Face masks are quickly becoming a requirement for all of us, including our kids. School districts opting for in-person classes are mandating masks for students, and both recreational activities and kid-friendly events are following suit. It might seem like an uphill battle to get your child to wear a face mask. But there are several things a parent can do to help their kids get acclimated to wearing it and understanding why it’s important.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids over the age of two can wear masks. Babies and young toddlers should not due to suffocation risk.
When selecting a mask for your child, find one that is made from at least two layers of fabric. Make sure it is made from a breathable material like cotton and is wide and long enough to ensure the mouth and nose are covered, and that it can be secured by loops around the ears. Children do not need N95 respirators or plastic face shields unless medically indicated by their healthcare providers. When trying on the mask, ensure a proper fit – not too tight or too loose! If the mask slips from a child’s nose, it’s not effective. Once it’s properly put on, make sure your child can breathe.
Many children may be frightened by the idea of wearing a mask. Or, they may have questions about why they have to wear one. Here are some suggestions on what you can do to help explain it to them:
Face masks for children older than age five
Tell them that there is a virus currently in the environment which can make us sick. Preface that with some discussion about the presence of good and bad germs in the environment around us, protection from germs, good hygiene, and how masks can provide a protective barrier to germs that can enter our body through our nose and mouth.
For children younger than five
Use simple language and talk about masks as something we need to use to prevent us from getting sick and to prevent others from getting sick. Answer any questions they may have in simple terms.
Parents can help make masks look and feel less scary to young children by doing the following:
- Parents should first demonstrate by wearing their own masks.
- Practice putting the mask on a doll and then have your child place the mask on the doll.
- Have the child wear the mask in front of a mirror.
- Allow your child to practice wearing a mask for short periods of time, and gradually increasing the duration as he or she adjusts to wearing it.
- Draw some fun images on the mask for your child, or let them decorate it themselves with drawings. Be careful not to use any stickers or glue-like materials.
Remember, masks are not a substitute to social distancing! Masks are a part of the CDC recommendations, which include proper hand washing, avoiding touching the face/masks, using a hand sanitizer or soap to clean the hands, and staying home and seeking medical care for any symptoms.