How To Cut Kids' Hair At Home: Easy Tips From Stylists, Depending On Hair Length

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Mother Trimming Her Son's Hair at Home During Quarantine

Image by Cameron Whitman / Stocksy

Parents have taken on more than a few roles to help give their children some semblance of normalcy during the pandemic (they've become teachers and playmates, all while juggling their own professional and financial responsibilities). Add this to the growing roster: hairstylist. 

While cutting your own hair is surely no easy feat, becoming someone else's hairdresser is a little more high stakes—especially if your little one is a bit fidgety to begin with. No fear: To help rid your child of stringy ends and too-long bangs, we chatted with stylists about how to cut kids' hair the most efficient way possible. Prepare to impress with your impromptu barbershop skills. 

How to cut kids' hair: the basics. 

First things first: Do not try to reinvent the wheel here. In other words, stick to a basic trim, rather than giving your child a whole new look. After all, "We've all had our traumatic childhood haircut stories!" shares celebrity hairstylist and Biolage brand ambassador Sunnie Brook. Case in point: the simple, yet mortifying bowl-shaped haircut your parents might have attempted during your youth. Shudder. That said, mind these few quick pointers before getting started:

  • Be sure to cut hair that is clean and dry. That way, you'll be able to see how short you really want to go. "Wet hair lies," Brook has told us about cutting your own hair
  • Either let your child's hair air dry if they have wavy or curly hair, or blow-dry it smooth if they have thick, straight locks. You want to see the shape of the hair in its natural state before going at it with shears.  
  • Grab a comb (preferably one with wide and fine teeth), a clip or scrunchie to section the hair, some fine-point scissors (or clippers), and a towel for cleanup before plopping your kid down in the makeshift salon chair. You'll want to have all your tools at the ready to make it a quick and seamless process.

Now that you've got the basics down, here's what you need to know to give your child a much-needed trim, depending on hair length:

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For medium to long hair:

An important tip for cutting longer hair: "Have them tilt their head down to their chest," says Brook. "By tilting their head forward, you will be able to properly trim the underneath length." 

Grab the bottom section of hair, clipping off the rest on the top of the head. Make sure all the hairs around the nape of the neck are combed out, then cut in a straight line, explains celebrity colorist George Papanikolas. Use that first section of hair as a guide, taking the next section out of the clip and laying it over the first before cutting. "Working with smaller sections makes it easier and reduces the chances for choppiness," Papanikolas says. Keep going until you get to the last section at the top. 

For a more textured cut, try twisting the pieces of hair before trimming them. "This gives a softer and more forgiving finish to the ends," Brook mentions. An important tip, especially if this is your first go at a DIY trim: Any mistakes can easily hide within a tousled mane of hair, whereas an uneven edge can be rather glaring on a blunt cut. 

For short hair:

If you're cutting shorter hair (say, chin-length), Brook recommends using a wide-tooth comb to brush the hair down before trimming. You'll also want to let the hair hang naturally, rather than holding it taut between your fingers. Especially for that bit of hair that tends to curl around the ears: "If you put too much tension on the hair, it will bounce up and be shorter than the back area," Brook says. 

To trim those short bobs, either cut in a straight line or point cut the ends vertically (again, for a more tousled look).  

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For boys hair:

Boys tend to have a short, clippered, or layered cut, which makes the task a little more difficult, especially if you're hoping for a fade. "These are the most challenging technically," says Brook. To make the job a little easier, be sure to use a clipper with longer guards (the shorter guard you use, the more precise the cut will need to be, says Papanikolas). He recommends a guard of two or higher if you're new to the DIY haircut game. "The longer guard length is more forgiving on mistakes and imperfect blending," he says. 

For the top, feel free to grab the scissors. Papanikolas recommends lifting the hair at 90-degree angles for a softer cut. He also mentions that boys' hair is typically longer in the front than it is in the back, so keep that in mind when you're snipping away. 

For bangs:

As a general guide, you'll want the bangs to end at the high points of the brows. Whether you want a blunt or tapered edge, just section the hair into small triangles with a clip, hold the first section of hair between your fingers, and cut to the length you like. Use that first section as a guide for how short you want to go, and keep it even with the following triangles. After shearing to the desired length, you can point cut into the bang to create a softer line, or just keep the blunt edge as-is. 

Just be sure to go slowly; with bangs, one foul snip can run the risk of the aforementioned traumatic trim. If you're facing any apprehension, just keep them long: "Longer is always better when doing it at home," says Nelson Vercher, senior stylist at Rita Hazan. 

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The bottom line.

If it still sounds too daunting, you can always watch a few how-to videos online or contact your hairdresser for tips—just be sure to compensate them for their time. Again, we emphasize, this is not the time to give your child the layers or long bob they've always wished for, but for a routine tuneup, you can certainly play barber for the day. Just keep it simple, trimming only the split, frayed ends to keep from butchering the style. It should be basic enough to where your child might not even notice the change—with no haircut horror stories to follow.

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