Convincing Kids to Wear a Face Mask (and some great recommendations)

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Face coverings are crucial in keeping yourself and your neighbors safe, but some little ones are having trouble coming around to the idea. If your toddler or young child is finicky about face masks, these tips sourced from PSP members might do the trick!

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A note on safety: Children under two years old are NOT advised to wear a mask, and Japanese scientists have recently warned that wearing a mask can be very dangerous for toddlers under two. Wearing a mask may also be unsafe for older children with medical conditions: Summit Medical Group advises, "it is safe for your child to wear a mask if he or she is older than two years and does not have health issues that would make breathing harder with a face covering. Examples of such conditions include illnesses that cause neurological or muscular weakness and developmental and emotional conditions that make wearing a mask overly stressful."
Just a reminder, PSP member posts are not checked for accuracy. The content is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. www.parkslopeparents.com is not intended to, and does not, provide medical advice diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on the PSP groups or on the www.parkslopeparents.com website. Never rely on information in an e-mail or on our web site in place of seeking professional medical advice.

 

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Mask recommendations for kids and toddlers

Mask recommendations for older kids and tweens

 

Understand the psychological basis behind the reluctance. The New York Times explains that children don't reach adult skill levels in recognizing faces until they're about 14, and that children younger than 6 tend to pay attention to individual features rather than recognizing the person as a whole. That means kids may have trouble recognizing friends and loved ones with a mask on. Masks also make it harder for children to read emotional cues, especially if they are on the autism spectrum, have ADHD, or experience social anxiety. All of this, coupled with general worries about illness and things seeming scary/different, can lead to layers of fear and discomfort around masks.

To address these concerns, put your mask on and take it off a few times in front of your child to show them that it's still you and familiarize them with the sight of you in a mask. To overcome the emotional disconnect, speak extra clearly and carefully to your child when you're wearing your mask, and sit down with them to practice reading facial expressions and emotions using just each other's eyes. Wear masks around the house to normalize them, praise children for asking questions, and remind them that they can always check back in if additional questions come up. For more on the psychological background and tips for addressing it, check out the full article here.

Also—you can order a mask with a clear mouth section, like the ClearMask, which is designed to help deaf and hard of hearing individuals, older folks, children, and anyone who wants to be able to read facial cues while remaining protected.

Know that masking might be especially difficult for kids on the autism spectrum. The Mighty has a piece on
 Helping a Child With Autism Tolerate Wearing a Face Mask, which lays out a detailed plan for getting used to mask-wearing created by a behavioral therapy team for the author's five-year-old son.

 

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Turn it into a fun dress-up game. All you need for an animal mask is some sticky foam, pipe cleaners, or construction paper and packing tape for the nose and whiskers! Ninja and superhero looks are also easy to pull off, especially if you have a cape and a mask with a superhero print (like Batman) on it. Or, if they like to play doctor, throw a toy stethoscope into the mix and they’ll be good to go. You can connect all of this back to the real world by explaining that doctors and nurses are our superheros right now, and we can be superheros too by wearing masks and protecting the people around us from germs.

Make masks into an exciting family activity. You could sew or purchase matching masks for everyone (including stuffed animals), and then make a big deal of unveiling them and trying them on together. This also gives you a chance to practice wearing the masks around the house and get used to them before you venture outside with them on. 

Consider a custom photo mask. Some vendors are offering custom-printed photo masks with the bottom half of your face on it. Not only can this help get around the problem of your iPhone's Face ID, but it may also be fun and/or reassuring for your child to see you in or to wear themselves. 

Turn it into a craft project. "We got a huge pack of Hanes masks from Amazon and then tie-dyed them with the kids. We introduced the idea that masks are like underwear: you wear it all day, then throw it in the laundry at the end of the day. They're comfortable and breathable and we had fun with the tie-dying."

Speaking of craft projects... Coloring pages of kids wearing masks are both a fun artistic activity and a way to get your child used to the idea of donning a mask.

Pick out some great books to read aloud. The Washington Post has an article on books to teach your kids about social distancing, masks, and Covid-19. The author writes: "I ordered 'Lucy’s Mask' online this summer after a particularly tough afternoon, when one of my daughters flat-out refused to leave the house if it meant she had to put anything on her face. It was one of those parenting wins I like to savor: Lucy got the idea about mask-wearing across in a way my own pleading and negotiating simply can’t."

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And watch some fun videos that promote mask-wearing. One PSP member suggests "The Superhero Mask Song" by The Laurie Berkner Band.

Pick out some stylish, toddler-sized masks in a print they’ll love. Etsy has tons of options, and commercial retailers are getting into the mask-making game as well. Here are some recs from PSP members. Listings with a *** have been specifically recommended for toddlers because they won't be too loose on little faces!

  • CutSewFast on Etsy
  • Suri on Etsy
  • OvercomeGoods on Etsy: “The kids also love their superhero themed ones that we bought on Etsy. They are a little thicker which is nice but I find the kids play with and adjust those masks more. If your kid really loves a certain character a themed mask might entice them to wear it.”
  • ilandistyle on Etsy
  • OpenDesignProducts on Etsy
  • TheCavemom on Etsy
  • StrawberryAvocados on Etsy: “I've put them through the washing machine a bunch and they wash really well. Of the three I got off Etsy, these are definitely the best. And they come in a pack of 2!”
  • MuyMajo on Etsy: "Generally the kind of shape that puffs out (rather than the Old Navy kind we have) seems to help. A local Park Slope mom has an Etsy store with really cute masks with the preferred shape. We bought several but haven’t worn yet."
  • Joah Love: “My kids (5.5 and 3) love the masks from Joah Love. They call them Ninja masks. Considering they fight most clothes (jackets, long sleeves, sun hats, just putting on some damn pants) I was pleasantly surprised that they keep their masks on when they’re outside. The bigger drama is getting my 3 year old to NOT wear the mask in the car. We have the black ones with neon trim and the star ones. The black material is really soft.”
    "My very highly sensitive daughter uses Joah Love masks too and she really likes the patterns. Super soft and not hot. They stay on well. She’s 8 with a largish head so adult small fits her well. ... I use the extra loopS to to make a little knot behind her neck when she’s playing. They wash well. Just pretty expensive."
  • TwinTreeDesigns on Etsy: "We love these masks below for my 2 year old (he was 2 in May). They fit really well and he will only wear these ones consistently."
  • SeriousSupplyCo on Etsy: "We’ve bought 3 packs of these so far. They aren’t chic but the kids love them and they stay put without any effort. They’re made of stretchy swim type material so they can leave them on in the sprinklers and they dry quickly.  The only ones they wear without thinking about it. I tried 3 other styles before these. The others would fall down or they’d have to fuss with them or they had big gaps."
  • Elestory: "I figured if I were to bribe my child into wearing a mask, it better have rainbows or unicorns on it. The masks have soft, adjustable earloops, which make it easy for her to pull the mask under her chin and then pull it back up over her mouth. They're really well-made and are on the thinner side, which make them bearable to wear on hot days. (I know because I got one for myself, too.)"
  • Sammy and Nat: "The thin, soft straps are easier on her ears, and the adjustability is nice, too. These have no nose wire, but bridge wire seemed not to do anything as tots tend to have pretty low nasal bridges anyway."
  • Très Cher
  • Lollicup Store
  • Groceries Apparel
  • abacaxi-nyc
  • Buru
  • Cash and Della: “They have a wire over the nose for comfort and snug fit and you can wash them in the laundry. They're pretty heavy, so I have to take it off to breathe more comfortably when I am exerting myself (like pushing a running stroller up the Slope, but I'm also out of shape) and I remove my kid's when he is running around in the park, but we're very happy with them for walks or sitting outside, grocery shopping, etc. I think she's running about a 2-week lead time right now.”
  • Bella Beach Kids
  • Alex + Nova: "I've had the best luck with Alex and Nova.  They have a 2-4 year old size and a 4-8 year old size (adult sizes too).  My 2 year old and 7 year old have been wearing them all summer with very few complaints.  They arent too warm, stay on, and wash nicely (some shrinkage in the dryer but they still fit fine)."
  • Old Navy
  • Doodlebugs & Peanuts: "My friend and her husband are artists who have shifted to making beautiful masks during this time so they can support their family. She has many fun designs and is very responsive if you want to write to ask her advice on picking the best mask size and strap types for your kids (and you!)."
  • Jaanuu: "We also have some from Jaanuu, which are my personal favorite for myself, and they are double-ply.  They only have one kid size and my son says the elastic hurts his ears after awhile (but he is highly sensitive)."
  • Sock Fancy: "We’ve tried a bunch and I think sock fancy are my favorite for fit/coverage/non-fussing for my four year old and myself and they have a pocket to add a filter."
  • Marine Layer: "We recently bought marine layer sport masks for my 7 year old who is very sensitive and he really likes them. They have a string you can pull to tighten them and they are soft. It is the adult size but since you can tighten the sides they can work for a variety of ages."
  • Spacemask: "Super light and breathable. My five year old's favorite."
  • House of Shontell: "Inexpensive, soft cotton, they fit great, kid friendly patterns. I think the zipper ones are hilarious (that’s new) but I have the other ones and my 4 year old son is very comfortable in them."
  • Blended Designs: "Blended designs has one too that has a filter. My kids love it."
  • BOCO Gear: "We’ve had good luck with Boco. They are comfortable and soft. And fit my 6 and 9 year old great."
  • Clare V.: "As for cloth masks - as silly as it will sound - both my kids really like the ones from Clare V. And while Clare V purses are a bit pricey in my opinion, the masks are very reasonable and wash really well."
  • Happy Maskateers: "As for comfortable cloth masks--shameless plug for my sister in law who handmakes these (note the cute kids models--my kids). They are different than typical cloth masks in that they hover over your face, promoting airflow and comfort"
  • Happy Masks: "very breathable, they are adjustable and fit my 5 year old well and can be washed easily.  The pro model (which is what we use) has a sewn-in nanofiber filter and also claim to be N99, though I take all those claims with a grain of salt."
    "Happy Masks hands down. They don’t get wet because of the space around the nose and it’s the only one that stays on my toddler. They are More expensive than the usual ones but considering you can actually double dip and use them two days in a row it’s worth a try. They have 5 layers of protection as well."
    "Seconding Happy Masks!! We have a bunch and love them so much. They are tested to filter 99% of particles as well so we use it mostly when going indoors to shop but would work really well outdoors. The owner is lovely but it's a small operation so there may be a delay in the shipping."
    "Another vote for happy masks! Bought them for my entire family and in laws due to its effectiveness. Breathable and comfortable, I’ve worn them for long periods of time and they are the most comfortable option."
  • Ruthy Byers: "Not online but Ruthy Byers - (917) 721-7351 - is a local tailor who has started making masks during the pandemic. There are lots of great reviews for her on PSP if you care to look. She makes the best masks! Super comfortable, breathable and not hot. All our kids wear them without complaints. I bought a bunch of fun fabrics for them on Etsy and had Ruthy make them into masks. My husband and I also wear her masks. She makes them for the size of your face and they fit perfectly. She made my sister one because she loved the fabric I picked and my sister claims it’s the best mask she has (and she has bought way too many now)."
  • ***Crayola: "We recently got our order of the school mask packs by crayola. They seem like good quality and my daughter likes the patterns. I like that they are color coordinated through the week. It does look like it Is still taking a while to get here, but I’m glad we have them."
  • ***Vistaprint: "We’ve had good luck with Vistaprint - works for all three of my kids (5, 9, and 11).  Nice prints and a pocket for filters which you can also buy from Vistaprint."
  • ***Rafi Nova: "Our kids actually wear these after trying many that were too big/heavy. Bonus- fair trade company owned by a family of 2 sets of twins!" "I bought my 2 year old Rafi Nova masks and they fit his face perfectly. The masks also have adjustable ear straps. He keeps them on when we’re outside. I highly recommend these."
  • ***My Mask Animals: "But I had to sew the cat's ears down, otherwise they covered my son's eyes."
  • ***Andy & Evan
  • ***WAXONstudio on Etsy:  "[My son's] favorites are soft adjustable batik ones with jersey ties -- they're the only ones he reliably wears for entire outings."
  • ***Disney: "Disney has some that are great - recommend getting the size Medium for a two year old (the Small was way too tight)."
  • ***MaskOnCo on Etsy: "These have been the only masks I could find that fit our 2 year old, and he LOVES the dino patterns! He actually asked to wear his mask at home the other day."
  • ***Caraa: "We bought the ones from caraa and we love them. They're light, have adjustable straps and the nose piece for a good fit."
  • ***Green Sprouts: "The Green Sprouts ones are tiny, they're too small for my 4 year old but fit my 2 year old well."
  • ***Sew your own: "I recently found this pattern/tutorial that fits amazing for my 2 year old. It has instructions on how to make a pattern, which was a little tricky, but now I have a pattern the sewing itself is super easy."
  • Annie's Blue Ribbon General Store: "They're super soft and comfy and i love the adjustable straps. Plus, you're supporting a local business."
  • Or try a mask alternative: “My daughter won't keep a mask on so we've been using this bucket hat with a face shield when we go outside and she tolerates it.”
  • Or a kerchief or bandana: "Our son (just turned two) has had a problem with a regular toddler mask (He doesn’t like the feeling around his ears - also he’s a very small two year old and they don’t fit him quite right) but has taken to wearing a mini kerchief that’s tied in the back and covers his nose and mouth. Hopefully this is a step towards a proper mask but I figure is better than nothing :) any square piece of fabric your toddler thinks is 'cool' folded into a triangle could work!"

 

P.S. The Strategist has an article on the 14 Best Face Masks for Kids, which is partially sourced from recommendations from our very own PSP members!

 

PSP members have awesome recs for older kid and tween masks too. If your kid is too big for a toddler mask but too small for an adult mask, try these on for size!

  • Amazon: "I found some decent masks/face coverings on Amazon that work for my 13 year old. Like this one and there are other styles too if Hamilton is not their thing. Also these have done us good for my 11 and 13 year olds. Again there are other styles beyond soccer in this case
    In general I found face coverings in kids small, good for younger kids that also then come in what they call are medium that have been good for my older kid, again 11 and 13."
  • Vistaprint: "Vistaprint makes an “adult small” that may work well - our 10 and 11 year olds wear them comfortably. And we find the masks generally very comfortable. We’ve also bought the filters from Vistaprint and have found that they create a good barrier that helps keeps the mask from being sucked in to your mouth when you talk."
    "For my 9 year old, the best fit and comfort are the Vistaprint. You can customize your design too which is fun."
  • Happy Masks and 3MD Masks: "I have posted this before I believe, but I like Happy Masks a lot and they come in various sizes. I have a teen so he wears the large, I'm a 5'2" adult and I wear the medium, I think there's also a small. I also like 3MD Masks which also come in various sizes. Both are 94-99% protective, the latter can be washed with laundry as it's a felt filter and the former needs hand washing with a drop of dish soap, super easy, the former is easier to talk and breathe in and the latter has the best nose guard and is much more form-fit. 3md med masks come in the type with straps around the head, the 2nd strap is too lose so i knot it and put around the back of my neck, it's worn like a surgeon but they have 80% protective ones with ear loops. I like how firm the surgeon-style one is, it feels very safe.
    Anyway those are the ones I keep coming back to, and they have kid-friendly sizes. Etsy has some fun ones but they aren't as protective."
  • HeyJanuary and Akiahandmadeshop on Etsy: "Finding a face mask that fits my 13 year old has been tough. This athletic material one works well for her, and this cotton one too."
  • NxtStop: "My favorite mask so far is this one from NxtStop and my 9 year old daughter wears it (in the adult size) as well. (Their child size one is pretty small, it fits my tiny 6 year old.) It has adjustable ear bands so we can make it a bit smaller for her, but the amount of fabric feels right for both of us."
    "I second the NxtStop bamboo masks!! They are breathable and adult small fits my 11 year old perfectly. He uses them for soccer practice."
  • Rawlings
  • Electric Styles: "Electric Styles masks are fitting my 12 fine."
  • B2KDesign on Etsy: "I just bought these from Etsy. They seem pretty promising so far. I out on ear toggles so that the loops are more easily adjustable, but the fit seems really good.
    The masks don't have a nose strip, which I may consider adding if possible, since I feel like that helps with glasses wearing (for me and my husband)."
  • City Threads: "City Threads (they also sell on Amazon) makes cotton masks in 4-5 different sizes. They are sized by height. Size medium fits my 11 year old perfectly. Kids masks were too small for him."
  • Taylor Harrison: "We’ve loved these (for our kids and ourselves)! She’s local. They’re adjustable, come in fun designs, have a nose wire, etc ... and they have held up well in the wash (which I was pleased about because the previous masks we got on Etsy shrank)."
  • GoodDayMasks on Etsy: "A friend recommended these masks to me, and they work so much better for my kids than others we’ve tried.  One of my kids is a big fidgeter and constantly pulls other brands down beneath his chin. As soon as we got these, his mask stayed in place for as long as it needs to. It seems like he doesn’t notice it’s there. These work just as well with my other two kids, but they were already mostly fine with the ones we had. My kids are almost 5, 6, and 8, and this brand fits them all very comfortably."
  • Stark's and Rafi Nova: "We've been happy with masks from Stark's and Rafi Nova - they have kids sizes and both places make soft masks that have built in filters and feel substantial but are still comfortable enough for longer-term wear."
  • Masks by Tray: "My friend started a mask company on instagram and they are fantastic! It's a 3D design, very good quality, and many patterns to choose from. Our whole family got them, not just kids. Our little one loves his so much he refuses to take it off sometimes. Highly recommend! She's based in Queens so it's somewhat local ;)"
  • VIDA: "For my older daughter and myself, I like ShopVida.com (the standard seem to fit better than the artist print)."

 

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Let kids pick their own mask when it's time to leave the house. One PSP member shares: "I have to pass on a tip another parent gave me, which was to hang a basket of masks by the door and let the kid choose one when leaving. Obviously you'll want to stock it with masks they like/tolerate but you can also toss in the ones they are not fans of to give them that illusion of choice. They always like things they have chosen themselves best :-)"

Make sure the mask is extra comfy. You can make a simple mask by cutting up a super-soft old t-shirt, folding it, and using 1-inch strips cut from old pairs of tights for the ear pieces. For store-bought or homemade masks, adjustable elastics can also help ensure that your kid has a snug and comfortable fit. 

Bring extra masks when you're out. If it's super hot, your child's mask may get sweaty and be even harder to tolerate. Letting them take a quick break to remove the mask and replace it with a dry, clean one can help.

Put masks on a lanyard so they don't get lost or dirty if they're briefly removed.

Alternatively, invest in a mask strap. An adjustable strap can both create a better fit and allow kids to drop the mask down around the neck when they're able to safely social distance.

  • "We bought a pack of face mask straps on Etsy which work awesome. Our daughter likes them tighter so it also pulls the ear straps off her ears so we tie them so they’re shorter. It lets her pull down as a collar when she needs to take it off but also keeps the mask on longer because she’s not futzing with her mask to keep it on all the time."
  • "Really recommend these. You pick the mask color and the beads if you want them. My kids picked out their own combos and felt a real ownership over them. The neck strap is so clutch."

 

Be firm and straightforward about the need for a mask. Depending on the age of your child, it can be effective to explain honestly about germs and the fact that they could get sick or get others sick if they go out without a mask. Even if they don’t fully grasp what’s going on, it’s often helpful to let them know why the mask is important so they don’t feel like it’s just a random order from on high. You may also consider enforcing the rule that they can't go outside if they don't mask up first, and/or turning around and going home if they refuse to keep it on when outside the house.

And if that doesn't work, try a gentle/casual suggestion instead. One PSP member shared: "We also started by casually offering our daughter a mask. She refused for only a few days, and then was intrigued enough to try it out. She wears her mask every day now, and often leaves it on as long as we're out. This wasn't the case in the summer, when she'd take it off if it was too hot out, so I think once they get used to the idea of wearing a mask and are willing to put one on, it comes down to comfort. If the mask is uncomfortable it's not going to stay on."

Lead by example. Young kids are likely to still think you’re cool enough to mimic, so be diligent about wearing your own mask around them. This also helps normalize the mask, as does walking around outside and letting them see that lots of other kids and adults are wearing one as well. And if you’re personally experiencing stress around wearing the mask, this video may help: “Understanding panic sensations/symptoms in context of mask wearing during Covid-19.”

 

Stay safe out there, everyone!