The average toddler would rather eat her spinach than have her fingernails trimmed – and for a couple of good reasons. First, having parts of her pared off by a clipper or a pair of scissors (even when they’re wielded by a friendly parent) is frightening. A young toddler isn’t likely to understand (or remember) that nails don’t hurt when they’re cut or that they grow back afterwards. Second, the process, or safety’s sake, requires restraint. Not only must she sit still (the most dreaded posture), but she must have her hand and fingers held motionless by an enveloping adult hand.
Nibbling a young child’s nails off with your teeth is not a good idea; it could tear the cuticles and teach a toddler that nail-biting is a habit of cultivate. Still, nails need trimming. Not only can long nails harbor dirt and germs even when hands are clean, but they can, both intentionally and inadvertently, cause harm to self and others. Though nail trimming may continue to be a hotly disputed issue for many years come (until it’s replaced by nail-biting or cuticle picking), these tips may trim some of the trauma:
- Use a blunt instrument. Baby scissors, with their blunt safety tips, or small nail clipper, are good for trimming a toddler’s nails. Don’t trade these in for pointed nail scissors at least until your child’s old enough to be counted on to hold still.
- Turn the scissors on yourself, first. Make a point of trimming your own nails (as well as those of other willing family members) in front of your toddler; it’s possible she’ll want to be next in line when she sees how much fun you’re all having.
- Perform underwater. Warm water soothes toddlers and soften nails, both of which may make nail trimming less of a trial – so try scheduling your toddler’s next manicure when she’s fresh out of the bath.
- Try a game. A made-for-nail-trimming version of ‘This Little Puggy’ may be distracting and help replace screams with giggles.
- Trim in her sleep. Chances are your toddler will be most cooperative about nail trimming when she’s asleep. Work quickly and quietly, and it’s possible she won’t wake up during the procedure. If she’s a very light sleeper and/or has a hard time going back to sleep once she’s been awakened, it will be easier to do the job right before it’s time for her to get up – just in case.