8 Tips for Managing Your Child’s Tangled Hair (+ DIY Detangling Spray Recipe!)

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. And as a bonus, I’ve included instructions on how to make your own tear-free detangling spray using only two ingredients!

DIY Tear-Free Detangling Spray and Tangled Hair Tips

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Did you know your baby’s hair can be visible on an ultrasound? Neither did we. But as it turns out, it’s more than possible—and we’ve now experienced it during all four of my pregnancies!

Our kids have always had a lot of hair. They were all born with a full head of hair and now that they’re a little older, since they all happen to be girls, their hair 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. So if you’re struggling to untangle your child’s hair without yelling or tears, this is the article for you!

You’ll find my instructions for DIY kids’ hair detangling spray below, but I’ve also included some tricks that we use to make hair-washing a little easier. Keep in mind 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.

If you’re not interested in reading my tips and just want to know how to make your own DIY detangling spray in under a minute, feel free to skip ahead to point 7.

1. Use the Right Kind of Brush

My hair is very curly, and the only effect brushes 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? We couldn’t just leave her hair 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 now-four-year-old’s very long hair!

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. Your child will thank you!

3. Style Your Child’s Hair

If your child has long hair, styling it in a way that restricts its movement will make it less likely to tangle. Braids are especially great at preventing knots!

Unfortunately, our daughters always insist on wearing their hair down, so this knowledge hasn’t been of much use to us. But if your child likes braids, it will make things that much easier when you try to 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 daughters, we’ve even made it a point to make hair-brushing part of our bedtime routine on nights where they don’t get their hair washed—and you can, too!

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—which also happens to be one of the ingredients you need to make DIY hair detangling spray! It’s usually meant for older kids, but it works great on younger children with lots of hair. We buy ours at Walmart.

Just make sure you buy conditioner that’s meant for children and labeled as “tear-free” since regular conditioner will burn if it gets into your child’s eyes!

6. Distract Your Child with Bath Toys

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.

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, so 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 less painful for your child.

How to Make Tear-Free Hair Detangling Spray

We used to buy pre-made detangling spray at the store until it occurred to me that it couldn’t be that hard to make, and that we would probably save money by making it ourselves.

What You’ll Need

All you’ll need to make your own is some tap water, a couple tablespoons of tear-free kids’ conditioning shampoo and an empty spray bottle. Check what you have lying around before buying a bottle—I simply reused an empty bottle of store-bought detangling spray and peeled off the label.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Start by pouring a little bit of conditioning shampoo into the empty spray bottle.

The bottle I used holds a little over a cup (8 oz) of liquid, so I used about 1 ½ tablespoons of conditioner. However, it’s not an exact science.

Depending on the length, thickness and texture of your child’s hair, you may need to use more or less than I did, so don’t hesitate to experiment with different quantities until you find the ratio that works best for you!

Once you’ve poured the conditioner into the bottle, fill the rest of the bottle with tap water and shake it until the two are well combined. If you’re still experimenting with quantities, you might want to leave a little bit of room in the bottle in case you need to add more conditioner.

Your detangling spray is now ready to use! Whenever you brush your child’s dry hair, simply spray on a little bit first to help it untangle more easily. And since you used tear-free conditioning shampoo, if a tiny bit accidentally gets into their eyes as you spray, it won’t burn!

Why Make Your Own?

As you can see, this detangling spray is extremely easy to make and costs way less than buying pre-made sprays from the store.

It’s also quite easy to customize since you can use whatever type of conditioner you want. We went with tear-free since our kids are still quite young, but if, for example, you prefer to buy products made from all-natural ingredients, go for it!

You may have to experiment a bit with the quantities, but by making your own, you’ll get the benefits of using detangling spray without all of the extra cost.

I’ve even heard of adults using detangling spray made from regular conditioner, but I myself have never attempted it since my hair is so curly that there’s no way it can be untangled outside of the shower!

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

My last tip is something that we only thought to start doing a few months ago, but it’s made such a huge difference that we wish it had occurred to us sooner!

We used to leave most of the untangling for bath time. Instead, I now take our daughters into the bathroom right before their bath and untangle their dry hair using hair detangling spray and a full-sized Wet Brush Pro. Then, we finish untangling their hair in the bathtub using kids’ conditioning shampoo.

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. 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. 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!

11 thoughts on “8 Tips for Managing Your Child’s Tangled Hair (+ DIY Detangling Spray Recipe!)”

  1. 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!!

  2. 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!!

  3. 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

  4. 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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