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How to do a Ballet Bun on Short Hair – Video and Photo Instructions

If your child has short or chin length hair like my four-year-old, you may be wondering how to get those shortened locks into a neat and tidy ballet bun quickly for dance class or even worse to stay up for a ballet exam or dance recital.

This article mainly focuses on how to get short bobbed style hair into a bun for ballet and dance class as I use a minimal spritz of hairspray at the end which can easily be brushed out at night (my girls hate washing their hair, we usually do that after swimming lessons, so this is just one less hassle!!) Check out my article on how to get short hair into a bun for exams, recitals and competitions for instructions on what products to use to ensure hair stays in place and doesn’t move for those occasions.


Now the video and photos were taken a little while after my daughter’s initial haircut, but this was the exact method I also used for my older daughter when her hair was chin-length too!

So to begin with there are a few pieces of inexpensive equipment you will need to invest in to do this quickly, much of which you can get at your local dollar store, but if you just want to get the items online, head over to my dance hair ballet bun resource page where I explain in detail what each piece is and what it is used for and I have links to everything you need to get them all delivered to your door!

You will need:

A hairbrush
A spray bottle filled with water
A hair tie
A hairnet (the color of your child hair)
Bobby Pins the same color as the hair or hair clips
U shaped hairpins the same color as the hair
Hair Spray (optional)

Step 1 – Brush hair to remove tangles and knots.

Brush hair from the front to back to try and remove any natural parting. I love using a detangling brush to do this you can check out one similar to the one I use on our resource page.

Step 2 – Spritz the hair with the water spray.

Spritz the hair with the water spray. Make sure you have the hair tie nearby, I like to have it on my wrist and use the brush to brush the hair from the front and sides and pull the front half of the hair only up into a ponytail.

You can try brushing the hair at the back up into the pony tail a few times, but because we are dealing with short hair here, it will just continue to fall away and out of your grasp. Don’t focus on the strands you can’t get into the pony tail. Focus on the hair you can and continue to brush the hair into your hand grasping the hair until there are no bumps and the hair is smooth.

Use the water spray in between brushing to help the hair slick back into the ponytail. Just don’t spritz the lower back half of the hair that is too short to be bound into the pony tail as it might actually stick to the rest of the hair and seem as though it is secured in the ponytail only to fall down and out once it has dried.

Step 3 – Secure the front half of the hair with a hair tie

Tie the hair elastic around the ponytail as tightly as you can and use a single hair pin to pin the hair in the pony tail forwards and out of the way for now. We will put that into a bun in a later step!


The optimal place for the ponytail is if you can visualize a straight line along your child’s chin, that passes up through their ear and up along their head. The point where that line would go up on their head is the perfect spot for a ponytail for a ballet bun. Don’t worry if it is a bit below or above this spot, just get as close to it as possible.

Step 4 – Seperate left over hair int two sections

Start by spritzing the leftover hair with water and brushing the water through the hair. Then separate the hair into two even sections.

This is where a bit of experimentation may be needed if your child has extra short hair. You may need to separate the back into more sections, but for my daughter’s chin-length bob, I just separate it into two even sections with a part down the middle.

Step 5 – Twist each section upwards and secure with hair pins

Make sure your bobby pins are in reach now and take the left side and start to twist the hair, pulling it up towards the ponytail in the same movement so it lays flat against the head.

Use the bobby pins in a criss-cross pattern – about three to secure it to your child’s head. Then do the same with the right side.

Don’t worry about any rogue strands sticking up near the ponytail as we are now going to make the bun and these should be hidden under the bun, which is why we do the actual bun last!

Step 6 – Make your ballet bun using a hairnet

Make sure you now have your hair net and U pins handy.

When making your bun, you need to make sure that it sits on top of and hides the strands poking upwards from the twirls of hair you pinned to the back of the head. This ensures that the hair looks neat and tidy and from afar you can barely see all the pins that you placed to keep the short back hairs up as there are no strands sticking out to lead your eye to them.

There are two different ways you might approach putting short hair into a bun and it will depend on the length of the hair.

The first way:
is to loosely twist the hair into a bun shape around the ponytail and fix it with one pin. Then open the hair net between your two hands and wrap it around the bun. Hairnets are usually made to go over the whole head, so you will need to pull the extra net to one end, twist it and place it over the top of the bun again. I usually do this three times. Once the hair is secure in the hair net pull out the pin, as we will use it to secure the hair properly next.

The second way:
is to use a hair net is to simply try to gather all the hair into the net and pull it into a ball on the head, which is usually fairly simple to do with short hair. Then twist and wrap the hairnet over the forming bun two more times.

Because of the length of my daughter’s hair, I kind of end up doing a combination of the two – I try to twirl the ponytail around the hair tie, but most of it is too short and just sticks up or out and so I just capture this into the hairnet and pat it all down with my hands and mold it into a nice flat ballet bun shape.

You are aiming for a flatter more pancake looking bun rather than a ball sticking out of the head.

Step 7 – Secure your bun with hair pins

Now use the U pins to secure the bun in place. I generally use only four – equally spaced around the bun like the north, east, south and west points on a compass.

To attach the pins you push them in at a 45-degree angle a half-centimeter or quarter inch or so above the gap between the bun and head. When you feel the pin touch the head, slide it in trying to push it in a horizontal line with the head – not into the head!!! You will find the pin might go through the elastic of the ponytail and this is a good thing as the elastic helps to secure the pin.

Just try to not dig the hairpin into your child’s head! It is not necessary at all and it makes doing your kid’s hair harder as they will squirm more or get upset and won’t let you touch their head. Also, make sure your pins have those plastic baubley protector things on the end so that they don’t scratch your child’s scalp. Throw away pins without them

When you are placing the U hairpins, you can usually mold the bun at the same time to be flatter, more round or even adjust the placement if it needs to be a little higher, lower or further to the side or to center it more.

Step 8 – Your Bun on short hair is ready for ballet class!

And you are now done! You can spritz the back of their hair with a little hairspray for staying power, but unless you wash your kid’s hair every night, don’t spray too much. You can generally just brush out a little hair spray whereas using a lot will mean the product will build up and you will need to wash their hair to get it out.

For a printable cheat sheet that you can tape up on the bathroom wall when you do your child’s hair, click here to subscribe to the Dance Parent 101 newsletter where you will be emailed a link and password to our freebies page. (Available SOON!)

What if my child’s hair is shorter than chin length?

Don’t worry if your child has shorter hair than chin length, I give you a few extra tips along the way that will help you get all those short stands up and into a bun! If their hair is even shorter such as a pixie cut, then I am going to assume they just leave their hair as is for class. The point of a ballet bun is to keep the hair our of the face, and for the hair to not distract from the movement, putting in bobby pins that are destined to fall out and fake buns will more than likely not acheive the buns purpose!

WILL THIS WORK? No Gel and Little or no Hairspray?????

Well, last year my then eight-year-old ballet dancer daughter cut her hair to just below her chin and this year my four-year-old aspiring dancer wanted to cut her hair short too, so I have plenty of experience in getting short hair up into a neat ballet bun quickly as kids just generally don’t like standing in one place for very long as you will see in the video. Not once over the last two years have their buns come undone or the shorter hair fallen out during their dance classes and my four year old doesn’t just have ballet, but also then does tap and jazz afterwards as well!

The only reason to use a hair donut with short hair – The Fake Ballet Bun.

For ballet and dance, I would try and stick to NOT USING a hair donut, unless your dance school requests one.

Some schools or teachers might require one in your child’s hair for a recital or competition performance where all dancers in the group are required to have the same look to create a unified appearance. Or if a costume or headpiece requires extra-large bun (my daughter’s teacher once choreographed a bird dance and wanted their hair to have the appearance of a nest, and requested we use hair donuts to create this look.)

If you do choose to use one, use the smallest donut you can possibly find that matches your child’s hair color as much as possible because if their hair is that short that they need a hair donut, it won’t be covered by much hair. Follow the instructions in the above tutorial as much as possible using a hair net and the U pins to secure the hair donut and hair in place in the bun. You might want to use a few extra U pins to ensure the hair donut does not move or come out of place. Good Luck!!

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