Mother putting mask on young child

Kids' masks are an important part of slowing the spread of coronavirus. Wearing a mask in public settings, especially if your kid is going to school in person or daycare, can make a huge difference in keeping them and others safe.

Because the COVID vaccine is not yet authorized for children under the age of 12, masks are still an important way to keep kids safe. 

Learn more about why kids need masks and how to help kids get used to masks.

Should Kids Wear Masks?

Most kids should wear a mask. The only kids who shouldn't wear masks are those who:

  • Are younger than 2 years old
  • Have a condition that makes it difficult to breathe
  • Have developmental disabilities or can't remove the mask by themselves

Why Kids Need Masks

There are a lot of myths circulating about masks and about children and the coronavirus, including that kids can't catch the disease and that kids can only spread it when they have symptoms.

This is not true.

Kids can get sick from the disease, though typically they get mild symptoms that can be treated at home. However, a small number can develop life-threatening symptoms or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Learn more about what to do if your child gets COVID-19.

They can also spread the virus when they are not showing symptoms. Kids' masks keep them from potentially spreading the disease to others.

Explaining Masks to Kids

Before you explain the importance of masks, talk to your kids about the coronavirus.

Explain the different prevention methods. Talk about what social distancing means, what germs are and the importance of hand-washing.

Once they understand the basics, you can explain why kids' masks are important. To put it in terms they will understand, simply tell them that masks keep the germs from spreading between people. Use simple, neutral words that won't frighten them.

Let them know that they should wear masks when they go out in public, especially when indoors or if they can't stay six feet away from others when participating in outdoor activities.

If they will be attending school in person, let them know that they can expect to see kids wearing masks at school this year.

Helping Kids Mask Up Properly

Even if your kid can understand why they need to wear a mask, it may be challenging for them to wear it correctly. This is especially true for younger children.

Here are some ways you can help your kid mask properly – even when they are at school or daycare.

Make Masks a Rule

Let your child know that wearing a mask out in public isn't an option. It's the rule in your family, and it is just as important as any other rule, like looking both ways before crossing the street or never going anywhere with a stranger. Explain that this family rule applies to their school or daycare as well.

Make Masks Fun

Just because they have to wear a mask doesn't mean it can't be fun. For younger kids, have their favorite stuffed animal wear a mask, or encourage masks as part of imaginative play, such as pretending to go to the store.

Consider getting masks that feature their favorite color, TV character, superhero or sports team. You can also let your kid pick a mask they like or decorate their masks. If they are older, they can even make their own kids' masks.

Practice Masking

If you are sending your child to in-person school or daycare, you will not be around to enforce masking. Practice putting a mask on properly (and keeping it on!) so they are used to it before they are around other kids.

Choose the Right Mask

There are many different types of kids' masks available for purchase, so it's important to understand the pros and cons of each before making a selection.

Make sure that the mask is sized properly, fitting snugly against the face and covering their nose and mouth. If they will be going outside in the heat, be sure to choose a kids' mask for hot weather.

Take a Break

If your child will need to wear a mask for a long time, try to build in "break times" where they can isolate from others and take the mask off for a few minutes.

These refreshing breaks allow the opportunity to practice safely readjusting the mask when they put it back on. If they will be attending school or a child care facility, ask a teacher if they have a safe place where kids can do this.

Ask About Their Feelings

Whether your kid is younger or older, it's important to check in with them. Ask them how they feel about wearing a mask. If your child is older, ask them about their feelings about the pandemic in general.

Validate their feelings but also express your own. Kids should know that while masks are necessary, it's normal to have negative feelings about the situation.

Be a Good Role Model

It's important for kids to have good role models when it comes to masking. Adults, older siblings and other members of the family should wear face masks when appropriate. Modeling good behavior for your kid can go a long way.

Updated 5/17/2021

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