With all of the challenges of 2020, it sure seems like a good time for a superhero. Instead, we’re all putting on masks to be heroes in our community–keeping each other safe with the hope of achieving some semblance of normal.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says, “Wearing cloth face coverings reduces the chance of transmitting the virus through the spray of spit or respiratory droplets.”
This essential concept may be hard for kids to grasp, but fortunately, we have some helpful tips to get your kids on board.
The candle test to demonstrate why we are wearing masks
Bill Nye recorded an experiment where he attempts to blow out a candle wearing different face coverings. He starts with a scarf wrapped around his face and successfully blows out the candle. In another attempt, he attempts to blow out the candle wearing a cloth face mask and is unable to extinguish the flame.
Although this doesn’t prove every mask is as effective in containing droplets, it is a fun experiment to do with children to show them what the mask is supposed to do. If your child can easily blow out the candle, it is probably a good indication that you should get a different mask.
How to explain wear masks to kids
The more children understand why they need to wear masks, the more willing they will be to actually wear them. Having them do the candle test is a great start, but it’s also important to explain some of the science behind wearing masks so that they’ll be more inspired to keep them on.
The CDC says, “COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”
Parents should frequently check in with their kids and to review the symptoms to watch out for. The AAP says, “ Pediatricians should remind parents to keep children at home if they have a fever, cough, congestion, runny nose, diarrhea or vomiting.”
3 hacks to make wearing masks easier for kids
- Get the kids involved
A helpful way to encourage your children to actually wear their masks is to get them involved in the process. You can sit down on Amazon or any other website and have them pick out masks. It may be a smart idea to choose several styles of comfortable masks so that your child can choose what works best for them.
There are also DIY masks that you can create as a project together as a family. If you’re feeling extra inspired, grab some iron-on decals or stickers and let your child decorate their own mask that they will be excited to wear. Be sure to check your school’s guidelines to see what kind of rules your school has for masks.
As you get your children involved, make sure that you do your best to model mask-wearing in front of them. When you leave for a store, let them know you have your mask ready-to-go. Positive reinforcement can go a long way, so when you see your child wearing his or her mask make sure to praise them and highlight the positive behavior.
- Practice with them
Since March, kids have gotten more accustomed to social distancing and wearing masks, so many kids are already used to the idea. The AAP says, “To help make a habit of wearing cloth face coverings, pediatricians can encourage families to have children practice wearing them at home.” Wearing masks in school will be new for them, so taking the time to practice beforehand will only help.
- Practice for short periods of time: Wearing masks takes time to get used to. No one enjoys the feeling of not being able to breathe, especially when it’s still 80 degrees outside. By allowing your child to wear the mask for five-minute increments and gradually increasing the time, you can allow them to get used to wearing their masks for a longer time at school.
The AAP says, “Students and families should be taught how to properly wear (cover nose and mouth) a cloth face covering, to maintain hand hygiene when removing for meals and physical activity, and to replace and maintain (wash daily) a cloth face covering.” With practice, these safety measures will become second nature and better ensure the safety of your kids and those around them.
- Make it fun: Depending on the age of your child, making a game around mask-wearing could be an effective tool. Introduce masks in playtime by playing doctor, putting masks on stuffed animals, or make it a race to get it on. This will also help ensure that your child can take their mask on and off without assistance. By making mask-wearing fun, you are both encouraging them to successfully keep their mask on at school and also keeping the mood a little lighter.
- Delivering the message: Little reminders throughout the day about the importance of mask-wearing can help them become accustomed to wearing their masks. You know your child best and what interests them, so try to find a way to address mask-wearing in a way they will be receptive to.
- Grab some spares
Wearing masks may be uncomfortable at times, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. When you find a mask you like, buy extra so that you can keep spare ones in the car, their backpack and by the front door for easy access. Start with a few masks from different stores to see what styles your kids like best. Masks fit differently depending on each person’s size and facial structure, so what works for one family member may not be ideal for another.
What to do when kids still resist wearing a mask?
When models and explanations aren’t enough to get your child to wear a mask, try some of the following tips.
- First encourage your child to just touch and hold the mask
- Start by having them keep the mask on for a few seconds and use a timer to encourage them to keep it on for longer and longer
- Once they are comfortable wearing the mask for a little, try to help them get used to it in the house, like watching TV or going for a walk with the mask on
- Try encouraging them to practice wearing a mask during a time when they are already distracted, like during screentime
5 common misconceptions about kids and masks
The AAP counters some common misconceptions about wearing masks. These myths can make it harder for families to commit to wearing masks, especially since they can sometimes be hot and stuffy.
- Can wearing a mask make it harder for my child to breathe?
No, cloth masks are made from breathable materials that will not block the oxygen your child needs
- Can masks interfere with lung development?
No, masks will not affect a child’s lungs from developing normally. Oxygen flows in and around the mask while blocking the spray and spit of droplets that may contain the virus!
- Do masks trap the carbon dioxide that we normally breathe out?
No, false reports that face coverings can lead to carbon dioxide poisoning. Carbon dioxide molecules are very tiny, even tinier than respiratory droplets. Children under age 2 should not wear masks since they may not be able to remove them without help
- Can masks lead to a weaker immune system by putting the body under stress?
No, wearing a face covering does not weaken your immune system or increase your chances of getting sick from COVID 19.
Wearing a face covering, even without symptoms of COVID 19 helps prevent the virus from spreading
- How do masks prevent the spread of COVID 19?
- When worn correctly, masks create a barrier that reduces the spray of a person’s spit and respiratory droplets that play a key role in spreading COVID 19
- Masks should:
- Cover both the nose and mouth
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the sides of the face
- Be secured with ear loops or ties
- Multiple layers of fabric
- Allow for unrestricted breathing
- Be washed and dried after use
Top picks for masks for kids
These are your standard rectangle-shaped mask in a variety of colors and designs. They are also machine washable and have a metal nose clip to help the mask stay on better.
- 5y-10y Kids facemask Reusable 100% Cotton Face Mask washable 3 layer 3D with Nose Wire adjustable ear straps filter Pocket & Filter Option
These handmade masks are lightweight, breathable and also have adjustable ear straps. This mask gives you the option to add filters for extra protection and also contain the nose wire. Masks with a nose wire often work better for kids who wear glasses. If you use a mask with a filter pocket but no nose wire, you can repurpose a blue medical mask that has a nose wire in it, just trim it to size and insert it into the pocket.
It may be worth the CostCo membership just for these masks. They are light, breathable and though they are easy to put on, they don’t fall off easily. They are also machine washable and come in an 8-pack so you can keep up with having a clean mask for school each day. They come in a variety of solid colors, vibrant and neutral, and even pass Bill Nye’s “candle test.” They also have the mask for adults to match.
Target’s face masks are soft, comfortable and one size fits most kids three and up. These masks include the nose wire, have two layers and a pocket for a filter (not included.)
While you are doing some back to school shopping there, Old Navy’s masks come in a variety of solid colors, are breathable and are easy to take on and off.
With all of the uncertainty this year, we can all feel a little more at ease taking the recommended steps toward a safer school year. For more about masks and safety, the American Academy of Pediatrics is a helpful resource.