This is tip 13 in a series from pediatrician Dr. Ray Fabius for families on maintaining health and wellness at home or on the front lines. Find more tips and actionable advice on our Dr. Ray resource page.
A tip about masks and children
There’s a lot of discussion about face masks these days. That’s because the decision about who should wear them, and when, is not 100% clear.
Firstly, there are no good scientific studies to prove the effectiveness of wearing masks. In fact, some argue that wearing one only provides a false sense of security, and people might not be as mindful of the most important rule: maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance from one another. Wearing masks could also cause people (especially fidgety kids) to touch their nose and mouth more often.
However, we know that COVID-19 is largely transmitted from being breathed in, and covering our faces prevents an uncovered sneeze or cough from spreading into the air to those around us. And, infected people can appear healthy (they’re called asymptomatic carriers) and be contagious two days before any symptoms start.
Because of these factors, experts believe that having everyone cover their nose and mouth is probably a good idea as long as you don’t fidget or get too close others.
So, should your child wear a face mask? That depends upon their age!
For kids age 2 and under, definitely not. Little ones in this age range can’t reliably adjust or remove their mask if breathing becomes difficult. For these kiddos, unobstructed breathing takes priority over covering up.
For kids over 2, it’s your (and their) choice! Most kids can’t help but touch their faces with unclean hands often—they’re kids! A mask would be helpful if they can manage it and want to wear it. If not, washing hands often your best defense.
Wearing a mask might seem strange to kids (and adults) right now! Make it less awkward, frightening, or uncomfortable by wearing a mask around the house as practice. Play games with them on to make it more fun!
Educational activities to help children understand
Note: These activities might be best enjoyed by school-age children.
Have a conversation
- Talk to children about people in your community who wear masks. Firefighters, doctors, nurses, dentists—even superheroes—all wear masks! Why? Because it’s their job to protect people!
- Keep your discussion simple. Explain that wearing a mask is just like washing our hands or covering our mouths when we cough. It’s another way to keep ourselves and our friends healthy.
Write a story
- Encourage your kiddo to make up a superhero persona for themselves and make a mask of their own! Discuss what kind of superhero they are, what superpowers they have, or if they have a superhero name.
- Work together to write a superhero story—with your child’s masked alter-ego as the main character!
- Roll out the butcher paper (or cut up paper grocery bags) and have kids illustrate themselves as their superhero persona wearing their mask.
- Use construction paper or other art materials to make superhero outfits or accessories. Practice math skills by designing with patterns.
Resources to learn more about this topic