Heading back to school this year comes with extra challenges beyond getting your child the
lunchbox they crave and fun markers. This year we need to make sure our children are ready to
keep their mask on during the day and are using it hygienically. For the most part, Emma and DJ do very well with their masks, however, there are those times when I have looked at DJ in the store and he’s taking a “breather”…and I have freaked out. I can’t complain because both children do a pretty good job of keeping them on. But I can say it didn’t come without a lot of practice!
Here are a few tips to make it a little easier for you.
Choose a mask with your child that they like!
Children are much more likely to wear a mask if they think it is cute, or cool. If you know how
to sew, choose some fabrics with your child that they like. If you don’t sew but know someone
that does, ask them to make some for your child with the fabric your child likes. If none of this is
an option, purchase some plain cloth mask and let your child fabric paint on the outside. The
emphasis here is on choice and individuality. If your child has agency about what their mask
looks like and feels like, they are more likely to be willing to keep it on. Both Emma and DJ have masks they prefer to wear. I have purchased some of those brands for school. Both have masks with different characters or teams that they picked out,
Make sure the mask fits your child
Children have smaller faces than adults, and it’s important to make sure their masks fit on their
face! If you have a mask that is too big, perhaps stitching a few stitches in the sides near the ear
elastic will shorten the fabric. Perhaps the ear elastic is too big, you can knot it or stitch one or
two stitches with a machine/hand sew to make it snugger. Most stores now have masks for
sale and clothing departments of Target or Walmart for example have children’s sizes. When we first started on the “mask journey” both children picked out masks from the store. One day I picked up some women’s adult masks from the store, but I didn’t realize I was picking out a smaller size. Once I had them I had to put one on Emma because we forgot her other mask at home, she started wearing those and it covered her face perfectly. She now wears the adult small/medium mask and she’s no longer tugging and pulling at her mask while we are in the store, she’s comfortable!
I say all of that to say there is some trial and error in the process, but wearing a mask that is comfortable makes the process much more manageable.
Make sure your child knows how to take it off and put it on
Teach your child to put on the mask using the elastic, and to take it off the same way. Encourage
them not to touch the front of the mask. Some parents find that having one of the elastics also
attached to a lanyard helps their child when they need to or are allowed to take the mask off.
When they go to take it off they just put their fingers around the ear elastic and let the mask drop-down, still attached to the lanyard. Teach your child how to hand wash and air dry their mask. Go to the sink, squirt/rub a little soap on their hands, and show them how to rub the fabric back and forth in their hands to clean. Squeeze out when the soap is rinsed, and show them how to hang or lie flat their mask to dry.
Make mask-wearing FUN
Remind your child that we can all do hard things!
Make the process fun, not a bummer. It is recommended that school-aged children and children
that go to daycare have a different mask for each day of the week. Make the process of gathering
masks fun. It can be exciting like getting new clothes. Offer your child incentives for keeping the
mask on, and start practicing at home before they go back to school if their school will require it.
Start with 30-minute increments of time, and offer a reward system for your child when they
accomplish the goals. Perhaps you can add wearing a mask to your child’s jobs for the day, and
if you chart their responsibilities you can offer a reward for their follow-through. Model for your
child your own good attitude about mask-wearing, and practice right alongside them.
Making wearing a mask fun and part of your family routine is sure to make the transition back to
school smoother for your child. Remember we are all learning new routines and have a sense of
humor about the process. Remind your child that we can all do hard things!