As more people start to venture out and travel again, it’s becoming clear that face masks are going to be mandatory in a lot of places for the foreseeable future. Whether you’re flying, or staying in a hotel, or just visiting somewhere with a mask mandate in place, both adults and kids being expected to wear face masks is becoming the new normal.
My seven year old is perfectly comfortable wearing a face mask and really doesn’t complain, but my four year old is another story. When we first started venturing out, even putting a face mask on him resulted in him complaining and crying, and then once it was on he was constantly touching it and trying to take it off. While we don’t have any plans to fly in the near future, we are starting to go out more and I realized I would have to work on him wearing a mask for longer periods of time. While it’s still a work in progress, I thought I’d share some of the kids face mask tips that have worked for us.
Explain why kids have to wear face masks
Depending on the age of the child, this might be a good place to start. At four years old, Grayson doesn’t fully understand the pandemic or why things have had to change so much, but there are things I can explain to him.
He understands what it’s like to not feel well from the various coughs and colds he’s had over the years, so explaining to him that the virus can make himself or other people sick is something he can understand. I can then explain that face masks can make this less likely, so if he wears one there’s a lesser chance of him feeling unwell.
If your child is too young to really understand the ‘why’ of wearing a face mask, it might be easier to just focus on the ‘what’ – that a face mask has to be worn, it’s a rule, and without it you can’t do the activity that you were planning. Once they see everyone else is wearing masks as well, they might find it easier.
Start small to begin with
Once it became clear that Grayson was not at all keen on masks, we decided to start small and see if we could improve from there – and we started very small! We would ask him to wear the face mask and count to ten, then he was allowed to take it off. We then moved to 60 seconds, then five minutes, and worked our way up from there.
This was a long process, but fortunately we didn’t have a deadline where we absolutely had to be wearing a mask so we could take our time. We started doing it a couple of times a day, then once he was wearing it for longer periods of time we just practiced once a day.
We’re now at the point where he will wear the mask without complaint for as long as we’ve needed him to, which has only been about 60 minutes. If we had a longer flight coming up or were planning to spend a whole day somewhere where masks had to worn all day like Walt Disney World then we’d start trying to work up to longer times, but so far so good.
Let them wear them while doing things they like
Once we started practicing with Grayson for longer periods, we found distractions were key in him wearing the mask without complaint. My go to with him for distraction is usually food but that obviously wasn’t going to work here so we had to be more creative!
If he was watching a TV show or playing on the iPad then I’d have him wear the mask while he was distracted that way, and most of the time he forgot he was wearing it within a few minutes. We also practiced while going for short bike rides or playing soccer in the backyard so he could practice wearing the mask outside. As long as he was distracted, he didn’t mention the mask at all.
If your concern is your child wearing the mask on a plane, this should be easy to replicate once onboard. Chances are they’ll be otherwise occupied with an activity so hopefully they’ll forget the mask after a few minutes as well.
Let them pick the design
This is probably the most important of the kids face mask tips: let them pick the ones they want! There are countless designs out there now featuring pretty much every character and pattern imaginable so hunt around for your child’s favorite or let them choose for themselves.
Our biggest successes have been Etsy masks to get the characters my kids wanted. I went for ones with the best reviews and made sure they had the features we wanted, but then let my kids pick whichever ones they wanted. We have a selection of Pokemon, Paw Patrol, Star Wars, and of course Disney characters. I’ve even found some really cute adult sized masks on Etsy for myself!
Speaking of Disney characters, Shop Disney have their own face masks featuring all of your favorite Disney characters. These look super cute, but a word of warning; people have commented that the sizing isn’t particularly consistent and they can often run small so order accordingly.
Try a few different styles
We’ve all found that different styles of face masks fit us differently so it’s worth getting a few and seeing what works best. If none of the cloth face masks are comfortable for your child, give the disposable ones a try to see if they find those better.
If you’re traveling somewhere that allows Gaiters to be used instead of a mask, kids might find those more comfortable; just double check with these since many places don’t allow these instead of a mask.
For Grayson, the pleated style seems to cause the least complaints and he prefers the ones that tie around the back of the head to anything that goes around the ears. If your child doesn’t like things being around their ears either then there are some clever alternatives out there; Ear Savers are a common solution. Just make sure that the mask is still tight enough on the child’s face without the loops around the ears.
Don’t expect too much from them
This has been a scary time for all of us with so many changes, but it’s especially confusing for kids and I think we should all be super proud of how our kids have adapted and adjusted to the new normal. While it might be important to encourage kids to wear face masks, I’ve tried to remember that this is all really new and I can’t expect too much of my kids too quickly.
Even with Harrison who doesn’t complain at all about his mask, I don’t ask him to wear it for hours on end with no break, especially outdoors. Almost all places that require a mask will allow you to take a break in order to eat or drink, so while I don’t think these breaks should be taken advantage of, they are a good way to give a child a break for a few minutes.
Double check the rules where you’re going to see when and where you’re allowed to take a mask off so you know ahead of time what to expect. At Walt Disney World for example, you can only take your mask off to eat or drink if you are stationary and off to the side away from others; this is to keep people from walking around without their masks too much, but it’s something you’d want to know in advance so you don’t accidentally break a rule.
Have a Plan B
One thing has been made clear when it comes to companies and their mask policies: they’re not messing around. There have been countless stories recently about families being removed from flights or denied entry into an attraction because their child refused to wear a mask. Whether you agree with this or not, it’s obviously not a good idea to go into a situation assuming you’ll be exempt from the rules.
This means that plans might have to wait if your child really struggles with their mask. If they absolutely refuse to wear a mask for even a few minutes, it’s probably safe to assume they’re not going to suddenly decide to on a 3-hour flight. If you go into the flight just hoping for the best and the best doesn’t happen, do you have a Plan B? If not, the trip should probably wait.