Just like brushing teeth or tying shoes, teaching your children how to style their textured tresses is simply a way of life in the curly world. Stylists say it’s important to involve curlies in their grooming from an early age -- as soon as they can hold a wide-tooth comb!Even if they’re not really helping at first, the key is to get started down the path.Here, curl-centric experts share kid-friendly strategies to help you teach your curlies how to style their locks, and love them.

Have Fun

Kids love to play house or dress up, so why not play hairdresser with your curly?“It can be a game,” says Ouidad, author of CurlTalk, owner of New York’s Ouidad Salon, the Curl Education Center.If your child has her own wide-tooth comb and goes through the same steps as you do, learning becomes easier because she can mimic mommy. Ouidad began teaching her daughter, Sondriel, to live a curly lifestyle when she was just a toddler.“She was 24 months old with her little curls, and I would read to her while we were conditioning our hair with deep treatments,” Ouidad says. “If they can help detangle their own hair and they’re having fun, they won’t have a fear of detangling.”Ouidad also invites parents and children to her salon every season to help them learn about their curls together.“Kids do their mommy’s hair and moms do their kids’ hair,” says Ouidad. "We all play."

Offer Choices, But Not Too Many

When involving your tyke in the styling of her textured tresses, avoid open-ended questions and insert options instead. You’ll want to ensure the child’s answers will include choices you can live with."You want them to feel empowered because they get to choose,” says Cozy Friedman, stylist and owner of New York's Cozy's Cuts for Kids Salon. “You might say, ‘Which shampoo would you like, Green Apple or Tropical Fruit?’ rather than, ‘What product do you want?’”As you encourage your child’s input, share yours as well.“You might say, ‘Wow this smells so good! This is great; let’s get a bottle of this.’ Share the enthusiasm with your child,” Friedman says.

Take One Step at a Time

Instead of presenting their grooming as a major undertaking, introduce it in playful terms that sound like fun.“You should be teaching them little bits at a time,” Friedman says. “There are some kids who would thrive on having this new beauty regimen, But you still want to give them something easy so they can have a great outcome and add to their self esteem.”Even if your curly is a self-starter, she shouldn’t feel like she’s on her own. The last thing you want is for your child to think she didn’t do a good enough job so you have to take over.As for children who become anxious with new routines: “I wouldn’t even tell her that she’s getting involved. Just sprinkle it in a little at a time,” Friedman says. “You might say, ‘Help me scrunch your hair with the gel,’ and then show her how you’re doing it. Empower her by saying, ‘Oh, that looks great. Look how nice your curls look, I love when you do that.’”It’s important that styling is kept to a minimum, adds Ouidad. “You can’t make it look like a big process," she says. "There’s no need for it."

Stay Positive

Whatever approach you choose, keep it light and positive, says Christo, Global Artistic Director of New York’s Christo Fifth Avenue Salon. “From the day your child is born, embrace their curls,” Christo says. “Teach them to love who they are and that curly hair is a gift, not a burden. This will motivate them from the start.”Showing your curly to love her hair with positive comments is the biggest motivator of all, adds Ouidad. ”While you’re commenting, you can physically do different things with your child’s hair. Then, have them do it and allow them to copy you.”

Be Patient

Finally, experts encourage parents to be patient and don’t project perfection.“The most common mistake is to expect that your child is just going to be able to do it. Remember that it takes a long time,” Friedman says. Ouidad also cautions parents not to approach a styling routine as “a job or an effort. It’s the norm.”Ouidad also cautions parents not to approach a styling routine as "a job or an effort. It's the norm." If your child comments that curly hair is hard to manage, Ouidad points out (and urges parents to do the same) that having straight hair can be an even bigger challenge. "Straight hair keeps collapsing, and you can't do anything with it," Ouidad says. "We're the lucky ones. Straight hair keeps collapsing, and you can’t do anything with it,” Ouidad says. “We’re the lucky ones.”

Is She Ready?

Is it time to involve your curly in a styling routine? Experts say watch for any of these five important signs that your curly is ready:

  1. Your child starts to play with her doll’s hair and/or her own curly locks.
  2. She follows you into the bathroom to watch you style your hair.
  3. She begins to imitate your grooming habits.
  4. She becomes more opinionated about the way her hair looks.
  5. She doesn’t want to wear her hair pulled back or in pigtails anymore.