As more and more places that welcome our little ones (and big ones) re-open, it is a good time to work with your child on how to wear a mask. Like so many skills that children learn, wearing a mask and the skills that surround mask-wearing can take some time to master.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Be positive. Talk about your mask in a positive way and wear it in front of your kids. You can say things like, “I am so glad that I have this mask to keep me safe.” Encourage the other adults in your child’s life to make positive statements about their masks to your child, too. It’s okay to acknowledge that they can be a little uncomfortable or warm at times, however, keep your words positive: “I know the mask can feel warm, but staying safe is very important.”
Play. You can introduce mask wearing to your child through play. At home, play with a clean mask. You can touch it, take it on and off, and make-up some silly games with it: like pretending to sneeze it off or putting it on wrong and having your child tell you the correct way to wear it. Children learn through play, and this is no different; taking time to play with a mask will increase your child’s comfort level.
Pair mask wearing with a preferred activity. If your child is really resistant to the idea of keeping his or her mask on, try coupling it with something they really like to do: coloring, playing with a favorite toy, or even a little time on a tablet or iPad. This can help your child become accustomed to the feeling of having the mask on while they are engaged in something that they enjoy. It can also help because it pairs mask wearing with a positive activity.
Practice. Now it is time to try it for real. Start with short periods of time, like on a walk in your neighborhood or a quick trip into the store. Once they are comfortable with short periods of time, they’ll be ready to do it for longer ones. And when they take off their mask, make sure to praise your little one for what a great job they did wearing their mask. Don’t forget: it’s also a great idea to practice taking the mask on and off so that they learn how to do it on their own.
Even if things will be different, it is exciting to see our little ones return to in-person learning. Taking the time to help your child practice and learn things like how to wear their mask will help to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety for them, leading to a smoother transition for everyone involved.
Katelyn K. Collins, MS Education Consultant