How to Properly Trim Your Child’s Nails

Sophia Solomon Podiatrist (Foot and Ankle Specialist) New York, NY

Dr. Sophia Solomon is a leading Podiatrist in Manhattan with a focus on foot and ankle deformities and sports medicine. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of West Georgia, Dr. Sophia Solomon attended the New York College of Podiatric Medicine, becoming a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine in 2015.... more

Small children are not very fond of getting their nails trimmed. In many families, it’s a big struggle. But you know you have to do it. Your child screams and tries to escape, pulls out his or her tiny hand from your hands and you have to operate with sharp scissors or forceps in such extreme conditions. And this may last for quite a long time.

However, trimming a child’s nails regularly and keeping them clean and tidy is very important. First, children’s nails grow very fast and there is a risk for the child to harm themselves or someone else when they have long nails. Second, the dirt that collects under the nails is a source of infection and parasites. This is why you have to take care of them, whether you like it or not.

How to Do It Right

This hard and scrupulous work requires accuracy and proper technique. Follow these tips to be sure you make it safe for your child:

  1. Trim the child’s nails after a bath. The skin and nails will become soft and warmed up, and much easier to trim.
  2. Disinfect the cutting part of the device you are going to use. It’s important not to transfer infection under the child’s nails or into the blood if there is an accidental injury.
  3. Take your child’s finger between your thumb and index fingers. Use others to tightly hold the child’s palm. It’s the most comfortable position that minimizes the risk to injure the child in case of resistance.
  4. There are different techniques for hands and feet. Hand nails are trimmed to achieve a rounded shape, toenails must make a straight line to avoid having ingrown toenails.
  5. Never trim the nails as short as possible. Leave a small curve. Trimming the nails short can traumatizing the child’s finger and also provoke the wrong growth of nails in the future.
  6. If the child’s resistance was passionate and he injured himself while struggling to escape, don’t panic. Just sanitize the wound and continue.
  7. If your child is a newborn, the best time to trim their nails is when they are sleeping. Approach the baby half an hour after they fell asleep—when sleep is the deepest. If you do it fast and accurately, the baby won’t wake up. If you notice signs of disturbance, stop, rock the baby back to sleep and then continue.

Regular and proper nail trimming will prevent your child from various problems, including ingrown toenails, self-harm, and parasitic infections. Trim your own nails in front of your child, explain why it is necessary to do and emphasize the importance of personal hygiene to maintain healthy habits. Your own example is the best method to raise a mindful and accurate adult.