Getting back to school safely this year will require all of us to be on board with masks
When it comes to getting kids to wear masks to school this year, they can look to so many professionals who wear masks all the time already. Policemen, firemen, construction workers, doctors, nurses, scientists and the list goes on of jobs that require masks. Reminding kids of this is just one of the ways to inspire them to wear their masks with pride.
Masks have become part of the new normal to keep yourself and others safe, but school will likely be the first time your child has to wear a mask for so many consecutive hours.
There are ways to make this more manageable and maybe even a little fun for kids. Though kids are often more adaptable than we adults anticipate, it can still be hard for children to comprehend why it’s so important to wear masks, and it can be even harder to actually keep them on.
Why we wear masks
It’s important to explain to your kids just a little bit of the science behind wearing masks so that they can relate to the importance of wearing them. The more children understand why they need to wear masks, the more willing they will be to actually wear them.
For starters, the CDC says, “COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”
The candle test
One effective and engaging way to get a kid’s attention is a fun science experiment. Bill Nye recorded his experiment where he attempts to blow out a candle wearing different face coverings. He starts with a scarf wrapped around his face and successfully blows out the candle. In another attempt, he attempts to blow out the candle wearing a cloth face mask and is unable to extinguish the flame.
Although this cannot necessarily prove that the mask you are using is effective in containing droplets, it is a fun experiment to do with children to show them what the mask is supposed to do. If your child can easily blow out the candle, it is probably a good indication that you should get a different mask.
Get kids involved to wear masks at school
Another great way to encourage your child to actually wear his or her mask is to have them involved in the selection process.
- Sit down on Amazon or any other website and peruse masks together or print a selection for them to review.
- There are also DIY masks that you can create as a project together as a family.
- Grab some iron-on decals or stickers and let your child decorate their own mask that they will be excited to wear. Check your school’s guidelines to see what kind of rules your schools has for masks.
As you get your children involved, make sure that you do your best to model mask-wearing in front of them. When you leave for a store, proudly exclaim that you have your mask ready-to-go. Positive reinforcement can go a long way, so when you see your child wearing his or her mask make sure to praise them and highlight the positive behavior.
Practice makes progress for wearing masks
In some ways it seems like the pandemic has lasted forever, but wearing masks is just one of the many aspects that will take some time to get used to. To make it easier, here are some ways to practice mask-wearing with your kids:
- Practice for short periods of time: Wearing masks takes time to get used to. No one enjoys the feeling of not being able to breathe, especially when it’s still 80 degrees outside. By allowing your child to wear the mask for five-minute increments and gradually increasing the time, you can allow them to get used to wearing their masks for a longer time at school.
- Make it fun: Depending on the age of your child, making a game around mask-wearing could be an effective tool. Introduce masks in playtime by playing doctor, putting masks on stuffed animals, or make it a race to get it on. This will also help ensure that your child can take their mask on and off without assistance. By making mask-wearing fun, you are both encouraging them to successfully keep their mask on at school and also keeping the mood a little lighter.
- Delivering the message: Little reminders throughout the day about the importance of mask-wearing can help them become accustomed to wearing their masks. You know your child best and what interests them, so try to find a way to address mask-wearing in a way they will be receptive to.
Have extra masks handy
Wearing masks may be uncomfortable at times, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. When you find a mask you like, buy extra so that you can keep spare ones in the car, their backpack, and by the front door for easy access. Start with a few masks from different stores to see what styles your kids like best. Masks fit differently depending on each person’s size and facial structure, so what works for one family member may not be ideal for another.
Finding the right mask for your child to wear at school
Don’t settle for a mask that falls off or is uncomfortable to wear. There are some great masks out there that are easy to wear and breathable, but still provide adequate protection for you and your child. Here are a few top picks for the best masks to start the new school year:
It may be worth the CostCo membership just for these masks. They are light, breathable and though they are easy to put on, they don’t fall off easily. They are also machine washable and come in an 8-pack so you can keep up with having a clean mask for school each day. They come in a variety of solid colors, vibrant and neutral, and even pass Bill Nye’s “candle test.” They also have the mask for adults to match.
These are your standard rectangle-shaped mask in a variety of colors and designs. They are also machine washable and have a metal nose clip to help the mask stay on better.
- 5y-10y Kids facemask Reusable 100% Cotton Face Mask washable 3 layer 3D with Nose Wire adjustable ear straps filter Pocket & Filter Option
This mask gives you the option to add filters for extra protection and also contain the nose wire. These handmade masks are lightweight, breathable and also have adjustable ear straps.
While you are doing some back to school shopping there, Old Navy’s masks come in a variety of solid colors, are breathable and are easy to take on and off.
Target’s face masks are soft, comfortable and one size fits most kids three and up. These masks include the nose wire, have two layers and a pocket for a filter (not included.)
A few more notes to consider when buying masks for this year:
- It is a good idea to buy several styles of comfortable masks so that your child can choose what works best for them.
- Masks with nose wires often work better for children who wear glasses. If you use a mask with a filter pocket but no nose wire, you can repurpose a blue medical mask that has a nose wire in it, just trim it to size and insert it into the pocket.
- Some people experience dryness after prolonged mask use. Check that your child has access to drinking water throughout the day.
- If you have any questions about masks and safety, the American Academy of Pediatrics is a great source.
This school year brings with it many unknowns and challenges, but by taking proactive measures we can make mask-wearing just a little easier and more effective for our kids and teachers to have a safe and successful school year.
Note that the ATT is not a source of medical advice, and you should ask your pediatrician if you have any questions about the safety of any particular masks.