Wearing a Face Mask – Tips to Teach Children

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Although children are less likely than adults to test positive for COVID-19, they are still at risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Wearing a face mask, washing your hands with soap and water and maintaining social distancing are the most effective ways to decrease the rate of infection. Children, as a whole, can become infected, but less likely to become as sick and may not show symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children 2 and older wear masks, but trying to convince little ones to wear a face covering over their nose, mouth and chin can be difficult.  

Director of Patient Care Services at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California California Kanoe Allen shares some tips for encouraging kids of all ages to mask up!

Engaging toddlers, ages 2 – 4

It’s hard for toddlers to understand the importance of wearing a face mask and why they need to wear one, so making it non-negotiable, like wearing a bike helmet, is important!

“Try and explain to your little ones that face masks protect them against germs and helps keep other people around them healthy,” said Allen.

“Try and explain to your little ones that face masks protect them against germs and helps keep other people around them healthy,” said Allen. “Be a good role model and make it fun.”

Let kids pick out their own mask including their favorite color, pattern or design to help keep them excited about wearing a face mask. A properly fitting mask is also important. Some masks have adjustable nose bridge pieces and ear straps, which allow for a tighter fit over a child’s nose, mouth and under the chin. This helps prevent your child from fussing or wanting to take the mask off. A comfortable fit is key!

Elementary school children, ages 5 -12

It’s important to be a role model for elementary school age children. This age group wants to copy everything you do. When children see their parents, teachers, family members and others around them wearing masks, they will want to wear one too. Children have already started to understand that face masks are the new normal. If your child resists, try positive reinforcement.

“You can tell them part of doing their favorite activity involves wearing a mask. Again, be a good role model,” said Allen. “Face masks are still required in public places throughout the state.”

“Face masks are still required in public places throughout the state.”

Teenagers, ages 13 – 18

Let’s face it, teenagers think they’re invincible! They assume they aren’t at risk personally and don’t need to follow the same precautions.

“Explain to them that they are part of a larger community and in times like these, we all need to come together and protect each other. Wearing a face mask demonstrates that you care for the larger community,” said Allen. “Teens are inspired by being part of change. They want to do the right thing.”

All ages

It’s important to remember that wearing a mask should always be combined with other preventive measures, including frequent hand-washing, maintaining 6 feet of distance from people outside the home and limiting in-person gatherings.

Allen also stresses the importance of open communication with children about the pandemic.

“Let kids know that everyone is adapting and learning during the pandemic. One of the most important things we can all do is protect ourselves and other by wearing a mask,” said Allen.  

For more information on how you can protect yourself and others during the pandemic, visit Centers for Disease Control and PreventionWorld Health Organization and California Department of Public Health.