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Helping Your Kids Mask Up During COVID-19

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Jill Amsberry, DO

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that people wear masks in public settings, especially when it’s difficult to physically distance from others. This includes children. So how can we help them feel comfortable when they need to wear a mask? Pediatrician Jill Amsberry, DO, provides helpful tips on mask wearing for children and how we can help them adjust to this “new normal.”

What is the best way to fit my child for a mask?

The three most important aspects of a mask are fit, feel and fabric. Many parents find that pleated face coverings with elastic provide the best fit. Be sure that the face covering fits over your child’s mouth and nose and secures behind the ears without falling down. Cloth face coverings can be homemade or purchased. Sometimes you have to try different masks in order to find one that best fits your child.

How should I talk to my child about wearing a mask? I don't want to scare them.

By now, your child has probably seen others wearing face coverings or masks and may have questions. Regardless of the age of the child, all parents should find appropriate ways to have conversations about masks. For preschoolers and younger children, try explaining that masks are worn to help keep people from getting sick. Many older children will understand if you explain that wearing a mask can help reduce the spread of germs, which can make us sick.

How can I introduce my child to wearing a mask?

To help your child get used to wearing a mask try things like:

  • Look in the mirror while wearing a face covering
  • Dress stuffed animals and dolls in masks
  • Draw face coverings on characters in books or coloring books
  • Allow them to decorate their mask
  • Play pretend with the mask on
  • Try having them pick something they think smells nice to put on the inside of the mask such as a nice smelling lip balm

My child refuses to wear one. What can I do to help them adjust?

Practice wearing face coverings at home for shorter amounts of time. Add practice time to your daily routine to help children get used to doing something different. Set an example for your children by wearing your face covering during practice times, too.

What if my child needs to blow their nose or sneeze while wearing a mask?

While masks can protect from some droplets, when coughing or sneezing, the force can push droplets through the mask. Teach your child that if they need to cough or sneeze, do it into his/her elbow. For a softer approach, tell them to sneeze or cough into their “birdy wing.”

How often should my child change the mask they wear to school?

A clean face covering should be worn each day. You may consider sending your child to school with an extra mask in his/her backpack or locker to use if the other one becomes dirty during the day.

What if I can't afford a mask? Where can I get one for my child?

Many community organizations across Minnesota are giving face coverings to those in need. Minnesota Department of Health has a list of mask locations on their website. Your local school district also is a good resource to help you find face coverings for your children.