How to Help Kids Adjust to Wearing a Face Mask

Mom and young boy wearing face masks

With back to school at our doorstep, and many communities mandating the wearing of face masks in enclosed spaces, like the classroom, helping kids to wear face masks safely needs to be a top priority.

The first sticking point for many parents and educators is that some kids, particularly younger ones who don’t fully grasp what is going on in the world, will fight wearing a face mask. They may whine and be obstinate, in the hopes that they will be allowed to remove it. It takes time to get used to wearing them, but as kids in other countries have proven for years, it’s completely doable.

How to help kids accept wearing masks

While we logically can explain to older children that wearing a mask helps prevent them, and those around them, from sharing the virus, younger kids might not be able to grasp the importance of consistently and safely wearing a mask. However, even with older kids, it’s essential to use a positive message instead of scaring them.

The easiest way to get their buy-in is to make it a game for them. A challenge that they will be happy to attempt to win! Whether you incentivize the game with stickers and prizes or just encourage them through the thrill of winning, using a positive position, rather than a negative, more punitive stance, will go much further in getting the behavior you are looking for.

Here are a few other ideas to make masks a little more palatable:

Let the kids pick out the fabric patterns that they like

Or choose options that fit in with their interests. If they are all about video games or sports, there is a fabric mask out there for them.

Add masks into play opportunities.

One example would be making them into superheroes—Timmy the Mighty Masked Hero—or playing at being a doctor are two ways to go about it.

Most kids enjoy ‘grown-up tasks.’

They feel a lot of pride in helping out somehow, so why not make your reluctant mask wearer the family mask monitor? You can make them in charge of making sure everyone has their masks on before leaving the house, and everyone is washing their hands after taking the masks off!

Make masks for your child’s favorite stuffed toy or doll.

This way, it’s “all in the family!” This helps to normalize the idea of mask-wearing for your child.

How to ensure kids are using face masks safely

Teaching anything to children requires a certain amount of repetition and consistency, but it also helps if you are displaying the behavior you want to see them emulate.

Get them used to wearing one for increasingly longer periods of time.

Expecting a child to go from not wearing one at all to wearing one all day at school isn’t likely to be a positive experience. Work up in 10-15 minute increments to a full hour.

Choose masks for your child that they can put on and take off themselves.

They will have to be able to do so at school. The ones that tie might be more comfortable for some, but if they can’t tie it tightly or adequately enough, it will be useful to get them used to other types.

Clearly demonstrate how to put on and take off a mask and practice it a lot:

  • To put it on, wash hands and, using the ear loops, cover the nose, mouth and chin.
  • To remove the mask, do the same thing in reverse order: remove the mask and sanitize or wash hands. If it meets your school’s rules, provide your child with a clean container to put the mask in when they have to take it off—to eat lunch, for example. You can practice with them at home, at the dinner table.
  • Teach kids not to pull down their masks around their necks, or let them hang off their ears.

Kids must learn not to fuss with the mask once it’s on, and that requires time to practice and get used to. By engaging in play or keeping their hands busy as they get used to wearing a face mask, it will become a matter of routine.

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The OllieWorld, makers of the Ollie Swaddle & Dailies, has developed a program to give back to organizations that support foster babies and foster children named the Ollie Full Circle through ongoing donations of their award-winning swaddles. As part of this program, the company is now producing and donating face masks for children who need them made of the same moisture-wicking fabric as their swaddles. The Ollie masks are not available for sale and are solely made available via donation to organizations serving foster and at-risk children. The Ollie Full Circle mission is to help protect children and babies who are most vulnerable. Visit for more information.

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