Toddler behaviour

"I cut my hair"

Curb your child's urge to play hairdresser

By Holly Bennett
"I cut my hair"

It’s amazing what you can do with a small pair of plastic craft scissors.

Lindsay Deboon, a stylist at Northland Beaners Fun Cuts for Kids in Calgary, says she didn’t even think they were sharp enough to cut hair — until a very upset mom brought in a little girl who used to have hair past her shoulders.

“She had cut it in the back, randomly, so short it looked like clippers had done it,” remembers Deboon. “So she had random bald spots all over her head.”

When hair is cut that short, Deboon says, “there are not a lot of options. We gave her a cute little pixie cut, gave her sparkles, and she was happy.”

Deboon doesn’t often see such a drastic case, but she says many preschoolers take a crack at cutting their own hair. “They often take a couple of snips out of the bangs or sides — those are easiest to grasp.”

Like so many other odd but typical childhood behaviours, this one reveals a surprising amount about a child’s development, says Erin Cameron, professor of early childhood education at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont. She’s had lots of chances to think about it: Her own daughter tried seven different times!

There can be lots of “reasons” kids cut their hair, she points out — from actually pretending to be a hairdresser to bangs falling in their eyes and bugging them. One time an older girl encouraged Cameron’s daughter to cut her hair at the roots to make it “spiky.”

But beyond that, there’s the appeal of the act itself. “They’ve mastered the fine-motor skills that allow them to use scissors, and they want to see what else the scissors work on,” explains Cameron. Ah, that crisp-crunchy sound of blades shearing through hair! It’s heady stuff. “And they’re at an age when they’re ready to take initiative, do things on their own, explore cause and effect. But they’re not quite at the point where they can predict what the effect is going to be!”

Happily, this stage is fairly short-lived. “Usually by five or six, they stop,” says Cameron.

In the meantime, Deboon suggests parents not try to repair the damage themselves. “Just use hairspray or clips for the time being until you can come into the salon. A little snip in the front can be easily hidden when a stylist uses the right techniques. There’s always a solution.”

Oh, and take a photo. Those bald spots will be day.

Scissor mania

Got a scissor-happy kid? Scissors do cut more than paper, and your child may be less inclined to cut her own hair if you offer her some fun and safe alternatives. (Of course, you will keep scissors out of reach and supervise their use.)

• Felt is cheap to buy, easy to cut and doesn’t fray — the perfect fabric for kids to work with. You probably want to save the big pieces for crafts, but your child might like cutting the scraps into teeny tiny bits.

• For your budding hairdresser, scrounge the yard sales for old dolls with rooted hair or Mop Top Hair Shop Playdoh sets. Just make sure your child understands before starting out that the doll’s hair, once cut, will never come back. Unlike the Mop Top Hair Shop people, who can sprout spaghetti tresses over and over...

• Your child can help you prepare green beans by snipping off each end.

• The birds will be happy to build nests with lengths of wool, cut to eight inches or so and placed in a strategic location.

This article was originally published on May 14, 2007

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