kids braids make neat hairstyles

Ready to change up the ol’ hair routine? Josie Ortega suggests trying some of these kids braids to create some fun hairstyles!

Fun Kids Braids

When my daughter specifically requested that I give her the crown braid that Princess Leia wore during the final battle of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, I was thrilled to comply! I’ve been relentless in my attempts to bond with my daughters via hair braiding over the last several weeks. This urge to improve my braiding skills (and my daughters’ receptivity to them) started before pandemic isolation, but has only amplified while we’ve been at home together.

For now, we won’t be heading out to the salon for haircuts, so we may as well let our hair grow out and develop our braiding skills!

kids braids

Why Braid Little Girls’ Hair?

For practical purposes, a nice, secure braided hairstyle holds the girls’ hair up and out of their faces, so they’re ready to take on the world—and their schoolwork, and messy art projects—with unhindered vision. The kids don’t seem to mind, but witnessing a child run down the soccer field with hair down, whipping in the wind, drives me bananas. Who’s going to brush out those tangles later??

On an emotional level, braided hairstyles may earn us some respect from our kids when they can’t deny our epic contributions to the dress-up and pretend play scene. Imagine their delight at a fancy updo—like a braided bun, twist, or dramatic top knot. Hello, Elsa braid tutorial!

Day to day, braids also make a welcome, stylish change from our go-to ponytail or bun.

At night, a simple, loose braid prevents the bird’s nest of tangles that otherwise reliably forms at the back of my kindergartner’s head. The next morning, or whenever my daughters take out their braids, they’re obsessed with the waves that result.

Of course, various girl hairstyles will be better suited to curly hair and hair of various textures. For African hair inspiration, like cornrows and box braid styles, Braids Gang is one of many great Instagram accounts to follow. I myself am working with straight, fine hair; both of my daughters have straight hair as well, a little thicker and longer than mine. To be honest they have hair that I envy and don’t get me started on their eyelashes.

Braids for Mother-Daughter Bonding

Beauty and grooming rituals like braiding become opportunities for a regular point of connection: quiet moments during which a child practices sitting still, and enjoys the full attention of her mother. And whether it’s a mom, grandmother, aunt, dad, or someone else doing the hair brushing or braiding, the adults can be conscious of communicating positive messages about appearance and self-worth. We want to enjoy style as a healthy form of self-expression: slow to criticize ourselves and others, quick to enjoy loveliness and differences.

Cultures across the globe have embraced braiding time as a sacred time for bonding between generations. Braids contain a power and a connection to something beautifully primal. Also, they’re fun! And pretty! And that’s plenty enough for a reason.

My second grader recently designed a Super Hero named “La Trensa”—The Braid—whose power comes from her long plait, which she can also use as a weapon! Look at Rapunzel, look at Samson! Any other legends, fairy tales, stories with the power hair archetype? Maybe John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever? No? On to the braids.

Kids Braids to Try

The Basic.

Start with the basic three-stranded braid. A cord with three strands is not easily broken! Learn together with the kids. Use ribbons tied to a chair, then move on to friendship bracelets. Turn the tables and let them practice on you. Maybe they’ll yank your scalp painfully, or you may receive an excellent head massage! Won’t know until you try.

French braid.

Instead of gathering all the hair, begin as if you were putting your daughter’s hair half up, gathered at the back of the crown of the head. As you go, gather a little more hair into each strand before weaving it into the braid.

Dutch braid.

This one is like the basic or the French, with a simple difference. Instead of weaving strands over each other, you weave them up from under one another, which creates a more defined braid that appears to sit on top of the head.

Frida braid. 

Thanks to the Mexican-American artist behind Journey of a Braid, the girls and I tried her “Floridian Frida” style that’s low on difficulty but very impressive looking. For the photo below, we experimented using a necktie.

Fishtail braid.

Or the mermaid braid, as we like to call it. Instead of beginning with three strands, you divide hair in half. Bring a small piece of hair from the outer edge of the righthand bundle over to join the left, then alternate. You can also start higher on the head with only part of the hair gathered, and make the fishtail French-style.

Then, experiment!

Once you’re getting into it, it’s fun to riff off of what you already know how to do. Try the same style with thicker and thinner strands, or weave in a ribbon. For Princess Leia’s headband, I begin the braid just behind one ear and braid up across the head, Dutch style, bringing in strands (French-braid style) only from the back.

Search for YouTube tutorials and challenge yourself to create something grandiose: a crown, a spiral or snail braid, or even heart-shaped. So adorable!

If you’re getting elaborate, it helps to have hair accessories on hand like these clear hair ties, as well as some mini bobby pins available to keep those cute braids in place.

kids braids

The Frida braid.

Why Do I Love Braids for Kids So Much?

When I was born, my mother still sported long hair from her 70s glory days, and she often wore one long braid that I loved to rub between my chubby baby fingers.

As a child, I remember being with my grandmother, feeling frustrated as we worked to get my American Girl doll Kirsten’s two-loop pigtail braids *exactly right.* If you know, you know.

More recently, my mother-in-law wowed me when she deftly wove a ribbon into my daughter’s hair, and I often notice the girls at my kids’ school whose Central American mothers and abuelas clearly know what’s up in the intricate braid department. (I know, their dads could be the ones braiding. But I believe it’s likely a matriarchal practice.)

Here’s the truth. I always wanted hair long enough for an epic braid, but it’s never grown that far. So, I’ll admit it: I’m living my dream through my daughters! As far as living through our kids goes, it could be worse, don’t you think?

Have you tried any new hairstyles or kids braids lately? Trade tips and share pics with grandma using FamilyApp!

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