Raising children can be a wonderful experience, yet teaching kids all they need to know about personal hygiene and other body-care issues can raise serious questions. Nail hygiene is just such an issue, especially entrusting the use of sharp instruments to children; whether for cutting their fingernails or toenails.

At the Foot & Ankle Center of Washington, our doctors, Dr. Larry Huppin and Dr. Doug Hale, are recognized experts in the care of children’s feet, including all foot health issues and hygiene questions you, as a parent, may have.

Of course, trimming a child’s toenails is not as simple as teaching a child to brush teeth or bathing. Teaching a child to safely use sharp instruments such as nail clippers or scissors requires extra care and good timing. The motor skills and attention spans of youngsters are not conducive to reaching them nail hygiene. As parents, you know your child better than we, but we would suggest that the proper age for allowing children to cut their own toenails is about 10-12 years old.

There are three compelling reasons to wait before allowing your child to cut their own toenails:

  1. Children and sharp instruments are not a good mix. Great care must be taken that your child does not cut himself or herself.
  2. Poorly trimmed toenails can easily lead to infection, especially if the nails are trimmed too closely.
  3. Poorly trimmed toenails can lead to ingrown toenails – for people of all ages, including parents.

Standard nail trimmers, the type with a pivoting arm and fulcrum design, while they may be compact and convenient are actually poorly designed for proper nail trimming. The pinching action caused by this type of nail clipper can lead to problems such as nail splitting and poorly angled cuts to the nail. These can lead to nail growth problems, not the least of which is painful ingrown toenails.

The best tool for proper toenail trimming is a quality pair of toenail cutters which can easily last a lifetime.

How to cut your child’s toenails

While trimming fingernails and toenails may be intuitive, doing it properly is a learned skill. Before allowing your children to cut their own toenails, teach them the proper technique. You can read more here about how to trim toenails.

  • Soak the toes in warm water to soften the nails, or trim nails immediately after a bath.
  • Follow the natural curve of the toe. Do NOT cut the nail straight across.
  • Take care not to cut the nail too closely. Avoid exposing the toenail bed, which is the area directly beneath the nail.
  • Always use the right tools for the job at hand – or toe!

Teaching children proper foot care is important to the long-term health of their feet. Though most adults were not taught the proper care of their own feet as children, it behooves parents today to take the initiative and pass along the knowledge to their own children.

If you need help teaching proper foot hygiene to your children, or if your child has developed foot problems, make an appointment to see us in our Seattle office as soon as possible for expert care from the Seattle children’s foot specialists, Dr. Hale and Dr. Huppin.

Dr. Larry Huppin
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