Young Kids and Masks
So daycares and places to visit are opening up and your kid won’t wear a mask… Or, they’ll only wear it around the house when they’re playing make believe. Or hell, they’d walk around in a trash bag before they’d actually wear a mask. We get it. Our kid could play “ghostie” with a blanket on her head for 3 hours if we let her. (Imagine a toddler running around with a blanket on their head crashing into the walls…)
As parents we’re right here with you navigating the new experience of getting our young child to wear a mask. I’ll be honest, for a long time I felt, ideally, there’s no where I need to take my 2.5 year old that she actually needs to wear one. But as the summer creeps upon us the itch to find a variety of outings is setting in. And I’ve recently had my toddler do one of those open mouth sneezes right in my face. Toddlers are gross and they don’t social distance well. While I think we’d all really prefer to be in a world where we aren’t problem solving how to get our kids to wear masks, here we are– states and counties are moving to lesser restrictions and families are looking to get out and enjoy the summer weather.
Adding this new layer to every day activities can be just as upsetting for parents as it is for the kids–these feelings are normal for every one. Whether it’s your daycare or summer camp, a well-check at the Dr’s office, a family dinner, or any sort of emergency kids are going to be wearing masks for the near future. We’re hoping some of our experiences and some of these resources might help families navigate mask wearing with their kids.
[Image Left: Three kids at an outdoor table. The boy in green wears a “big kids” size mask. The boy in red wears a “teen/small adult” mask. The girl wears a “small kids” mask.]
Before we dive into that, we do want to remind you that the CDC does NOT recommend mask wearing for children under the age of 2. If your child has asthma or other related health conditions please consult your child’s doctor before having them wear a mask. For more information from the CDC on masks visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-faq.html
ddDespite being mask makers I didn’t actually whip up a mask for Ellie until we were making an emergency trip to the veterinarian last month. It was an emotional day for everyone, and the idea of adding something new in the chaos of it all, especially to put on her face, did not go over well. She’s young enough to border the recommended/required age and our vet was understanding about it so we were able to stay together. I had reservations and guilt about putting the vet staff at risk but ultimately we held her the whole time and kept her away from the staff as much as possible. Fast forward a week I made her another mask, let her pick some fabric, and when it was done and she said “Oh, is that my Olaf mask?” and proceeded to wear it for almost an hour while watching a movie. (See photo on the right) The next time her Nana came over wearing a mask to drop off a few orders she said she needed to wear her mask too. It’s the seed of acceptance.
We’ve had friends’ kids react in a variety of ways… One hates it despite the choice of their favorite characters for the fabric… some kids feel like a ninja, spy or super hero… another friend of Ellie’s was so excited and relieved to have their own mask because they felt included and safe. (If they’ve heard grown ups talking about wearing masks to keep others safe why wouldn’t they want to do the same?)
So, our first piece of advice is, don’t wait to give them a mask… consistency and familiarity is important to kids. Give your child the time to explore the mask in a comfortable setting on their own timeline. Try it on, take it off, play a game, be a super hero, play doctor/nurse/veterinarian. They could dress up their favorite toy with a mask too. The more it’a a part of their world, the less frightening it will become. An advantage to a cloth masks is that they can explore with out waste– you can just give it a wash and it’s ready to go. Or, one of our customers suggested having one just for play and one for wearing out.
Next, and this is important, let your kids see you wearing masks so that seeing others in masks is familiar to them as well. Take the mystery out of it, let it be something you do together.
And our third piece of advice is to talk about it. Kids have questions, and in my experience both as a parent and a camp counselor they do better when they have answers– age appropriate answers. You don’t have to spill all the information and come prepared with pages of research for your kids. I’d simply start with: “When we go out, and we’re around other people, we’re all going to wear masks. Most other people will wear them too.” They might be satisfied with the simplicity or ask 10,000 questions. Try to listen and answer rather than overload them by anticipating what they’ll ask next.
We found a few stories to help kids talk about masks from Autism Little Learners (this is a great starting point for ANY child).
Seeing People Wearing Masks: https://www.autismlittlelearners.com/2020/04/seeing-people-wearing-masks-story.html
Little Autism Learners has additional COVID-19 resources and stories on topics such as coronavirus testing, school closures, and distance learning. Most of their resources are also available in Spanish, as well as many other languages.
Finally, we know that fabric choice is important to your kids. We are moving towards a ready-to ship (pick your exact mask fabric) model by the end of June. But, if you’re placing a pre-order, or “surprise me” pack with us please tell us about their favorite colors, characters and strong likes/dislikes so we can pick a fabric that will work for them. If you’re hoping for a specific fabric seen in any of our posts please ask if it’s still available before placing your order. If you need to order a mask and you are worried about the inner lining of the mask being soft enough for a child with any sort of sensory issues or textile preferences please reach out, we are happy to substitute our usual lining (tea towel/four sack towel) for a smoother cotton woven or jersey knit. The change in effectiveness will be minimal and any mask is more effective than no mask.
We hope that helps and we’d love to hear how your kids are becoming comfortable with their masks. If you’re still struggling with it in your family, please know you’re not alone.
For help with sizing, please contact us via Facebook messenger or email (we’re still working on a comprehensive size guide blog post…)