How to Teach Your Children Hair Washing

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on October 04, 2022
4 min read

As they grow, there will come a time when you need to teach your children hair washing. This time could come earlier than you expect, especially if your child is in a stage where they are seeking to forge their independence. 

When you are ready to teach your children hair washing, take them through the process step by step.

  • Get the hair and scalp wet. You can do this by pouring warm water over their heads or gently dunking your child back in the water. Some kids absolutely hate this part, so be gentle and have a towel ready to dry their eyes. 
  • Put the shampoo in your child’s hand. Most children only need about a quarter-sized drop of shampoo. Put this amount in their hands so they can see how much they need. The first few times you let them wash their hair independently, you may want to check to be sure they aren’t using too much or too little.
  • Show your child how to massage the shampoo into their scalp. Shampoo is really meant to clean the scalp, not necessarily the hair. Some kids may just slap the shampoo onto their heads, so show them how to get the entire scalp.
  • Rinse the hair to remove shampoo and dirt. For some children, the hardest part of washing their own hair may be rinsing. Show them how to use water to get the suds out. The first few times they wash their hair on their own, you may want to double-check to be sure there isn’t any soap left.
  • Cover hair with a towel. After your child washes their hair, help them absorb water with a towel. Try to avoid rubbing the towel on the hair, though, as this may cause the hair to break.

If your child enjoys playing with dolls, you could have them practice on a doll a few times before letting them wash their own hair.

Of course, you shouldn’t get ahead of yourself if your child isn’t ready to handle their own hair care. Toddlers in particular can be notoriously fickle. They may love washing their hair one day and hate it the next. If they’re tired or grumpy, hair washing can become a hair-raising experience. 

It may not be possible to wash their hair without any crying at all, but keeping yourself calm, being gentle, and trying to make things fun will help things go a little smoother. Try a few of these methods to help make hair washing more relaxing and fun:

  • Sings songs 
  • Use a fun toy or bucket to rinse your child’s hair
  • Give your child things to play with, such as toys or bath colors
  • Use a mirror and make funny shapes with their sudsy hair
  • Play a silly game

Some products, like shampoo rinsing cups and shampoo shields, help keep water out of your child’s eyes when you are rinsing out their hair. Shampoos listed as “no-tears” are specially designed not to sting or injure your child’s eyes.

The hair washing frequency for your child will depend on several factors, including:

  • Age. Toddlers often need less washing than older kids, whereas kids hitting puberty will often need to increase their hair-washing frequency.
  • Activity. Kids who are in athletics or spending a lot of time outside will need to wash their hair more frequently.
  • Climate and weather. Kids in dryer climates may not need to wash their hair as frequently as children in more humid climates. Dryer winter weather may also allow you to cut down on how frequently your child washes their hair.
  • Hair type. Your child’s hair type can play a big part in how often their hair needs washing. Children with dry or curly hair should not wash their hair as frequently as children with oily or straight hair.

Here are some potential ranges:

Every 7-10 days. Children that need to wash their hair at most every 7-10 days may include children with dry, curly, or African-American hair. This includes children with weaves or braids.

Once or twice a week. Kids age 11 and under often only need to wash their hair once or twice a week.

Every other day or daily. Kids who should wash their hair multiple times a week include:

  • Kids aged 12 and up
  • Kids younger than 12 who have started puberty
  • Kids with oily or straight hair
  • Kids who are active in sports or who have been playing outside or swimming

Dandruff is a very common condition in which excess skin flakes from the scalp. It’s often caused by a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is the same condition that causes cradle cap in infants.

It’s unclear what causes seborrheic dermatitis. It’s not contagious, but it can be made worse by factors like stress, autoimmune disease, and even changing weather.

Seborrheic dermatitis isn’t dangerous to your child’s health, but it can be irritating and unsightly. To manage your child’s dandruff:

  • Brush hair before washing to help loosen flakes.
  • Use a gentle shampoo daily until flakes subside.
  • If your child’s scalp is red and irritated or the skin flakes are greasy, use an anti-dandruff shampoo with selenium sulfide. Check the instructions, as you often need to let this type of shampoo sit for a few minutes before rinsing.
  • If the medicated shampoo doesn’t work, check with your pediatrician.

Teaching your kids how to take care of their hair when they’re young will help them maintain healthy hair habits as they get older. The specific hair care tips your child needs will depend on their hair type, but general child hair care tips include:

  • Use a wide-tooth comb to comb wet hair.
  • Keep braids and ponytails from being too tight.
  • Use rubber bands with a coating or covering to prevent snags and breakage.
  • If styling with heat is necessary, use a low setting.
  • Avoid using chemical treatments like dyes and relaxers too often.