Z’s Natural Hair Progress: Toddlerhood/Preschool

by Kristal C

The Early Days of Natural Hair Care (2013-2015)

We have been blogging about our natural hair progress for quite some time. Therefore, many of our progress posts have gotten lost in the midst of everything else we share on Beautifully Curled. For your convenience, my daughter’s natural hair progress from toddlerhood to treschool has been consolidated on this page. For her natural hair progress from early school age to pre-tween will be available mid-June 2019 as we spring clean the blog.

There is a lot of good information on this page. Feel free to use the table of contents below to help navigate to points of interest on this page.

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links and we will earn a commission if you purchase through those links at no cost to you at all. We use all of the products below and recommend them because we have found helpful in our journey.

Natural Hair Progress: Pre-2013/Early Toddlerhood

Like some first time moms of a child with natural hair, I was overwhelmed with the idea of caring for my daughter’s hair. We have completely different textures. My hair encompasses a variety of textures from wavy to coily and is coarse and wiry. Although Z’s hair texture is coarse, she has fine strands that are tightly curled all around.

When she surpassed that phase where baby hairs transform to the child’s true texture, I began experimenting with some different styles. My favorite was finger coils and twist outs. However, she was experiencing breakage due to several factors such as lack of moisture, overnight protection, and too much manipulation.

Over the first three years, I became increasingly frustrated with not knowing how to properly handle her hair care. I knew I need to make some changes. Henceforth, Beautifully Curled was created to help me navigate through her natural hair journey by sharing what I’ve learned about managing the hair care of a toddler.

Natural Hair Progress: The Beginning of the Journey (September 2013)

You Have to Start Somewhere to Grow

When I created Beautifully Curled back in September 2013, I dug into as much information I could find about caring for little girls’ natural hair. Thankfully, there were other moms blogging about their experiences with natural hair care for their children. I soaked up what I could and started to implement different aspects in Z’s hair regimen.

Here was our starting point and our first pictures on Beautifully Curled. I started Z’s natural hair journey with a fresh trim and a twist set.

My priority during the earlier stages of Z’s hair journey was to create a regimen that was simple and covered all the basics. These basics included shampooing, conditioning, detangling, moisturizing, and protective styling.

The other side of creating a regimen is sticking with it. That’s why I am a big proponent of a KISS (keep it simple sister) regimen. When things get too complicated, we sometimes lose motivation and drift away from our original intentions.

My main desire was to master a consistent routine for my daughter’s hair and that’s what I’ve been doing (for the most part) ever since we started this journey. As you continue to scroll, you will see how Z’s hair has FLOURISHED in two years under our KISS regimen.

Venturing on to More Difficult Hairstyling

Got to Push Outside the Comfort Zone

As I have gotten more comfortable with handling Z’s hair outside of twists, I started to venture into some more complicated hair styles. I was introduced to Ghana Plaiting (via African Threading) which was so fun to learn and master in styling and stretching Z’s hair. Essentially, African Threading involves taking a weaving thread or yarn and wrapping it along the section of hair. Depending how closely the thread is wrapped, it creates a pretty corkscrew effect. This is what makes a Ghana Plait.

Cornrowing Skills in the Beginning

One thing I always wanted to learn as a black mom was how to cornrow my daughter’s hair. I did not get the opportunity to learn as I was growing up therefore, I made it my mission to learn how no matter how painful the process was.

And trust me, it was PAINFUL. I made so many mistakes and for whatever reason, my fingers fumbled terribly with the flow of cornrowing. Here are some pictures as proof that I struggled. The last picture pretty much summed up my initial frustration with cornrowing…lol My daughter bared with me nevertheless.

Cornrowing Skill Progression

But I kept at it. I kept practicing. Eventually, my clumsy fingers finally discovered some cornrowing coordination! I gained confidence the more I cornrowed and started branching into more intricate styles such as cornrow updos, cornrow/twists, cornrow/mohawks, and halo braids.

My lesson to you is to stick with trying no matter how rough cornrowing is in the beginning. Watch videos over and over on Youtube. Practice on those head mannequins. Use three pieces of different colored yarn/ribbon to get the rhythm and pattern down. You will get it if you do not stop. This is truly one of those “If I could do it, you can too” moments. My learning curve took about a few months before I got on the ball. Now, I am no expert braider and I still braid quite slow. Nevertheless, I learned the skill and continue to practice enhancing the art of it.

Other Protective Styles

Protective styling was (and still is) our mojo. I decided early on in this journey that longer-term hair styling would work best for our tight schedule and our temperaments. Even though my daughter is very patient with me on her hair days from an early age, she prefers to not have to sit for styling and manipulation multiple times per week. And I prefer not either.

Therefore, we have become more of a style the hair and let it be for a week (at least). Come to find out, my daughter’s hair thrived on protective styling even to this day. The styling options were unlimited here. We employed many styles that included cornrows, box braids, updos, twists, banding, threading/ghana plaits, and buns.

Venturing into Extensions: Yarn Wraps

I go into more details about our experience with yarn wraps in this post here. After some apprehension about adding extensions to a preschooler’s hair, I felt I was comfortable enough with my haircare knowledge to take the plunge. Never adding any type of extension to any hair period, YouTube was my biggest teacher. I decided to add yarn wraps to my daughter’s hair because

  • they look ridiculously like actual dreadlocks
  • the material to do the style was very cost effective
  • I could get at least 4 weeks of protective styling in with the extensions
  • the wraps provide full hair protective coverage versus braid/twist extensions
  • the learning curve seemed simple enough

Let me preface that installing individual yarn wraps is a time consuming process. The gist is that you first braid yarn into the hair and then you wrap additional yarn around the braided section before burning the ends to set the wrap. This two-step process typically took us between 12-14 hours due to my daughter’s hair length.

Ideally, you want the wraps to fall at least 3-4 inches beyond your hair length to prevent burning your own hair at the ends. For this reason and for time’s sake, I have not installed yarn wraps into my daughter’s hair since she has reached mid-back length. I did not want her to have super long extensions at such a young age. We enjoyed them for several installations and have moved on to box braid extensions.

15 Month Progress Natural Hair Progress (December 2013-March 2015)

Under the Right Conditions, Growth WILL Happen

Z to this day wants hair down to her bottom. ::smile:: I told her it is possible as long as we maintain good hair practice on a regular basis. I started doing length checks about three months after we began her natural hair journey. I never kept a consistent length check schedule. They sort of fell at random times whenever I happen to remember to snap a picture or two.

Nevertheless, I am glad I did. With her high shrinkage, it is easy to lose sight of how much her hair has grown over time. The pictures below show her length progress within a 15-month window. She has gone from arm pit length to waist length at this time thanks to protective styling and her regular wash day routine.

Natural Hair Progress on Twisted Hair

Twists are my jam. I love this style on both her and myself but her hair texture is so twist friendly. Although I have styled her twists on damp and dry/stretched hair, I am biased to styling them on damp hair. My daughter’s hair is fine so styling on damp hair allows her hair to set into juicy and plump twists when dry. Even with her shrinkage, you can see how her hair has grown since we started her journey in the first picture below.

Twists are consistently in our style rotation because the style is easy on the edges and roots especially after wearing a braided/cornrow style for a few weeks at a time.

What I Learned During the Toddlerhood/Preschool Years

  • Be patient with myself and my daughter as we learn how to care for her natural hair texture
  • Accept frizz. A style will look good for a couple of days at most if you are doing protective styling at this phase. Unless you are willing to continuously touch up a hairstyle to keep it neat, enjoy the life of a style and keep it going. Your child will likely not mind the frizz if you do not draw attention to it.
  • My daughter’s hair eventually settled at an average growth rate of half an inch per month.
  • Deep conditioning helped her hair so much especially during the cooler months
  • Protective styling became our holy grail as it allowed us a break from consistent styling while allowing for max length retention
  • Pre-poo is your friend when it came to taking down really frizzy styles (twists, cornrows, braids)
  • The longer Z’s hair got, the more careful I had to be when detangling her ends
  • Wearing stretched styles made detangling a whole lot easier versus afros and puffs

Our Toddler/Preschooler Natural Hair Regimen

Our natural hair regimen was fairly simple in the early years. My focus was to establish a regimen that would fit well around our protective styling, was low manipulative, and keep my daughter’s hair moisturized between wash sessions. We averaged wash sessions twice per month and incorporated the following components:

Pre-Poo

Pre-pooing was done as needed (either after wearing an extended protective style or when hair felt dry especially over the drier weather). We usually used a cheap conditioner with or without an oil such as olive oil. Her hair was covered with a plastic cap for up to 25 minutes before removing a style, detangling, and rinsing out.

Our Pre-poo Recommendation: Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner ($4 at Trader Joes)

Shampoo

Shampooing was done each wash session and focused on scalp cleansing and massaging. I mainly used diluted shampoo on her hair to help cleanse her scalp thoroughly.

Our Shampoo Recommendations:

Condition/Deep-condition

Some type of conditioning was done every session. We would alternate between the regular conditioning and deep conditioning unless her hair felt drier than usual. In those instances, my daughter would get a deep conditioning of her hair twice for a particular month. We used some type of indirect heat source for up to 30 minutes to improve the effectiveness of her deep conditioning sessions.

Our Product Recommendations:

Our Indirect Heating Source Recommendations:

Detangle

Detangling is a must in any natural hair regimen for both girls and women. We completed this step at every wash session. First, I would use my fingers, then either a wide-toothed comb or Denman brush. This step was done either after the pre-poo, before rinsing out the conditioner, or after washing and before styling.

Our Detangler Tool Recommendations:

Moisturize

We used the LCO (or LOC) Method to moisturize and seal Z’s hair after a wash session. Throughout the week, her hair was spritzed with a water-based or homemade leave-in conditioner.

Our Moisturizing Product Recommendations:

Style

As you noticed earlier on this page, protective styling was our jam during these early childhood days. My daughter mainly wore cornrow, twist, braid, and updo type styles that would last at least a week but ideally two weeks. Yarn wraps would last approximately 4 weeks. We rarely ever did those adorable puffs and afro type styles because detangling for us would have been more time extensive than we cared to spend on during our hair days.

Stretching

This was important whenever my daughter wore cornrow hairstyles. Our main techniques for stretching were banding, threading, and gentle blow drying via the tension method.

Daily Protection

A satin bonnet or scarf was (and still is) our holy grail. Every. Night.

Trim

Trims were done as needed but at least twice per year (every 6 months).

I hope our journey through this busy phase of toddlerhood/preschool gave you some insight on how to manage, care, and style your child’s natural hair. To read about my daughter’s natural hair progress during the early school age, click here.

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