Courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re all dealing with new experiences: Preschool’s canceled, Grandma and Grandpa can’t come for dinner, and a simple trip to the grocery store can feel like something out of a dystopian novel.
And there’s something else your kids may have noticed … These days, everyone from your neighbor to the mail carrier may be donning a protective face mask. While it’s a good idea to minimize the transmission of the coronavirus, it can be strange, confusing, and even downright scary for a child.
You already know that babies and children two and under shouldn’t wear masks. But what about toddlers and preschoolers? How can you minimize the fear factor and persuade a stubborn toddler to wear a mask? And if you’re not into sewing, are there fun masks available for kids? We’ve tackled these questions and more.
Should Kids Wear Masks?
As you likely know, no one younger than 2 years old should wear a mask. As pediatrician Dr. Drew Wright told Babypalooza, putting a mask on an infant or very young child could restrict their airflow.
But older children are a different story. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are certain situations in which children 2 and up should wear a mask right now, such as a trip to a public place where social distancing is difficult. That means your child should wear a mask to the grocery store, a doctor’s office, or a pharmacy if possible.
But if you’re just hanging at home, there’s no need for your child to wear a mask unless there is a special circumstance such as an exposure to a person with COVID-19. There’s also no need for a child to wear a mask outdoors if they can practice social distancing (6 feet from others) and avoid touching surfaces.
The bottom line: It’s fine to go mask-free while taking a walk at the park as long as your child isn’t sitting at the picnic tables, touching the slide, or getting close to others.
The mask recommendation comes with a caveat though: If a face-covering poses a risk to your child (such as choking or strangulation), it is better to go without one, according to the AAP. Also, if the masks causes your child to incessantly touch their face more frequently (a major culprit in the spread of germs), it is likely better to forgo the mask.
Make sure you choose a mask that fits over your child’s mouth and nose while allowing for comfortable breathing. Adult masks are almost always too big for children, so be sure to choose or make one that’s an appropriate size. Also, stick with cloth masks, and leave surgical masks and respirator masks for the pros.
Hey, Kids … Masks Aren’t Scary!
Let’s face it … some kids just aren’t a fan of masks. But unlike Halloween, you may not have the option to simply opt-out of having them wear one. Dr. Polly Dunn, a child psychologist and mom of four in Auburn, Alabama, stresses the importance of providing age-appropriate information for your child about why masks are necessary.
“Don’t make it scary; just a simple explanation will do,” she says. “For instance, you could explain that wearing a mask helps everyone keep their germs to themselves.”
Dunn also says it’s important to prepare children to wear masks before they actually need to put one on for when you need to run errands.
“Practice wearing a mask at home, long before you actually need them to wear one in public,” Dunn says. “It’s OK to let them wear it for just a few minutes at a time, gradually increasing their tolerance.”
Dunn recommends incorporating pretend play when you introduce a mask. “They can pretend to be a superhero, a doctor, or a vet,” she says. “Get creative and role play with them at home as they prepare to wear a mask in public.”
If your child is reluctant, remember to start slowly.
“If your child won’t wear a mask at first, allow them to practice putting one on a stuffed animal or doll,” Dun suggests. “Also let them see you wearing a mask comfortably, so that they understand that it isn’t something to be afraid of.”
Fun Masks for Kids
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and fun don’t always go hand-in-hand … but they can! Many retailers are carrying masks made specifically for children. Here are a few of our favorite mask options to please even the pickiest of pint-sized fashionistas.
Star Wars characters. Mickey Mouse. Marvel heroes. How can any kid resist the fun of Disney face masks? Choose from a wide range of styles that come in four-packs.
One of our favorite kids’ clothing retailers has entered the world of masks! The super-cute triple-layer kids masks come in five-packs and feature fun styles like paisley, wiener dogs, and banana prints.
The best source for quirky gifts now offers cheerful masks designed by kids for kids. Plus, all the profits from the two-pack of rainbow masks go to NYC’s public hospitals.
This eco-friendly clothing brand has designed unisex masks for kids aged 2 to 10. They come in five-packs and feature prints like camo, leopard, and dino.
The innovative Smile Masks made by Rafi Nova have a transparent panel in the front to make communication easier and allow others to see your facial expressions. Along with adult and kid-sized masks, they also offer a classroom bundle for teachers that includes 2 adult Smile Masks and 15 masks for students.
If you want to support a small business, Etsy is a great place to start. Choose from a range of children’s masks in virtually every color, style, and pattern you can imagine.