It can be hard enough to get children to wear their jackets and keep their shoes on. Getting them to wear masks may seem like an impossible task. With mask mandates and the start of school just around the corner, here are several ways to encourage even young children to wear masks.
Fit and comfort first – It may be helpful to start with an assortment of styles. Try ones with loops behind the ears, bands behind the head, bandanas, cone style and gaiters. Try different fabrics; t-shirts, cloth masks, cloth masks with filters, disposable paper masks.
Introduce them slowly – It is less than helpful to expect any child to wear a mask for a few hours on the first go. With preschoolers getting beyond a minute or two on the first try is success.
Wear them – Young children learn best through modeling. Wear your mask.
Talk about them – It may be helpful to talk about how masks protect the person who wears it and all the people around them from spreading germs and getting sick. This makes wearing a mask a good and easy way to be a friend. Highlight your favorite mask and what you like about it. Talk about anything funny or nice that has happened by wearing your mask.
Read about them – There are a few helpful children’s books about wearing masks:
· Lucy’s Mask by Thompson
· A Little SPOT Wears a Mask by Alber
· The Love Behind the Mask by Toth
· A Unique Start from 6 Feet Apart by Oquendo
· Heros Wear Masks: Elmo’s Super Adventure by Sesame Workshops
· Smiling from Ear to Ear: Wearing Masks While Having Fun by Chu
Teach about them – Gently teach children to keep their masks over their nose and mouth. Teach them to keep their hands down and away from their masks as best they can. Teach them how to put their masks on. All this may be more fun in front of a mirror. It may be helpful to ask your child to teach you all they know about masks for review.
Watch videos about them – There are a few helpful children’s videos about wearing masks: ·
We All Wear Masks by Mr. Mike https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnP-uMn6q_U
For Kids: Why Do I Have to Wear a Mask https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGB-hxst7fo
How to Wear a Mask in School by Tech-nic-Allie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EC2OxVSX53M
Do’s and Don’t for Wearing Face Masks by ISD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MQieJVGSbE
Arthur Wearing a Mask by PBS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXp8bK3C8qA
Avoid complaining about them – Assume your child is listening all the time. If you complain about wearing a mask, there may be more push back when you ask them to.
Offer choices and challenges – You might offer choices about which mask to wear or a challenge about how long they can keep their mask on or not touch their mask.
Allow play with masks: Play doctor or veterinarian – If you have a play doctor’s kit, it may be helpful to add masks to that set and practice wearing them while taking care of patients. Play cowboys, superheroes (at least Spiderman), construction workers – It may be helpful to highlight other characters that at least sometimes wear masks.
Decorate them – It may be fun to have plain fabric masks and let your child color it with fabric markers. It may be fun to add a patch or just a few stickers to their mask.
Add masks to other items – It may be funny to use pieces of paper towel to decorate framed family photos with new masks. It may be fun to have masks for doll babies, action figures or a family pet.
Pick fun ones – There are so many fun masks! At CDS this week alone I’ve seen several superhero, dinosaur, unicorn and rainbow glitter masks.
Give new masks with other gifts – At back to school time, you might have your child pick out a few new masks when they get back to school clothes. With all the gift giving over holidays, it may be fun to have your child help pick new masks to give to people they love.
Encourage and remind rather than discipline – Think of this as encouraging a new behavior and masks as something to incorporate in to your family’s every day life.
Encourage all the other healthy habits – Teach your kids to wash their hands well. Aim for 20 seconds and with warm soapy water. Teach them to wash the front, back, between fingers and fingertips. Teach them to catch their coughs and sneezes in their elbows. Teach them ways to greet people with less touching; elbow bumps, air high-fives and jazz hands all work. Teach them to give their friends some space with they play.
Here is a helpful article from the American Academy of Pediatrics about masks: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Cloth-Face-Coverings-for-Children-During-COVID-19
Here are a few shopping lists to get you started:
From fatherly.com: https://www.fatherly.com/gear/the-best-kids-cloth-face-masks/
From wired.com: https://www.wired.com/gallery/best-kids-face-masks/