Distress during nail clipping is one of the everyday obstacles we hear about from many of our families. Some children have trouble tolerating the clippers, some dislike the sharp feel of the nail after clipping, or the novel tactile input on the fingertip that was previously covered by the nail. Here are some ideas to try next time the clippers need to come out.
- If your child likes to play with resistive materials like theraputty or play doh, have him use the materials before nail clipping as a way to “warm up” the fingers before the task. Or, let him hold a vibrating massager to provide vibration to the fingers. Offer these types of materials after the trimming as well.
- Try a lotion massage on the hands, using firm stroke with your whole hand (not just fingertips pressing into your child’s hand). End with deep pressure gently “pulling” down the length of each of his fingers, toward the nail.
- Nails will be softer and easier to trim after bath time.
- Use child-friendly terminology – don’t say you are going to “cut” the nails, use words like “trim”. Children may associate “cut” with pain.
- Have your child be in charge of counting each nail that is trimmed. Counting will help him see that the process will not take forever.
- Singing a song together may help as well. Try the tune of “Here we go ‘round the mulberry bush” and change the lyrics to “This is the way we trim your nails”.
- Some children prefer the vibration and pressure of a nail file rather than clippers.
- At first, a successful nail trimming may be one hand at a time, or even one nail. Find the level where your child can tolerate the process without being overwhelmed and build from there.
- Teach your older child to safely trim his or her own nails. Sensory input that he controls may be easier to tolerate than imposed input.