While masks are one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it can be a challenge to get young children to leave on things they don’t want to wear – whether it’s mittens, socks or a face mask.
“If they haven’t spent much time in public places this summer, kids may not be used to wearing masks,” Dr. Johana Gimenez, a pediatrician at Memorial Physician Services – Jacksonville, said. “With the potential for a return to school or daycare in the fall, this is a great time to start helping your kids get comfortable in a mask.”
Although children under the age of 2 should not wear cloth face coverings, children older than 2 who are able to verbalize when they can’t breathe should wear them anywhere they’re unable to stay six feet away from others.
Gimenez suggested the following tips to make this process easier:
Explain why wearing masks is important right now: For younger children, use simple, straightforward language to explain we wear masks to keep our friends, family, neighbors and themselves safe from germs or viruses. Older children will be able to understand more complex concepts about how COVID-19 is transmitted, but it’s important to calm their worries and ensure they feel safe. Let them know that wearing a mask will help them go to school and do other activities while still staying healthy.
Let kids pick out their own masks. Whether homemade or store-bought, there are many fun fabric options for kids. Older kids may enjoy helping to make their own masks using the easy sew or no-sew patterns available online. They can also decorate their own mask with stickers or markers.
It’s helpful for kids to practice wearing a mask at home before wearing one out in public. Start with short periods of time and build up to longer periods. Show kids the proper way to take masks on and off and let them know why it’s important to avoid touching the mask or their faces while wearing it.
Make masks less scary. Some younger children may find masked faces frightening. Help ease these fears by wearing masks together at home before going out to public places. Show your child his or her reflection in a mirror or put a mask on a favorite stuffed animal to make masks less scary.
Set a good example. Kids look to adults as role models. If you speak positively about the importance of wearing a mask – and do so every time you go out in public – your kids will feel positively about it, too.
“Adapting to new habits, like wearing a mask, can be difficult for kids,” Gimenez said. “But a sense of fun can make a difference. Remind them superheroes wear masks – and they can be heroes, too, by wearing a mask and helping keep everyone healthy.”