • Talk to your child much about what is going to happen and reassure them that they are going to do great and look even more handsome/beautiful. Never withhold information or just take them to the hair salon unannounced. This is doing more harm than good and may backtrack progress. Talk about the event much in advance and use tons of positive language! 
  • Go visit a hair salon prior to the day of your child’s haircut.
  • Allow your child to sit on your lap or watch you while you get a haircut.
  • ‘Heavy work’ play – jumping, romping, climbing- is great for calming. Take your child to the park or an indoor play gym before their haircut to help prepare their body.
  • Heavy items are very beneficial for calming. Let your child hold a weighted stuffed animal or lap pad while getting their haircut.
  • Sensitive to touch? Wearing a baseball cap or sock cap practice prior, then 15 minutes prior to the haircut decreases sensitivities.
  • Encourage independence with hair skills in the home as much as your child is able: washing, rinsing, and brushing.
  • On the day of the haircut, arrive to the salon early. If available, schedule the visit at a time when not many other clients are around, such as during a lunchtime or early in the morning. Allow them to watch their surroundings (and other haircuts) and become familiar with the environment. Allow them time to engage with the stylist before jumping into the hot seat. Bring a highly preferred toy to engage with during the haircut.
  • Bring a new set of clothes for after the haircut so that no pesky hairs poke/scratch your child or irritate their skin.
  • At the conclusion of the haircut... celebrate! Bring one of your child’s favorite toys for after the haircut. Take them to get ice cream. This is a big, challenging day for them, and it will be time to be rewarded!


A few times a year, we offer special days at our clinics called Thairapy Days where your little ones can play fun games with OTs while they get ready for hair cuts. Questions or want more information? Talk to your OT at Jones Therapy Services!


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