Toggle site contrast Toggle Contract

How to cut your child’s nails

Some children can not tolerate nail cutting. This can make it a stressful task for them, their parents or carers.

Children may dislike:

  • the sound of the clippers
  • having short nails after they have been cut
  • the fear of being hurt by the clippers.

How to make nail cutting less stressful for children

Talk to your child when they do not feel anxious about nail cutting. Ask them what they dislike about it.

Understanding the reason for your child’s difficulty with nail cutting will help you to support them and make the task easier.

Strategies and tips

Try calming activities

Make sure your child feels calm before nail cutting. If you or your child are in a high anxiety state, it will make the task more difficult. Your child may be more sensitive to sounds or how the cutting feels.

You can help prepare your child for nail cutting by:

  • using low level or dim lighting
  • completing the nail cutting in a quiet area
  • playing quiet music or stories while the child wears headphones
  • using a soft voice to slow down your movements and speech.

Use different nail cutting tools

These include nail files, nail scissors and children’s clippers and may help if your child dislikes the sound of the clippers. New things can feel scary at first so try a new tool a few times before moving on to another strategy. Soft nails will also make less of a sound or a ‘snap’ feeling so try cutting your child’s nails after bath time.

Use deep pressure

Try giving the child a tight squeeze (deep pressure) on their finger before and after cutting their nail. This can help to override the sensation of the nail being cut and make it more tolerable.

Avoid cutting the nails too short

Sometimes this can feel uncomfortable. Aim to trim them slightly but leave a short nail. This may require more frequent trimming but may be less stressful if the result feels more comfortable.

Explain what will happen

Make sure your child understands what will happen. Increasing their control of the task may improve their ability to participate. Try using a ‘now and next’ board to show nail cutting followed by an activity they enjoy, for example, reading a book or eating a piece of fruit.

Alternatively, try increasing the child’s control and independence. An older child may be able to cut their nails themselves whilst a younger child can use a nail file with supervision. Baby clippers may help to reduce the risk of the child being cut by the clippers.

Cut nails in short bursts

Cut only one or two at a time.

Try distraction from the task

Put the child’s favourite TV show on or give them a tasty snack they can eat with their other hand.

Talk to your child about position

Check how you hold the child’s finger and communicate with them about a position that may feel more comfortable.

Trim, don’t cut fully

Leave some length to make the feeling more comfortable.