Updated Aug. 12, 2021
Wearing a mask is a necessary part of keeping COVID-19 from spreading. Along with the COVID-19 vaccine, wearing a mask and physically distancing are important ways to prevent COVID-19 spread.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated should wear a mask in indoor public places. You also should follow any laws, rules, regulations, or guidance regarding mask-wearing. The CDC recommends students wear masks in school, even if they are fully vaccinated.
For parents, convincing children to wear a mask may be easier said than done. Some children might have sensory or developmental issues that can make it more difficult to wear a mask.
While there’s no quick fix, these tips can help make this parenting challenge less frustrating.
Explain What Masks Are For
If you haven’t already, discuss COVID-19 with your kids. The CDC and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AAP) offer age-appropriate advice.
On any new topic, younger children love to pepper parents with questions. So be prepared with good answers. The CDC provides up-to-date information on why wearing masks works.
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Be a Role Model
Children learn how to behave by watching their parents and other adults.
Demonstrate the right way to wear a mask. It should fully cover your mouth and nose and fit snugly on your face.
Be consistent. If you only wear masks some of the time, your children will think they can break the rules sometimes, too.
How we talk to kids about wearing masks can affect their usage. Use positive language and stick to the facts: Masks protect them and the people they love. If you complain about wearing a mask, chances are they will, too.
Get Everyone on Board
Involve family and friends in reinforcing the idea that masks are necessary. Before interacting with family and friends, ask them to wear a mask.
Younger children thrive on consistency. If they see other adults are not following the rules, they’ll get confused.
Focus on Comfort
Masks come in different styles, fabrics, and textures. Try several styles until you find one or two that your child finds comfortable. Mask extenders that hook onto elastic ear loops can make masks even more comfortable to wear.
Offer a Choice
Kids of all ages often have serious opinions about fashion.
Allow your children to express themselves by choosing their mask color or design. Younger kids might want a mask showing their favorite cartoon character. Older kids might choose a sports team-branded mask.
If you’re crafty, you can sew a mask. Ask your child to pick their favorite fabric. If they’re crafty, they can help you sew it.
Do a Trial Run
Before your kids attempt to wear a mask all day, get them used to it. Start by having them wear it for a 10-minute stretch and work up gradually to longer periods of wear.
Do something fun while wearing it. Go for a family walk, or watch a movie together.
Use a Reward System
Turn wearing a mask into a positive experience. Set mask-wearing goals. Provide a reward, such as a small treat or trinket, to congratulate your child on a job well done.
Help Them Remember
Since mask-wearing is still new, it’s easy for any of us to forget. Being organized helps. Keep a clean supply of masks by the door.
Kids are always losing things. So put an extra mask in their backpack or pencil case. Give them some visual reminders before leaving the house.
The CDC has printable door handle hangers you can download.
To help children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the Harvard Health Blog recommends displaying a photo of them wearing a mask.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a national leader in pediatric care, ranking consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. We provide expert treatment for pediatric diseases, along well-child visits, urgent care, and more. With locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, you can find world-class care close to home. We also work closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a national leader in care for newborns and their mothers. Our goal is to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond. Visit our website to find a doctor near you.