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How to Braid Hair

How to Braid Hair

Looking to learn how braid? This step-by-step guide makes it easy to master the basics in no time!

I’ve been braiding hair for as long as I can remember. 

It started when I was a little girl, before the Internet was a thing and sometimes boredom crept in when it was rainy and cold outside. The neighbor girls and I would hang out, often with our American Girl dolls, and take turns braiding each other’s hair and see how fancy we could style our hair. 

Fast forward to present day, where I am the mom of three girls with long, thick, dishwater blond hair who love their hair in braids. My middle daughter is the keenest on braids, probably because her hair is the longest of my three. Sometimes she requests two braids, sometimes only one. Sometimes she wants an Elsa braid (I had to long-ago google how an Elsa braid is different from a typical French braid. Because kids), and sometimes she wants “inside-out” braids. No matter what type of braid she requests, I do my best to braid her hair in the style she wants. Because braided hair is so simply yet so elegant and fun. 

How to Braid Hair: The Basics 

To perform a simple braid, you just need something to braid! If you find braiding your child’s hair challenging at first, you may want to practice on ribbon or string.  

To braid: 

  1. Secure the item you are braiding. If you aren’t braiding someone’s hair but are using ribbon or string instead, make sure you tie the three ribbons together and then tape them to a flat surface or secure them with a heavy object. 
  2. Divide hair or ribbons into three pieces. 
  3. Start by crossing the piece on the right over the piece in the middle. This piece is now the middle piece. 
  4. Cross the piece on the left over the middle piece. This piece is now the middle piece. 
  5. Repeat the process, right over middle, left over middle, until you have come to the end of the hair or ribbon and secure with an elastic or a knot. 
  6. Voila! You just created a braid! 

How to Braid Hair: Tips & Tricks 

If you are able to braid ribbons or strings but are having trouble braiding hair, here are a few tips and tricks I have learned through the years: 

  • Clean hair is the easiest to braid.  
  • Dry hair is easier to braid than wet hair. It turns out, hairstylists recommend braiding hair when it is dry, as well, because wet hair can stretch easily and therefore break when it is braided. 
  • Make sure you are working with someone who is seated in a way that you are looking down at their head. You don’t want that person’s head too low, but if the person’s head is too high, that will create a challenge, as well. 
  • If you are having trouble keeping the three plaits of hair separate, try securing one piece with a rubber band (or even all three pieces). The hair, in a pony, should stay in more a clump then, making it easier to braid. You can then cut the hair bands off once the hair is braided if you don’t like the look of them in the final braid.  

How to French Braid 

French braids are braids that start higher up on the head than a regular braid, which starts at the base of the skull and runs to the end of a person’s hair. A French braid takes time and patience to master- it took me years to figure out how to properly French braid my neighbor’s hair! But, as they say, practice makes perfect! 

  1. Start with dry hair, brushed smooth. 
  2. Grab three small pieces of hair, as high up on the head as you want the braid to start. The smaller the pieces are that you grab, the longer the braid will look down the back of someone’s head. 
  3. Start with a regular braid by crossing the piece on the right over the center piece and then the piece on the left over the center piece. 
  4. This time, when you go to cross right over center, grab a small or medium section of hair that is hanging loosely to add to this piece. This thicker strand of hair will now be the center piece. 
  5. When you take the left piece of hair to cross to center, grab a small or medium section of hair that is still hanging down to add to it. This thicker piece is now the center piece. 
  6. Continue this process, working down the length of the skull, until all additional hair has been added to the braid. 
  7. Secure with hair bands at the end of the braid. 
  8. Voila! You’ve just created a French braid! 

French Braids: Variations 

French braids are fun because there are different ways you can style them. Here are a few variations: 

  • Elsa Braid: An Elsa braid, as in Elsa, from Frozen, is one that starts at the center back of the head. Instead of starting at the top of the head, pull hair back directly from the top of the ears and start the French braid there. 
  • Inside-out Braid: An inside-out braid, or upside down braid, is one that looks like it is sitting on top of someone’s head instead of flush into the hair line. You create this braid by essentially reversing the braiding process. When you gather your three pieces of hair, instead of crossing right over center and then left over center, you will go under. So cross the right piece of hair under the center piece, and then cross the left piece of hair under the center piece until you reach the bottom. 
  • Crown Braid: A crown braid is one that circles the head instead of forming a line down the back. To create a crown braid, have the person whose hair you are braiding lay on the floor (I’ve found this works most easily for my girl, anyway!). Start by the left ear, and French braid in a way that you go down to the nape of the neck and circle over to the right ear and then up toward the front of the head. When you have finished braiding all hair, secure the bottom with elastic and then tuck this piece of hair in behind the start of the braid and secure with a bobby pin. 
  • French Braid Ponytail: This might be my youngest daughter’s favorite hair style. This hair style is a French braid from the top of the hair to the base of the skull, and then a ponytail where the hair hangs down the back. She loves when I curl the ends and add a cute bow. 

If you have trouble getting the hang of braiding, there are some great tutorials on YouTube to help you learn. It takes time and patience and lots and lots of practice. But you’ll there! Just don’t give up.  

About The Author

Stephanie Jarrett

"Stephanie Jarrett is passionate about all things: family, parenting, travel, and budget-friendly tips. As a Texas-transplant and girl mom of three, she’s a resident expert for ApartmentTherapy.com, Pearachute Kids, Hawaiian Falls, OKC Tourism Board, Livie & Luca, Mox Shoes, Arlington CVB, many more. When she isn’t on a road trip with her three girls, exploring museums, parks and more, she’s probably curled up on the couch with the latest NYT bestseller and a glass of red wine. Follow her adventures in Dallas/Fort Worth and beyond at EverythingArlingtonTX.Blogspot.com.

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