There's more to keeping kids clean and well groomed than just a nightly bath. Their fingernails need trimming, their hands are constantly dirty, and then there's the hair. Kids' hair is such a defining feature, of course you want it to look nice -- but what toddler wants to sit still to have his hair brushed, much less cut? Here's a guide to these hair-raising issues (just kidding -- with our tips, they're no big deal!) and more.
How often should you shampoo? A daily bath is fine if it's part of your regular routine, but your child doesn't need a shampoo every day, according to Cozy Friedman, founder of Cozy's Cuts for Kids in New York City and creator of So Cozy hair products. Shampooing twice a week, three times max, is adequate. More than that, and hair may become limp and flat.
Another common mistake: using too much shampoo. A nickel-size dollop is enough. If your child's hair is getting tangled or becoming dry, it could be time to switch shampoos. Older children may have different hair needs, requiring products with moisturizer or conditioner.
Washing hands regularly is an important habit to instill in kids -- not only does it keep them clean, but it prevents kids from getting sick. To help your child do it right -- and not just go through the motions -- make the process as easy as you can.
Many parents love the look of a little girl with pierced ears. Most pediatricians would prefer that kids not wear earrings until they're 3 or 4 because they're a choking hazard, says Sarah Dumond, MD, a pediatrician in Charlotte, North Carolina. "But for many, it's a cultural tradition."
If you choose to pierce baby's ears, wait until she's at least 6 months. "If a baby under 1 month gets a fever resulting from an infection, a series of invasive tests is required," says Dr. Dumond. Ask your doctor if her office does ear piercing -- many do. "The places in the mall have to meet health standards, but they may not be skilled at dealing with squirmy babies," Dr. Dumond says.
It's nerve-racking clipping a baby's nails, but don't put it off. A newborn's nails grow quickly, and he'll scratch himself if you let his nails get too long. Try trimming right after a bath when nails are soft or when baby is sleeping. One person should hold the baby while the other one cuts.
Use rounded nail scissors or baby nail clippers. Trim the nail in a curved fashion that follows the nail's shape. Press the tip of the finger back to avoid cutting the skin. Too scary? Use an emery board to file nails instead of cutting.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, August 2005.