Need Ideas for Managing My Toddler's Hair

Updated on June 26, 2010
C.D. asks from Eugene, OR
24 answers

Hi mamas-
I am hoping for some advice on how to manage the hair of my 2 1/2 year old daughter. She apparently inherited her hair from her daddy and his family. It's curly, but not ringlets, and is very fine. She seems to still be growing out some baby hair, so while it is mostly just past her shoulders, I can't put it all back in a pony tail or pig tails yet. I never know what her hair will be like each morning. Some mornings it is relatively straight, other mornings it has a nice curl to it. Most mornings lately, however, she wakes up with a head of tangles and if I brush it so i can put it back and out of her face, it becomes a total frizz ball and looks ridiculous!

My daughter is pretty high maintenance-demanding, stubborn, spirited and often fussy. (Love her to bits nonetheless!) She hates when I brush her hair and try to put it up in pony tails or barrettes. I have to bribe her with candy in order to get her to sit still long enough for me to do something with it. i usually end up with cock-eyed pigtails or a barrette off to the side that falls out in an hour.

Essentially I have two or three questions-With curly hair like hers, how should I manage it in regards to shampooing, brushing, and putting it up every day? Are there certain products you recommend? And how can I get her to tolerate the hair routine in the morning without having to bribe her with candy. What do you mama's with curly haired toddlers do?

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answers from Los Angeles on

You should aslo try the J&J pruduct for tagle hair it really works. My 9mth old baby has thin but wavy hair. It used to get tangle(it look like if he had gum stuck in his hair) I started using the J&J sham/condit and the spray for tangles it works like a CHARM.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

my boys are the same very fine hair like daddy...
but a friend of mine told me about tomato soap by grissi will get impressive how the hair grows...amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
you can get it online
good luck...sorry I forgot to add that when you used the soap live it for afew minutes and you can watch after she plays for a little bit , and also the soap is not tear free so just carefull with her eyes.......
the soap besides growing is going to be shinny



answers from Portland on

I would cut it with a cute no nonsense cut but a cute cut. Maybe a hair dresser can help you.


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answers from Seattle on

Assuming Caucasian Curls:

1- That frizz ball makes me think she may actually have ringlets ((ringlets require product... or drying at the speed of a snail WITHOUT any movement, so that they dry together instead of "every hair for itself" (what our grandmothers with curls would do if they didn't use product...and they frequently DID use product: creams/ oils/ etc... was to tie their hair in rags, which slowed drying and protected the curl while it dried)...otherwise you have Mel-Gibson-In-Braveheart to Wild Woman of Borneo type hair.))

2. Don't brush curls dry. You can brush baby curls dry, but as soon as they lose the baby hair the texture makes it "every hair for itself" aka frizz. Curly hair is also bonded differently than straight hair (hydrogen bonds instead of linking the proteins in a straight line do zig zags). So straight hair breaks like crazy if you brush it wet. Curly hair breaks like crazy if you brush it dry. So instead... in the morning... try a bath. You don't have to wash her hair, but DO put conditioner in it and brush it THEN when it's wet AND has conditioner in it.

2 .a. After you rinse out the conditioner squeeze it less wet, or pat it dry with a towel. Don't rub. And avoid brushing it, although you can to make a part, as long as the hair is wet enough AND you "reform" the curls that you just brushed away.

2b. Put "product" in it wet. It can be as simple as saturating it with no-more-tangles (literally, until it's dripping) if she's got a "weak" curl pattern... or using mousse or gel if she has a "strong" curl pattern. Weak & Strong is used to describe how easily the curl is manipulated. My sister has ringlets, but they're weak. I have ringlets but they're strong. ((Incidentally, I'm out of product, and it was hot so I didn't blow my hair out straight... so right now I've got a puff ball in a pony tail... not total frizz... 'cause I didn't brush it... but the curls aren't glossy, distinct, or crisp... just very very fluffy and very very tangled. Like a bad 80's perm. AKA my hair without product. Toss in some gel or mouse, and instead they'll be Nicole Kidman curls. Toss in EXPENSIVE product, and I'd actually be able to run my fingers through my curls)). My suspicion, since you said her hair goes straight sometimes, is that she has a weak curl pattern. My sister's goes straight if she sleeps on it and sweats (aka from the pressure of her head and the water)... for my hair to go straight I have to blow it out with high heat ($80 hair dryer), tension (I have to literally pull it straight as it's being blown out... using 1 of 2 special brushes) and then go over it all with a straightening iron.

3. If you want her hair to be straight... you'll probably need to blow it out. Again... if it goes straight sometimes anyway... it'll probably be easy. You have to keep brushing it (preferably with a boar bristle brush) as you're drying it. A little squirt of heat & humidity protecter/ straightening schtuff will help (see below), and will keep it straight longer. Remember the hydrogen bonds will revert to their natural state if exposed to water. So if it's humid or she sweats (or the moment you wash her hair) the bonds revert to curls. You have to chemically straighten her hair to keep those bonds straight permanently. So don't be afraid of "killing" the curl. You can't on accident. Sigh. Trust me. You can't. ((I have to pay $200 just to get my hair relaxed chemically... to get it straightened chemically I'd have to pay $700... even then, it grows out))

The products I recommend: (not to all be used together obviously, just good ones I've found over the years)

- Any shampoo that ISN'T pantene (the vitamins build up in the ridge in curly hair making it dry, easily breakable, and funky feeling) AND is very gentle. Everyday use type shampoos.
- THICK conditioner (some inexpensive ones would be Tres Seme, Garnier Fructis, etc... expensive ones aren't needed at this age but would include Aveda & Kerastase)

$ - No more tangles (weak curl pattern)

$ - LA Looks Blue (weak) $, takes forever to dry leave hair crunchy
$ - LA Looks Pink (strong) $, takes forever to dry leave hair crunchy
$$$ - Prive (weak) dries fast, leaves curls soft & glossy
$$$$$$ - Prive + Laminates (strong) dries fast, leaves curls soft & glossy
$$$ - Bumble & Bumble Get Straight (weak... don't make hair stright, btw), dries medium, leaves curls soft & glossy
$$$$$$- Bumble & Bumble Get Straight + B&B Grooming Cream (strong) dries medium, leaves curls soft & glossy

$ - Garnier Fructis Springing Curls - Dries fast, leaves curls glossy & crisp
$ - Aussie Curls - Dries fast, leaves curls glossy & crisp in dry weather, but get sticky feeling in humidity

(for drying straight)

$$ Paul Mitch Super Skinny
$$$ Kerastase Oleo Relax

I realize this is a lot of info. It's quick and easy though.
- Brush with conditioner when wet
- Soak with product
- Air dry or gentle blow dry (why bother with the dryer in the summer though?)
- Don't sleep on wet hair unless it's styled, pinned or braided AND in a " 'do rag"

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My daughter doesn't have curly hair, but here's a suggestion as far as getting pulled back off her face.
Try little topsy-tails. You just take a small amount of hair (a little more than you might put in a clip, etc.) and make a ponytail with it. Use those tiny clear rubberbands, not the "regular" kind as they're too bulky. When you make the ponytail, don't make it tight against her head - put the rubberband about an inch or so away from her scalp. Then make a part in the ponytail between the rubber band and her scalp, and tuck the ponytailed hair through it. Then tighten the ponytail like you would a "regular" ponytail that was loosening up. It sounds time consuming, but it's really not. (Try YouTube, there's probably a video.) With my daughter, the topsy tails will sometimes stay in for up to 3 days, so then I don't have to try to fix her hair as often. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

stop using baby shampoo. it dries out curls and makes it frizz. Its time to go to sally's. Start with some Pink Lotion for hair. Gotta use products for black girls hair. My sisters girls all got their daddys hair too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

sounds a lot like my hair as a child and my daughter's....

Products: Shampooing everyday is not necessary. I use regular shampoo for my daughter, on occasion I use curly hair shampoo/product which gives it good body when air drying. If her hair is very fine, conditioner will weigh it down, and might even pull down the curl. If her hair is more on the course side, conditioner might be needed if it gets dry. I use detangler if it is very tangled.

Don't go to bed with wet hair. Dry it before going to bed.

Use a soft brush. Brush don't comb. Only use the comb as needed to part.

Brush...gently. Or work through it with your fingers gently until a brush will go through it.
If she gets a knot, and the hair is long enough hold it above the knot you are trying to comb out.
Recognize that it hurts to have a knot in you hair. It sometimes hurts to have your hair brushed and combed out even without a not.
I remember crying having my hair combed. My daughter hates the comb. Soft brush Mommy!!!

When wet you can use a little product and work through it with your fingers or a pick, the kind with wide teeth, not the thin teeth ones you use for teasing.

Don't try to secure the hair with the pony tail holders that are made of that cloth like elastic. Get the elastic ones, they come in packets of hundreds, there little and you can make a lot of little holds. They are also disposable, if the get stuck in the hair they can be snipped out without pulling on the hair.
(you'll be able to use the other style pony holders later, when her hair has more fully grown in)

To secure the hair with barretts use the kind that snap, the drug store barretts that are plastic and snap. The come in packages with every color imaginable and different designs. You can use the ones that open and clamp on the hair for style, but they will not hold the hair firmly enough.

If the hair is not long enough to fit back into one pony tail or two side "pig" tails, pull the top back and make a top pony, and then make a low pony if the back hair is long enough. Or pull back small chunks of the front hair and tie them together and then work them into the back. OR secure the front parts with baretts and then part the hair down the middle in back and make two pig tails behind the front barretted hair. Be creative. Braid the front hair down the side and pull the back into a pony.

When I was older I slept with braids in my hair to prevent tangling, but they won't stay in toddler hair.

DO NOT cut her hair just to manage it. True, shorter is easier and less painful, but I still remember feeling robbed of my curls when my mother cut my hair for a trip to make styling easy. SHORT.

DO cut her hair to help style it. If it has grown in so the lengths are awkward or parts are curly other parts are straight. Go to a stylist who can even it out.

Sitting to have your hair done.... this is a tricky one. Get fast at a few styles and since they have to be done every day make fixing the hair as routine as putting on your shirt. I imagine this is the same issue regardless of hair type?

Don't let her hate her hair.

I hated my hair for years because it was not straight, nor did it have the curl I want. As an adult, I suppose my hair would be considered wavy. But the fine texture makes it fly away. If I try to "curl" it, I can end up like a poof ball. BUT there are many GOOD things about this hair type. I have TONS of hair. I can wear my hair curly or straight. I can wear it short or long in many styles and it adapts. Overall, I like my hair and am glad my daughter's hair is similar, though I do hope her curl is more pronounced and her hair gets courser as she gets older:)

I love styling my little girl's hair, and if you focus on how cute they look in their pig tails, ponies, ringlets, and can be fun!

PS i have a girl friend whose daughter has curly hair and won't wear clips or ponies, she wets it and lets it dry in bouncy ringlets. I think she adds curl cream on occasion. It is gorgeous hair and never falls in the girl's face. So try the wetting method and styling might not be an issue for you at all!

BTW: This doesn't work for us, my daughter looks like Jane of the jungle if I don't style her hair every day, actually often two or three times a day!



answers from Portland on

My granddaughter has curly hair. When she was a toddler her mother used the No More Tangles product. I don't remember at what age she discovered that if she just sprayed her hair with water and ran her fingers thru it the curls took shape. I don't remember anyone using a brush on her hair until she was 4 or so when her hair was down her back. She's 10 now and usually does her own hair. She sprays it until it's wet and brushes it. That's all and it's beautiful.

Riley J. has given you wonderful information. Her description for Caucasian hair fits my granddaughter's hair and her father is black. (is that pc? I can't keep up) Her mother is Mediterranean and it also fits her hair.



answers from Seattle on

Sounds like me when I was a child.

Use a good shampoo on her hair.
Always use conditioner when you shampoo her hair.

If it is like mine, as she gets older, it will straighten out, so treasure those curls, and take lots of pictures.



answers from Seattle on

I have a friend with a toddler of the same hair kind, and I am blessed with the very same hair, too (although my children's hair is straight). The best thing? Use a little water as you brush it out. The tangles, if her hair is fine and thin, will likely lessen as she gets older (now I rarely have any).

Once you brush, I recommend a little water. If her hair is like mine, it will curl up naturally, and then I would resist the urge to pull it into pigtails. The more I pull my own, the more easily it is damaged. Perhaps a gentle barrette is all that is needed, up top, to keep the hair out of her face and looking a little neater. Maybe a headband? What would she like to have in her hair? If she picks it out at the store, and you ensure it will be comfortable on her head all day, you might be able to find something that works for both of you.

Once she's older, a small amount of gel worked into her damp or wet hair would keep everything from frizzing. I use stuff specifically intended for curly hair. The main thing is to keep the brushing as pleasant as possible. Getting the No More Tangles spray might be a good way to do that, too.

Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

I sit my daughter in front of the TV while I do her hair. She used to give me a hard time about doing her hair, but she does not do that now because she knows that she doesn't have that option, its getting done no matter what. The more you practice with her hair the better it will look and the easier it will become.

My daughter does not have curly hair, but I do, and I can say that you will have to use some styling creme or mousse in it while its wet if you want defined curls and no frizz. Going to bed with even a damp head of hair is a complete no no, you really never know what you'll get when she wakes up in the morning!! Blow drying her hair is a toss up, maybe it will work for you guys depending on how wavy her hair actually is and maybe not. It may be that doing this after washing solves the problem.



answers from Seattle on

I'm a curly haired mama and was a curly haired todder with loose fine curls like your daughter. Please don't battle with her about her hair. It will have a lasting impact. As for maintenance of curly hair, don't brush it at all after it dries. My suggestion is to gently brush out the tangles each morning and then get it wet. 2 days a week, use shampoo, every other day just use a little conditioner. After it's been wet, finger style.



answers from Albany on

Personally I swear by the Arbonne Baby Care line. They have a body wash/shampoo combined and it is gentle and botanically based. Then I use their BEfore Sun Hair Protectant. It contains an SPF to protect your hair in the sun but it is a GREAT detangler! I use it on my own hair which is long and my sons, one of whom has curly hair. :)

I almost forgot!! Don't use a brush or even a comb. Instead, get a pick...the things people use on perms!! That works best when there are tangles and curls and keeps the curls from losing too much shape.



answers from Portland on

I haven't figured out how to get my daughter to sit still to do her hair either, so I can't help you there. I do know that detangler sprays do help and also if she uses a pillow, get her one made out of silk or satin. It works wonders for keeping the hair from getting tangled as she's rolling around at night. You could try silk sheets, though I'm afraid that you may have her slipping out of bed every night. :) Good luck,



answers from Seattle on

My daughter (5 years old) did not have shoulder length hair until she was nearly 4 and it is likewise curly and fine and she is STILL growing in baby hair. I have never insisted on trying to get it pulled back into barrettes or pony/pig tails. She also does not like sitting/standing still for very long to have her hair brushed (and then something done to it), so I just haven't made the extra deal of pulling back too - plus, as you say, even when I do it is all undone within an hour or two (though she has worn a ponytail all day a few times this year to school). That's where I would start - be more relaxed about her hair and don't insist on always pulling it back. It might also hurt her head to have it pulled back - I had that problem (and still do) where I couldn't have my hair pulled back all day or I'd get a headache, so I never really wore it pulled back.

As far as managing the hair, she's still a little young to be using conditioner on her hair, but Aveeno makes a very gentle shampoo and I also have just started using Suave kids shampoo that has some conditioner in it (it's also VERY inexpensive, which is nice, and it has a nice smell too). That helps, but the really big problem is that because of how she sleeps, my daughter usually has a bird's nest of hair in the mornings. I find that LIBERALLY spraying some J&J detangler on it before I start trying to brush it helps a lot - virtually no pulling and takes much less time to actually brush the hair!

Good luck!


answers from Eugene on

You are speaking of the kind of hair I have.
A- no products. Nothing helps and you just might set her up for allergies due to the scents and the ingredients in the product.
B- As a young child my mother cut my hair to no avail. Short it was wilder.
C- Let it grow long which it will in a year. Braid it before bedtime. That kind of hair won't hold a braid for long but it won't tangle when braided. Then it'll be easy to comb in the morning.
D- Her hair will thicken. Do not thin it. If she is a blonde the individual hairs will remain thin and there will be a huge number of them. If she has dark hair the individual stands will be thicker and so her hair will be bushy. In this case braid it for school.
Her hair is a reflection of her mood.
E- I use only natural shampoo and conditioner made by a company called Giovanni available at health food stores. The conditioner does help keep the bushy quality down for a few days.



answers from Portland on

My sister's toddler has very curly hair. You can't brush it be ause it becomes a giant frizz ball. You need to wet it completely each morning, work out the tangles while wet, and then scrunch back to cute curls and leave it alone. If you need it out of her eyes, then do a half pony tail on the top or even divide the top half into pigtails and leave the bottom down. Be sure to only do it wet though and rescrunch when you are done. If it gets messed up after nap or whatever, you can just rewet it. That should be enough for baby fine hair, but later on down the line, you may need to add mouse while it is wet to keep it from frizzing when it dries.



answers from Austin on

My daughter has wavy, thin hair and every since she was 1 1/2 years old I've used California Baby Tea Tree & Lavender Shampoo and Body Wash ($11), L'OCCITANE en Provence conditioner ($16, just enough to cover the ends of her hair so one bottle lasts for several months). Also, I use a wide tooth wooden comb to comb the conditioner in and for combing her hair in the morning. If I use a brush, I use a wooden bristle brush. I don't wash her hair everyday - instead I wash it every couple of days as I find her hair more manageable on the second day.

The above items are not cheap however, my DD's cousin (5 months apart) has even curlier hair and is really thick. Her Dad has always had trouble brushing her hair and getting the tangles out. He finally let me help him and I used the L'OCCITANE and wide tooth comb and she was happy. He even noticed how much easier it was to work out the tangles, keep them out and fix her hair. She hated having her hair fixed because he used a boar bristle brush that would pull her hair (making it a painful event) and made her hair extremely frizzy. I plan on getting him/her a nice wooden wide tooth comb and shampoo/conditioner for her birthday =)



answers from Portland on

I got it cut into an A-line bob. It's been wonderful, easy to take care of and no issues with brushing, ponytails, etc. I took her to Little Clippers in Lake Oswego (just off of 1-5 and Kruse Way) and they did a great job. I know a lot of people have a hang up about little girls and long hair but seriously, is it really worth all the hassle? We get compliments all.the.time and I have had several Moms ask me where we got it cut. My 2.5yr old daughter looks SO much cuter with the short cut than she did with longer straggly, unkempt hair. She can have it long when she gets older and is more able to help take care of it. I will say it was a hard sell to my husband since men seem to have an even bigger hang up about little girls and long hair, but even he agrees that now it looks much better.



answers from Portland on

My daughter's hair wasn't super curly, just wavy, and super fine. Her hair would frizz and tangle from sleeping and the car seat. I used a spray in detangler and that did wonders. I could spray it in, comb/brush it and scrunch it for curls or comb it back out of her face. She would just scream if I didn't use the detangler. I picked up a bottle of Paul Mitchell, Kids version Taming Spray at the kids hair cut place. It was great and they had a large bottle. Once we were done with the bottle, the timing worked out that her hair had grown in and wasn't getting tangled as badly.



answers from Seattle on

Only thing I can weigh in on is the getting them to sit while doing the hair. I do it when she is in her highchair/booster during or right after she eats breakfast - makes it harder for her to sqirm. Throughout the years I have done different things not so much as a 'bribe' but trying to make it more pleasnt - crayons/drawing, giving her the vitamin she loves, etc. I also use hair detangler on particularly bad days. I use those very small plasticy rubberbands too, which stay in longer. Good luck - best thing for my 'spirited' kid on these things is to do the same routine everyday that way it just becomes habit and, eventually, less of a struggle. Hang in there! Good luck!!!



answers from Portland on

From what I've been reading about curly hair it is best not shampooed! I know that sounds crazy, but from what I've gleaned, shampoos and conditioners leave stuff in our hair that collects dirt and oil. If you don't use them, normal hair/scalp will take care of itself. Doesn't work for everyone, but a lot of people swear by it.

It takes a while for hair to correct itself, but I think you could start it pretty easily with a little one.

Good luck! I love curly hair, wish mine were!



answers from Portland on

My daughters have straight hair, so I can't help you there.
For sitting still, we let our youngest watch her favorite cartoon while she gets her hair done. We save that special cartoon for hair-doing time. Because it is the only time she gets to watch the cartoon, she now asks me to do her hair!



answers from Denver on

My daughter's is similar. We use spray detangler - Target brand works well. I try to trim it - if you are going to keep it long - to avoid some of the tangles. My daughters can get almost matted it's so fine!!! We also give her her gummy vitamins (2) when we brush - she thinks they are candy. Finally, if it's too much work/trouble, just cut it shorter... good luck

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