I post a lot of Instagram stories about the wash day process for my nieces. They each have different hair textures, hair lengths, and hairstyle request. I don’t have any biological children yet, but my sister has four beautiful girls that she allows me to practice natural hairstyles on without hesitation. She believes I need blog content and sees this as a great opportunity to share. I do need blog content, no argument there. On the flip side though, I probably should start charging her my digital content creator hairstyling fees. These family discounts are expensive. Just kidding. I love you, sissy!
This particular wash day was with my two-year-old niece Mia Grace. Yes, ladies and gentleman, the youngster is only two. If you ask me, she’s two going on twenty-five.
I received a lot of questions in my DMs from my natural hair family asking me how on Earth do I get her to stay still for so long? Well, the truth of the matter is that I don’t. Just like many other toddlers she moves and she wiggles. I just have to adapt our wash day routine to the beat of her drum. A drum that requires me to think outside of the box, get creative, and engage with my younger self.
Mia has a set routine and a wash day appointment scheduled for once a week. Keep in mind that I used the word routine. This is something that we had to consistently practice with her week after week. I’m going to share with you four tips on how to make wash day with your toddler easier. I wish I could guarantee that each of these will work for you but I can’t. Each child is different. I can, however, drop these gems into your lap and you can see which ones work for you.
#1 Have A Plan
You can’t go into the wash day battlefield without a plan. Have a picture of the hairstyle that you want to accomplish in mind. You can gather hair inspiration on Pinterest, YouTube, or Instagram for tiny tots. It’s as simple as entering the hashtag #naturalhairkids in the search engine on any of these social media platforms. The search will generate tons of pictures so just choose one or two.
Show the picture to your little naturalista and have a conversation with them about the hairstyle. Yes, I said talk to them. Believe it or not, it is important that your toddler feels involved in their hairstyle selection. Ask them if they like the hairstyle. Allow them opportunities to provide you with feedback on the style. Kids can be brutally honest so prepare yourself for whatever commentary comes next. Explain to them that the style that they selected will take time and you will need them to be still. Remember, keep them involved in the decision-making process. Toddlers feel a sense of ownership when they get a chance to choose. I know it sounds far fetched but trust me on this one. It works! You can even use it as a reminder. Let them know that this was the hairstyle that they chose so they need to be patient as you perfect your work.
Choosing a style ahead of time will also give you a blueprint. By having the framework of the style you can prepare all of the hair products and styling tools you’ll need. Get those hair clips, rubber bands, and hairpins ready! Also, factor in which engaging materials you will need for the time length of the style selected (i.e cartoons, digital storybooks, and educational games). Choose materials that you know will capture their attention for long periods of time. Make it your business to schedule break times for your little one as well. Did you catch that? Yes, they will need multiple breaks during the wash day process but we will talk about that later.
Having a plan in place will save you tons of time. You won’t have to go searching for the things that you need and you will be mentally prepared.
#2 Make The Hair Washing Process A Comfortable One
Growing up as a kid my mom always laid us across the kitchen countertop closes to the sink to wash our hair. She did this until our little bodies could no longer fold along the edges of the counter. Following her tradition, I do the same thing for Mia.
Washing Mia’s hair in the kitchen sink is the easiest method for me. I’ve tried washing her hair during bath time but that didn’t seem to work for us. Laying her across the counter is a good fit for our wash day. Mainly for me and my back!
By washing her hair this way she is comfortable, she is in a stable position, and I am able to communicate with her. In this position, I can talk her through the shampoo process and sing her songs as I lather her hair and massage her scalp. I can also use her facial expressions as a gauge to see if the wash day experience is enjoyable for her. Think about it, if you’ve ever been to a beauty salon, how does the beautician make sure your shampoo bowl experience is a good one? Exactly.
#3 Designate A Hairstyling Area
There is a time and a place for everything under the sun is a popular saying. Wash day with your toddler should be no different. Establish a designated place where you do your toddlers hair. I style Mia’s hair in the living room of my home. I chose the living room because it has a television where she can watch cartoons and plenty of space for us to dance in during break times. Mia also has a small yellow chair in this area that we use each wash day. She knows what time it is when I grab that chair because I only use it on wash days. Having a hairstyling area is no different from having a designated area to eat and sleep. A familiar place for wash day is a good way to set up a routine with your little one. Be consistent. Make it your business to come to this designated place each wash day.
#4 Take A Break
Kids aren’t fond of sitting hours at a time. I get it. You’re probably saying, “Debra I need to finish so they need to sit.” Listen, I hear you but you need to hear me too. After all, you did come here because what you’re doing isn’t working, so just hear me out. You have to provide them with moments for movement. I plan for Mia’s break times as I stated before. Yes, I give her multiple breaks so that we have a fuss-free wash day experience.
Have you ever argued with a two-year-old? I have. I’m just being honest. At times I forgot for a second that I’m the adult when she gets started with her Gerber lingo. Honey, I make sure that sister girl gets a break. We both benefit from it at the end of the day.
I normally provide Mia with a total of three breaks. Break number one is during the deep conditioning process. I apply the deep conditioner to Mia’s hair and seal the deal with a plastic cap. At this time Mia is free to roam and tell Alexa what to do. We normally sing “Baby Shark” three times and dance around the living room for about fifteen minutes. I set a timer so that Mia knows when her break time is up. This break time will give the deep conditioner enough time to settle in and make her curls manageable. During this time I also clean up. As Mia is moving her little hips and spinning in circles, I take this time to prepare for phase two of wash day; the detangling process.
The second break is taken after the detangling process. I normally hear the “OUCH, THAT HURTS!” phrase during this time. I try my best to make the detangle game a bittersweet one, but sometimes those single strand knots get in the way. During the detangling process, I section off the hair based on the style. I use hair clips to separate the sections I’m going to twist. By mapping out the style, I save a lot of time. This normally takes a while so afterward I insert another break. The second break is different from the first break. This break is my favorite one, SNACK TIME! Sorry I love to eat. Incorporating a snack into this break is a great distraction as well. While they’re munching you can get a lot done because they’re focused on what they’re eating. Take full advantage of this break.
The third break is totally up to you. It’s your call! Rule of thumb, the longer you have them sit the more gracious you should be about giving them a break, especially if they’re not giving you a hard time. You can tell when your toddler needs to have a pinch of hair freedom. I’ll admit Mia will sit and get her hair styled as long as she’s entertained. Mainly because I’ve been styling her hair before she could talk. We have an established routine. However, there are those moments when she gets antsy and has to get up and randomly go to the potty. I give her those mini-breaks, but I do limit these breaks to about one or two minutes. I can’t give little mama too many breaks because we’ll never get done, but I do incorporate at least three.
Wash day with a toddler is no walk in the park. The bottom line is that you have to establish a wash day routine. Using these four tips should help you get there.
Do you have some go-to tips for wash day with your toddler? I would love to hear them, and I’m sure someone out there could use your wash day advice as well. Please leave a comment below and share.
Peace, Love, and Curls