Although wearing masks can’t totally prevent the spread of COVID-19, science has proven that wearing masks (combined with other preventative measures like frequent hand washing and social distancing) can help slow the spread of the virus.
With this in mind, many facilities and organizations are now requiring masks, and some Canadian provinces, like Nova Scotia, have even made non-medical masks mandatory in indoor public spaces.
Wearing masks is not natural for most people, so it’s not surprising that it is especially difficult for children. However, in addition to ensuring a child’s mask fits properly, there are a few simple things parents can do to get kids used to the idea of wearing masks.
Teach kids how to properly wear a mask.
Parents should help their children practice taking masks on and off, positioning masks properly (including covering their noses), and not touching masks once they are in place. Practice really does make perfect.
Get kids exciting about the designs of their masks.
Let kids pick the colours, designs, and styles. You can even let children add their personal touches by decorating their masks with fabric markers or stickers.
Incorporate mask wearing into “play”.
Pretend to be doctors or nurses wearing masks and examining teddy bears, or put masks on dolls. Making it fun will help kids to have a more positive attitude toward mask wearing.
Model mask wearing.
If kids see their parents and others wearing masks, it will normalize the activity, and they will be more likely to want to do it.
Talk to kids about why mask wearing is important.
If they understand “why” they are doing it, they will be more likely to do it.
Keep masks organized and easily accessible.
Try keeping two baskets by the front door – one for dirty masks and one for clean masks. It makes it easy for kids to grab a clean mask on the way out the door, and drop off a dirty one when they return home.
Use name labels on masks.
This will help kids locate (and keep track) of their masks.
Give kids lanyards for their masks.
If a child is going to be frequently taking a mask on and off (e.g. wearing it in a store, but taking it off in the parking lot), having it on a lanyard will keep it from getting dropped on the ground or lost.
Practice wearing masks for short periods and gradually increase the duration.
For example, start by having a child wear it for 10 minutes, then try 20, and so on.
Make mask wearing during “screen time” mandatory.
Introducing masks when kids are distracted and sitting still is a great place to start. Also, the reward of screen time for wearing a mask is a good incentive.
Wearing masks is not something that has traditionally been part of childhood, but we are living in a strange and unprecedented time. Our children are going to be in situations where they are going to be required to wear face coverings, so as adults, we should do everything we can to prepare them and get them used to the idea.
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