Despite promises that warmer weather would help eliminate the virus, the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t show any signs of slowing down in the United States. As a result, more and more people are wearing cloth face masks in public to slow the spread of the virus, and that should include kids over the age of two — especially when school starts back up again in the Autumn, at least in places where kids will be required to attend classes in person. We had to wear face masks at hospital last weekend and one thing that jumped into mind was how big it was on Noah. Making sure it is the right size is essential.
Most kids will probably take to wearing face masks well — even young kids are capable of understanding the importance of stopping the spread of disease. And while kids might not wear masks perfectly, neither do most adults — and even imperfect use of face coverings can make a big difference in fighting the invisible enemy. Here’s how to get your kids used to wearing masks, so they can do their part to keep everyone safe.
1) Start ASAP to Get Kids Acclimated to All-Day Mask Wear
When school starts back up in the fall, kids in many areas will have to wear masks all day long in the classroom. Don’t wait until the day before school starts to give your kids their masks. Give them masks now and help them start getting acclimated to wearing them for longer periods of time.
If you haven’t already, start by teaching kids to wear their masks for trips to the grocery store or other public outings. Give kids the chance to wear masks at home for short periods of time, to help them get used to it. Teach kids how to put on and remove a mask safely, and how to use crocheted or sewn ear savers to protect their ears from irritation caused by straps.
2) Make Wearing a Mask Special and Fun
Making masks fun can ease kids’ fears about wearing a mask, and can even help them get excited about it. Does your child like superheroes? Compare cloth face coverings to superhero masks and explain that wearing your masks helps keep others safe. If you’re shopping for cotton masks, let kids pick out their own. If you’re making masks, let kids pick out their own fabric and help in age-appropriate ways. Give them the chance to decorate their own masks using puff paint, stickers, or iron-on patches.
3) Address Kids’ Fears about Masks
Some kids, especially younger ones, may be apprehensive about wearing masks or seeing others wearing masks. It’s new to them, and it’s normal for young children to feel cautious or fearful in new situations. Masks can be scary for kids and babies because they hide the facial expressions that very young children, who lack good language skills, rely on to communicate and interpret signals from others. Talk to them about it, and answer their questions about wearing a mask. Show them it’s safe by wearing one yourself. Look into the mirror together while wearing your masks and talk about it.
4) Encourage Kids to Incorporate Masks in Play
Kids use masks to understand the world around them, so making a few masks available during playtime can help kids come to terms with wearing them. Encourage your child to draw pictures of favorite people or characters wearing masks. Make small masks that your child can put on favorite stuffed animals. Kids can pretend to be a doctor or nurse, caring for a stuffed animal “patient”, or can pretend to be a superhero.
5) Explain Why Wearing a Mask Is Important
Even very young kids can understand what germs are — explain that everyone has their own germs, good and bad, and that wearing a mask can help keep your bad germs from spreading to others. Older kids may be able to process the fact that a disease is going around and that everyone is wearing masks to prevent its spread, but try to stay positive and upbeat.
Don’t scare kids by talking about death and don’t dwell on the fact that they or you might get sick. Instead, focus on how important it is to prevent the spread of germs by wearing a mask, washing your hands, and keeping six feet of distance from others. If your kids ask you directly whether you or they will get sick or die, explain that, by wearing masks and practicing hygiene and social distancing, you’re doing everything you can to stay safe and keep others safe.
As COVID-19 precautions become the new normal, kids as well as adults will have to get used to wearing masks in public. Address your kids’ concerns and fears, and help them come to terms with mask-wearing through play. You might be surprised at how well your kids ultimately take to it.