"What a pretty daughter you have!" When a passing stranger makes that comment about your little boy, it's time for a haircut. While barbers who specialize in black hair can execute elaborate styles, your toddler may not be able to sit still long enough for a fancy 'do. A short Afro, fade or shaved head are common styles for African American boys, and their simplicity makes for quick work with an experienced barber.
The "TWA": Teeny-Weeny Afro
A smaller version of the Afro will showcase your toddler's curls. Your son's barber will use clippers to cut the hair to an even length. This is followed by trimming the hairline, known as a shape-up. Michelle N-K Collison, author of "It's All Good Hair," a guide to African American children's hair care, recommends that children with Afros use a pick on their hair daily to prevent matting. Your toddler will need your help with this; spray the hair with water to ease de-tangling.
Fade to Black
The fade consists of leaving the hair on the crown longer than that on the back and sides. The difference in lengths can be subtle, or dramatic in the case of the high-top fade. Your son's barber will cut the hair to the length desired on the crown, then cut the back and sides to the shorter length, followed by the shape-up. It's especially important for your toddler to hold still while the barber works on shaping the transition between the lengths. If your son has a shorter fade, brush the short waves into place. De-tangle longer fades with a pick.
Clean-Shaven as a Whistle
The simplest haircut for African American toddlers is the clean-shaven look, which consists of cutting the hair to an even length of 1/8th inch or shorter. Some parents skip the shape-up and leave the hairline natural for this look, as the close trimming can be irritating for small children. Your toddler may remark on the sensation of feeling the breeze on his scalp after a close shave. Use a soft-bristled brush to smooth the short hair.
Daring 'Dos: Unconventional Cuts and Styles
Variations on these classic styles can help your toddler express his individuality or copy his big brother. Small Afros can be long enough for little twists or coils that emphasize his curls. Give the classic fade a twist with a crown that is longer on one side or in the front. If your son tries to give himself a Mohawk, consider letting him have one with some help from the barber. Ask your son's barber for recommendations for new styles; he may have photos of the latest looks for children.