8 Tips for Managing Your Child’s Tangled Hair

Is your child’s knotted hair making bath time stressful for everyone? As parents of several young girls, we’re no strangers to managing tangled locks. Read these tried-and-true tips to find out how we keep bath time stress-free!

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Do you often find yourself exasperated, wondering, “Why does my daughter’s hair knot so easily?”

If your daughter’s hair is always tangled, bath time is probably a pretty stressful affair in your house. And trust me when I say that I know exactly what you’re going through.

All four of our daughters were born with a full head of hair (did you know your baby’s hair can be visible on an ultrasound?), and now that they’re older, they all have hair that is long, thick, wavy and prone to tangling.

None of them inherited my tight curls, which makes their hair slightly more manageable than it could have been. But we’ve still had to develop strategies to make bath time easier for everyone, especially for our two toddlers.

So if your child’s hair tangles easily and you’re struggling to untangle it without yelling or tears, this is the article for you. Not only will I be explaining how to get the knots out of your child’s hair once it’s already tangled (including for young toddler-aged kids), but I’ll also share tips on how to keep their hair from tangling in the first place!

Please note that the texture of your child’s hair will determine how effectively these tips work for you. Our children’s hair is thick and wavy, so if your child’s hair is very fine or very frizzy, it’s possible that what works for our family won’t work for yours.

But even if that’s the case, hopefully you’ll be able to pick up a few helpful tips nonetheless!

Related: DIY Hair Detangling Spray for Kids (Tear-Free!)

1. Use the Right Kind of Brush

My hair is very curly, and the only effect brushes that have on it is to make it bushy and frizzy. So when our eldest daughter was very little, we used to untangle her hair using a comb, like I do with mine.

The result was that bath time became quite unpleasant for everyone.

She spent the whole time crying about how we were pulling her hair and hurting her, and we spent the whole time pleading with her about how we had to untangle her hair, but we were being as gentle as possible and it would be over soon.

We felt like horrible parents, but what were we supposed to do? Her hair was always so tangled and we couldn’t just leave it full of knots. So when our second daughter was born with hair just as thick as her sister’s, we braced ourselves for bath time with two crying children.

Thankfully, that Christmas, my mother surprised us with a little package containing a child-sized Lil’ Wet Brush. After years of untangling my curly hair when I was a young child, she knew what we were going through with our girls and had heard that these brushes might make it easier.

We were a little skeptical at first, but it turned out to be a godsend. There’s a bit of a technique to using it, but once you figure it out, you can use it to untangle hair just as effectively as you would with a comb, but with way less pain for your child.

We love it so much that after our third daughter was born, we went on Amazon and ordered a combo pack containing another small brush as well as a bigger brush to help with our then-three-year-old’s very long hair.

And now that our two eldest daughters are four and six years old, we just ordered a double pack containing two large brushes. We love that they untangle our children’s hair painlessly and make hair washing a way more pleasant experience for everyone!

2. Start with the Tips

If you’ve been trying to untangle your child’s long hair starting with the roots, you’re fighting a losing battle. Knots can form at any length, so the higher up you start brushing, the higher the chance that the brush will get stuck on its way down.

Instead, tackle the tips first and slowly move higher up as the knots become untangled. This will make it much easier to get tangles out of your toddler’s (or older child’s) hair!

3. Style Your Child’s Hair

Does it seem like your daughter’s hair always tangled? Tackle the problem head on by keeping her hair from tangling before the knots have the chance to form!

If your child has long hair, styling it in a way that restricts its movement—particularly by braiding it—will make it less likely to tangle.

This trick works both during the day and at night time. So if your daughter always wakes up with messy, knotted hair, consider braiding it before bed time to keep it from tangling at night.

Unfortunately, our daughters always insist on wearing their hair down during the day. But if your child likes braids, it will make things that much easier when you try to brush or wash their hair!

It’s also a good idea to tie up long hair when you child is having a meal. Kids have a way of getting food everywhere when they eat (at least ours do!), and when food gets into hair, it has a tendency to create sticky, tangled messes.

So even though our daughters like to wear their hair down, we keep their favourite hair elastics on the kitchen counter so we can tie their hair up into a ponytail whenever we sit down for a meal!

4. Brush Your Child’s Hair Frequently

There’s no need to wait until bath time to remove knots from your child’s hair!

The longer you wait before untangling it, the more knots will have the chance to form. Brushing your child’s hair regularly in between baths will make it smoother and easier to untangle when bath time comes around.

Because we have four young girls at home, we’ve even made it a point to make hair-brushing part of our bedtime routine on nights when they don’t get their hair washed.

This makes it much easier to untangle on nights where we do wash their hair, because their hair never has the chance to get badly tangled or matted!

5. Use Tear-Free Conditioner on Wet Hair

Three-in-one baby body wash works well on short, fine hair, but if your child has a ton of hair like ours do, it’s probably not enough to facilitate the untangling process.

Instead, consider using two-in-one conditioning shampoo. It’s usually meant for older kids, but it works great on younger children with lots of hair. We buy ours at Walmart and each bottle costs us just a few dollars.

If you choose to do this too, just make sure you buy conditioner that’s meant for children and labeled as “tear-free”. Regular conditioner will burn if it gets into your child’s eyes!

6. Distract Your Child with Bath Toys & Activities

Our children complain a lot less when they’re distracted and having fun! Try giving your child some bath toys to focus on while you untangle their hair.

And if ever DIY activities happen to be your thing, you can even try making your own Shaving Cream Bath Paint, Homemade Bubble Bath Paint or Bubble Bath Play Dough to keep them occupied!

7. Use Detangling Spray on Dry Hair

If your child’s hair is long or thick, it probably forms knots as quickly as you can untangle them. For that reason, your child might not be thrilled about getting it brushed.

Using detangling spray on dry hair while brushing it will make the brushing process easier and way less painful for your child. And you can even save money by making your own tear-free detangling spray at home using two simple ingredients!

8. Untangle Your Child’s Hair Right Before Bath Time

My last tip is something that took us a few years to figure out, but it’s made such a huge difference that we really wish it had occurred to us sooner.

We used to leave most of the untangling for bath time. But now, instead of waiting for their hair to be wet, I take our daughters into the bathroom right before their bath and untangle their dry hair using DIY hair detangling spray and a full-sized Wet Brush Pro.

Then, we finish untangling their hair in the bathtub using kids’ conditioning shampoo—after most of the knots are already gone.

This method works great for us because it removes most of the knots using detangling spray while our children’s hair is still dry, which they find a lot less painful. Then, once they get into the bathtub, we can focus on washing their hair and removing the most stubborn knots with the help of conditioner.

This method makes hair-washing way less time-consuming and since few knots remain, we hear very little complaining. Mostly our daughters just play with their toys and let us do as we please with their hair. Everyone has been a happy camper since we started using this trick!

Have any tips on managing tangled hair that haven’t been covered in this article? I’d love to hear about them in the comment section!

16 thoughts on “8 Tips for Managing Your Child’s Tangled Hair”

  1. I just found your post. I’m reaching my wits end with my daughter’s hair. I dread brushing it and she dreads me brushing it. I’ve been sick and hadn’t brushed her hair in … well too long.. and it was practically matted from her rubbing her head on back n forth on her pillow, the couches, the floor ..sigh.. I got fed up and cut half of it off because she will fight when we try to brush her hair. Her hair is fine but she has a ton of it per square inch of her head. so it tangles easily, like if she turns her head too fast it practically becomes a Gordian knot. I’m constantly buying detangling sprays and trying all kinds of hair products. her hair has gentle curls, but nothing serious. she just hates having her hair brushed (but our autistic son who is older than her also hates it and has meltdowns over it). I’m going to try the homemade detangling spray and buy one of the mini brushes. also the silk pillowcase (get a matching one for me to help make her excited about it). thank you so much and I’m truly praying that I can make this work. Ps: I learned the brushing the hair before bath time trick when my daughter almost headbutt the tub spout because she didn’t want her hair brushed.. yep..good times..

  2. I had seen in another article their recommendation is changing out the pillow case. Give the child a silk one to use. I guess this cuts down on the friction which in turn creates tangles….especially if they toss a lot.

  3. You are my saviour!!
    My five-year-old protests hair brushing and love to hide under blankets.
    She has fine curly hair so it tangles so easily.
    She can even get tangles IN her braids.
    I have had a hard time finding detangler where I live, so I will try to make my own.
    Thanks so much for sharing!!

  4. These are great tips! I was just thinking about making our own detangling spray, but assumed it would be difficult. Thanks for showing me that it is actually super easy!!

  5. Great ideas for taking care of hair! I don’t have little ones but my teens also get their hair tangled once in a while, and I will jaw feet wow your tips! Thanks for sharing

  6. My daughter’s hair is so curly (and so is mine) I agree that tying it back or braiding it is great for keeping it cleaner and less tangled. These are great tips.

    • My daughters have curly hair too (though not at all as curly as mine) and they have quite a lot of it, but they never let me tie it up! On the rare occasions that they do, it does get a lot less tangled, so I wish they’d agree to it more often! It’s a good thing we’ve figured out some other tricks or bath time would be a nightmare!


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