Ask any stylist and they'll tell you cutting kids' hair is easy—once you've learned every last trick in the book for helping them stay still and safe in your styling chair. Ivan Zoot, education and training manager at Andis, has added loads of tricks to his already bulging bag by listening to ideas from his audiences during his many presentations on kids' cuts at styling shows throughout the United States. Here are some of his favorite tips for transforming kids' cuts from an adventure in babysitting to fun and games:
Haircuts should spell fun, not fear, for the younger set.
- If possible, get rid of Mom and Dad. "Let the parents know that they can tell us what they want in a haircut, but not how to get it," advises Zoot. "Phrases like 'Billy doesn't like the clipper' aren't helpful to anyone." However you do it—posting a sign such as "persons are not allowed in the cutting area unless they are receiving services" or offering the adult $1 to go buy a soft drink—it's important to get them out of the equation.
- Watch your language. Don't use the word "cut": That implies pain, says Zoot. "Stay positive," he suggests. "Tell them, 'We're going to make your hair look nice so you'll look even more handsome/even prettier.' Never say something like, 'Don't be afraid.' Once you bring in the idea of fear, they will be afraid."
- Talk the talk. It's important to talk to children, just as you talk to adults. This helps distract them. Ask about their interests. "One of my 9-year-old clients said he liked Nintendo games," Zoot says. "I know nothing about them, but I kept asking him questions. When I finished, he jumped out of the chair and told his mother, 'Ivan is so cool! He knows everything about Nintendo!'"
- Keep a steady head. To help kids keep their heads in position, Zoot recommends keeping a supply of Matchbox cars on hand; have the child pick one out, telling him that if he holds it under his chin during the entire haircut, he gets to keep the car. A great way to keep little girls occupied—and to find some use for those discontinued nail colors you have in the salon—is to provide a quick, free manicure while you clip. They'll keep their heads down and their eyes on their nail colors. "Clients are never too young to be introduced to add-on services," Zoot says, "especially when they're there with Mom. Hook 'em early!"
- Clear the ear. It can be tough to cut around the ears, but foam coffee cups offer a great solution. Place one cup over each ear and tell the child to hold them, or you can hold one cup at a time and slide it back and forth while you're cutting. The cup protects the ear, and you can maneuver the clippers easily without fear of nicking the child. It also provides a sense of security, Zoot points out, muffling the sound of the clipper by as much as 90 percent.
- Squelch the "squnch." You know the "squnch"—shoulders up, head down, tucked into the chest like a turtle. To eliminate it, turn on the clipper and rest it firmly on the shoulder near the neck. The pressure and vibration will cause the trapezius muscle to loosen and relax, and the shoulder will drop.
For more information, visit www.andis.com, or call (800) 558-9441.