In this post, we are going to talk about how to get toddlers to sit still for hairstyles and haircuts. We are also going to answer the timeless question, “How do I entertain my toddler for a haircut?”.
So, let’s get right to it.
Did you know that the average time for a medium-length haircut is about 20-35 minutes and that, depending on the texture of the hair and desired style, hairstyles can take hours?
Getting a toddler to sit still for a haircut or style, no matter how long it will take, can be pretty tricky. You’ve got to keep them still while also considering the position of their head – it’s almost as if screens were invented for this specific activity.
As we all become more conscientious of how much screen time our kids are getting, though, we’re trying to come up with ways to avoid it – even if screens do seem pretty well suited for haircuts.
We’ve come up with some tips and activities to help you entertain your toddler for a haircut or hairstyle.
(This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing from these links costs you nothing extra, but helps with our website upkeep.)
9 ideas to entertain your toddler for a haircut
Most of these ideas will work at a salon, as well as at home. If you are taking your child to a salon, it’s always a great idea to “play haircut” at home first, to get them used to the process.
Screens or no screens, toddlers have trouble sitting in one position for long. It’s simply not a developmentally appropriate expectation.
So, if the process is going to take a while, you can break it into 5-10 minute bits. If your toddler is hanging in there just fine, it’s ok to keep going until they get fidgety, as well.
1. Sensory bins
Sensory bins, when set up correctly, can be extremely engrossing for toddlers. This makes them pretty perfect for keeping toddlers entertained for haircuts.
Instead of putting colored rice or something else ridiculously messy (and boring after 2 minutes) in the bin, I recommend setting up an activity your toddler can complete, like washing a doll or some toys.
Have the dirty toys to one side of the bin, a dish of warm, soapy water in the middle, then a towel and some clothes (if it’s a doll) to the right side of the bin.
By the end of the activity, your toddler will have a nice haircut and their toys will have had a good washing, as well – a win-win!
There’s something about scratch paper that my toddlers all love/loved. Scratching out pictures gives a satisfying type of sensory feedback for little kids.
The scratch sheets below are a favorite in our house for keeping my toddler entertained for haircuts (or any other activity that requires a distraction.)
If you prop the sheets upon an easel-type contraption, your child’s head and neck will be in a comfortable position and you’ll be able to do a nice haircut, as well.
I don’t fully understand what it is about our Toniebox that sets it so far apart from our other music-playing devices, but our children will sit and listen to the music and stories so intently – it’s truly fascinating to me.
For haircuts, we have had luck sitting our toddler down with a Toniebox/Tonies and a book that corresponds to the character he has chosen.
For example, our toddler really enjoys the Cookie Monster Tonie. So, for his last haircut, he chose to listen to that Tonie and flip through an old volume of the Sesame Street Library series.
If you don’t have a Toniebox, you can try this with another audio device to see if your toddler enjoys it.
4. Magnets on a pan
Everyone has pans in their home. And most everyone has magnets, as well.
All you need to do for this one, is gather enough magnets so that your toddler can keep busy sticking them on the pan and pulling them back off.
You might find that your toddler does some creative storytelling with this activity, as well. This is a super-easy way to entertain your toddler for a haircut.
If you are not familiar with Melissa and Doug Water Wow books, it’s time to get familiar. These little books might end up being your secret weapon in parenting when it comes to car trips, restaurants, and haircuts.
These are great for keeping toddlers entertained for haircuts at home, however, they are particularly useful when introduced as a special activity, for haircuts and hairstyles at a salon.
This haircut toddler activity isn’t one for the barbershop, however, it’s perfect for a haircut or lengthy style at home.
If you know the hairdo is going to take a while, this is a good option because there are just so many different tools and cut-outs for toddlers to explore.
In the same vein as the Water Wow books, these reusable sticker pads are also a parenting staple.
While you cut your toddler’s hair, they will stay busy building stories with the reusable stickers. This is a great activity for in the home or at the salon.
If you are taking your toddler to a barber, you might find that a little bag of nuts and bolts toys goes a long way.
The process of a haircut can be a bit intimidating to little ones and having some appropriately-sized nuts and bolts to fiddle with can help them work out their anxiety.
Last, but definitely not least, is a doll styling head. Toddlers love to imitate us and be involved in everything we do and a styling head is a great way for them to get in on the hairstyling process.
At the end of the haircut, both your toddler and their styling head will look their best.
We hope you got some ideas for keeping your toddler entertained for a haircut!
Remember, though, limiting screen time is about finding balance. If you can do the whole haircut with no screens, great!
And if you go half and half with activities and screen time, that’s great, too – you’ve still limited your toddler’s screen time!