Getting a toddler to wear any type of clothing can be difficult, especially if they are sensitive to certain fabrics. During the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest challenges that arose was getting small children to wear masks correctly. Toddlers, preschoolers, and even young elementary school children frequently touch their faces, which can cause masks to slip and slide around.
Toddlers can be a particular challenge because they are learning to assert themselves and may be prone to throwing temper tantrums. They won’t understand the basics of preventing the spread of COVID-19, and they may struggle to understand the concept of social distancing.
Even in a post-COVID world, you may need to sometimes get creative to get your toddler to wear something they don’t want to. Here are six great tips for getting your child to wear a face mask.
Practice at Home
It is unrealistic to expect a toddler to suddenly put on an unfamiliar article of clothing in a public place. The best way to get them to wear one is to introduce the idea slowly with ample practice in a familiar environment. Make sure to wear one yourself and put one on a favorite stuffed animal or other favorite characters as well.
Since many environments expect kids over the age of 2 to wear a mask, you’ll need to start practicing before they reach this age. This also allows you to troubleshoot if your child has an aversion to certain mask materials. Some parents find that lightweight, breathable surgical masks are a better option for their child than cloth face coverings.
Let Them Choose
If you’ve raised a toddler before, you know that some days their preferences can change in the span of just a few minutes. Young children can abruptly switch between toys or even demand to change clothes without explanation.
Giving your kid a choice of which mask to wear makes the task of wearing a mask less strenuous. Even though the value of the choice is superficial, it allows your child to feel like he or she is still in control of the situation and offers them the opportunity to practice decision-making skills. Although this isn’t a foolproof way to prevent tantrums, it’s a powerful classroom management tool that teachers use at all age levels.
Bring an extra mask or two with you while out and about just in case they change their mind again. If possible, bring an entire stash of disposable kids’ masks with you just in case your toddler wants a new one.
Make it About Family
Toddlers learn by imitating the people around them. If they have older siblings, they may have a particular knack for copying them. Take advantage of this to help your toddler warm up to the idea of wearing a mask.
Point out to your toddler that you and others in your family are wearing a mask as well. If your toddler starts pulling down the mask, pointing to your face and showing him or her the correct way to wear it can go a long way. Make sure to follow up correct mask-wearing covering the nose and mouth with adequate praise and positive reinforcement.
Matching family masks can also be a great strategy, especially if your child has a particular favorite color. Even if this means you have to wear a mask that clashes with your outfit, it’s worth it if it helps your child feel comfortable with mask wearing.
If your toddler has started asking “why?” questions, you may get repeated questions about why masks are necessary. Remind your little one that putting a mask on is necessary to help protect your family and friends.
Playing pretend is a vital part of children’s cognitive development, especially with regards to problem-solving and communication. You can make role playing part of any setting where your child is required to wear a mask. This is also a great way to practice wearing a mask at home.
During long plane trips, read a book about doctors or hospitals to your toddler. Trips to the grocery store can be an opportunity to play ambulance driver while riding in a shopping cart. This serves the dual purpose of distracting them from touching their mask and normalizing the fact that they need to wear a mask.
You can even go the extra mile by using face shields. Face shields allow your toddler to pretend to be an astronaut or a knight in armor. Although decorating the front of the mask can potentially impede visibility, your toddler can wear a loose-fitting hat over the shield if he or she prefers.
Schedule Mask Breaks
Kids are highly motivated by the idea of a reward, so outdoor mask breaks can actually be effective even if they’re not intended as rewards. Whenever possible, allow kids to take a 5-10 minute outdoor mask break once per hour. This gives the skin under the mask a chance to cool and dry off, reducing sweat and overall discomfort.
Use Disposable Masks Underneath
Double-layering masks are not always necessary for health reasons, but they can make a huge difference if you need to replace a mask quickly. As soon as a child sneezes inside a cloth mask, the mask can become damp and uncomfortable.
If your child insists on wearing a cloth mask, try putting a disposable surgical mask on the inside of it for longer outings, especially if your child has cold symptoms or allergies. This could prevent a meltdown triggered by saliva or mucus sticking to the inside of the mask and touching the skin. Keep a stash of replacement masks available nearby, especially if you’ll be away from home all day.
Meeting the Needs of Your Environment
Getting people to wear a mask is an ongoing challenge for daycare facilities, airlines, health care facilities, and other environments. Child life specialists know that every child is different, but with a little experimentation and patience, you’ll find a solution that gets your kids to wear masks consistently.
ICU Productions provides kids’ 3-ply face masks and face shields for on-the-go protection. We know it’s important to balance safety with comfort, so we’ve worked to find manufacturers who are up to the challenge. Call us at 1-(323)-970-2513 for more information about our masks and shields for kids.