Masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. “Wearing a mask is a small simple ask, but it can help save lives,” says Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease at Children’s Health and Professor at UT Southwestern.
One of the big challenges of COVID-19 is that individuals can shed infectious virus before they become symptomatic, and some infected individuals may never become symptomatic. Asymptomatic infection is especially common in children, and having your child wear a mask will potentially protect individuals that come in contact with your child.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone two years and older wear a cloth face covering, with the exception of anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove their mask without assistance. However, getting a child under the age of 10 to effectively and properly use a mask is the question in mothers’ minds everywhere.
I heard someone refer to masks as the new socks the other day. And that could not be more true! The accessory of 2020…& beyond. My four-year-old touches her face more time than I can count and when the mask mandates were put in place, I wasn’t sure we’d ever get out of the house. But, it’s funny how adaptable and less rigid children tend to be. We saw mask use become “normalized” in a matter of weeks and adjusted our habits accordingly.
“Kids are quite resilient and adaptable,” says Lauren Faubel, Certified Child Life Specialist at Children’s Health. “While every child is different, a lot of the time, kids may have an easier time adjusting to wearing a face mask than adults do. They tend to get distracted and may not even notice their mask after a while, especially in a situation where wearing a mask is normalized.”
5 Tips to Get Kids to Wear Face Masks Effectively
Tip #1: All About Comfort
While it might take some trial and error, make sure the fabric and sizing of the mask is comfortable on your child’s face. Masks that are too tight or too loose will draw more attention and encourage them to touch their face. Too tiny of a mask, and the elastic straps will pull down on the ears and can cause discomfort. We finally found washable, re-useable masks that can grow with them with adjustable straps on each ear elastic strap.
Tip #2: Get Lanyards
Remember how I said masks are the new socks? And just like socks, they get lost every single day. When school, sports, and playdates started back up, we knew lanyards would be part of our wardrobe. Try Etsy or Amazon for some inexpensive lanyard options ranging in everything from fun colors to favorite characters.
Tip #3: Personalize & Accessorize
Patterns, colors, animals, names, words, literally all kinds of mask designs exist now to match your child’s personality. Have fun with it and get them involved in the process. And when all else fails, matching mommy-daughter/son masks might help ease them into wearing one. Be a role model.
Tip #4: Prizes & Rewards
Prize charts are big in our household. From potty training to kindness, we’ve kept track of behaviors with a simple track and reward system. Hand washing, proper hygiene, and even mask wearing can be rewarded with a simple sticker chart, bean system, or tracking tool or game.
Tip #5: Empower Kindness & Thoughtfulness
Lastly and maybe most importantly, it can be a teachable moment about kindness, resiliency, community and making a small sacrifice for the greater good.
“Public health measures, such as wearing a mask, are essential to getting the spread of the virus under control,” says Dr. Kahn. “It is important to empower children with the knowledge that they can potentially save a life and that they are playing a vital role in fighting the pandemic.”
More Tips on Getting Kids to Wear Masks from Our Readers
“My sister had her kids (young elementary) wear them when they watched TV or played a video game. They had to wear a mask while doing those activities. It helped make the mask become normalized.”
“Explain to those beautiful kids of yours that it is about being kind and taking care of each other.”
“Let them pick out cool ones!”
“If you practice and normalize it, it becomes NBD.”
“My two-year-old loves hers because it has her favorite characters on it. Also, she sees her siblings with one on.”
“When we first started with the masks, we took them to do something fun, like get ice cream, and then kept making the trips longer, but always with a reward. Now that they’ve been wearing them so long, they don’t even notice!”
“We role play at home with them to get used to it! We still struggle a bit!”
“Getting cute fabrics were a big help and trying a few different fits to see what they liked best and felt most comfortable to them. They each prefer a different style. I think that is key to getting them to wear it without complaint…finding something comfortable.”