For better or worse, face coverings are a part of daily life during the pandemic. Now in the thick of cold and flu season, it’s more important than ever to wear masks when out in public. The CDC recommends that all children over the age of 2 wear a mask in public places where social distancing isn’t possible, and many public places require face coverings for all children over the age of 5. But getting kids to wear masks is no easy task. How do you convince a strong-willed preschooler to put a mask on – and keep it on?
Tips for getting kids to wear masks:Positive Peer Pressure
Most young kids like to emulate their friends, so positive peer pressure is an especially powerful tool for some kids. If you have friends or family with young kids who are particularly mask-savvy, consider setting up a socially-distanced playdate where your child can see other kids in masks. If that’s not possible, you can video chat with friends, or share photos or videos of other children wearing masks. Sometimes this is all it takes to elicit cooperation.
Get Them Involved in Choosing Masks
With so many retailers making masks for kids, it’s easy to find one (or ten!) that match every kid’s personality. Get online and let your child help you browse masks and pick out a few that they love. Treat it like a special treat and maybe they will get excited to wear their snazzy new mask!
Similarly, when it’s time to leave the house, let your child choose which mask they will wear that day. It’s also never a bad idea to bring 1 or 2 extra masks on outings in case one gets dirty or your child decides halfway to the grocery store that they wanted a different pattern.
Try Different Types of Masks
Some people find masks that tie around the head more comfortable, while others prefer the type that loop around the ears. Consider getting multiple types for your child to try on so that they find the one that is most comfortable for them.
Make it into a Craft Project
Many retailers make basic white masks in jersey or woven cotton. Pick up a pack of white masks and fabric pens and let your child create their very own, unique designs! Or pick up fabric dye and try tie dying masks. They will feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when they inevitably receive compliments on their stylish face wear.
Note: Please be sure to follow manufacturer instructions when using fabric pens or dye to ensure the dye sets properly. Do not use fabric paint, as this can affect the breathability of the mask.
Practice for Short Times
Even for adults, it can be uncomfortable to wear masks for an extended period of time. So before you take your child out in public in a mask, practice at home. Have them wear their mask for a couple of minutes at a time, and give them a reward (whether it be praise, a sticker, a special food treat, etc.) when they can keep it on for that short period of time.
Next, take them somewhere in public where you know they won’t have to wear it for long, like a quick run into the grocery store for 1-2 items. Make sure to offer a lot of praise, and don’t be surprised if strangers also offer praise – as uncomfortable as masks can be, most adults know it’s especially hard for young kids and will go out of their way to offer support. Once you’ve accomplished a short trip, keep extending the increments until your kid is comfortable with longer outings.
By following these tips, we hope that before long your child will be an expert mask wearer! For more tips on getting kids to wear masks, visit Kidshealth.org.