What To Do When Toddler Cuts Her Hair

Many young children are fascinated by scissors and hair, a deadly combination. Here's what to do when the two meet.

It's almost a stock story for families with toddlers. The little one comes across a pair of scissors and attempts to give herself a haircut. The results, of course, are disastrous, and the horrified parent must find a way to deal with the uneven results.

Children love to play with "adult" things like scissors. And those between the ages of one to three love to mimic their parents' behavior as well as the actions of adults they've observed in public professions. Finding a pair of scissors is an exciting discovery, and the first thing many children do is to cut their hair the way they've seen Mom or Dad have it done.

Parents' initial reaction is relief. After all, learning that a pair of sharp scissors has been in the hands of their toddler is a scary ordeal. After a quick hug comes the scold:

"Haven't I told you a hundred times never to touch the scissors? Now look what you've done to your hair!"

Marching the little one to a nearby mirror, she may be shocked to find that her attempted makeover did not turn out as planned. Horrified by the mistake and its unattractive consequences, she begins to cry and say "I sorry."

Immediately contrite, Mom's irritation turns to sympathy. "Okay. Now let's fix it."

Easier said than done. But there are a few things to try before giving up:

1. Taking the scissors into your capable adult hands, try to even up the places where hair is missing or short. This can be very challenging, and perhaps impossible. Don't plunge in and start snipping from all angles. Study the uneven places first and trim a few strands at a time to see if you can fix it.

2. If this doesn't work, try to hide the botched places. Pull out an assortment of scunchies, headbands, and barrettes to experiment with a variety of hair arrangements. Pulling the sides back into a small bun or braid, or up into a topknot, braiding parts or all of the hair into one or two strands, or making a ponytail are some of the styles you can try using to conceal the damage.

3. Visit the hairdresser. An expert stylist may be able to create a style that you didn't think of. Or she might have some ideas for hair accents, like a hairpiece or scarf, that may be of help. In that line of work, she's probably seen far worse effects, so there's a good chance she'll have some ideas for covering up any gaps in your little one's hair.

4. Get a haircut. If style arrangements don't do the trick, it may be time for a haircut. If your child balks, remind her that is a great opportunity to try out the new hairdo that her preschool friend is wearing. Or offer to buy her a new hair ribbon to go with her new style. A last resort is to remind her that hair does grow back, and in a few months she will start looking like her old self, unless her hair is very long.

5. Wear a cap. Find a cute cap that matches her personality and let her wear it for a few days until the bald places begin to grow in. You can even get a couple of different caps, one for the grocery store and another for church or dress. Keep it light-weight and simple so her head won't become sweaty. She may enjoy wearing it as a form of "dress-up" play.

Small crisis moments like these are bound to happen. Instead of becoming hysterical, calmly evaluate the situation and be prepared to try different strategies until you find one that works.

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