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How to Get Your Kid Excited About Wearing a Face Mask

A mother helping her young daughter adjust a cloth face mask.

If you’re struggling to convince your kids to keep their face masks on, you’re certainly not alone. Parents worldwide are dealing with this same issue. Here are some practical tips that can help.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone, including children over the age of 2, wear a face mask to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. It can be tough to get kids to take mask-wearing seriously, though.

They’re playful and don’t think about big-picture problems like adults do. That’s precisely why you have to tap into to that playfulness, change the narrative, and get them excited about wearing a face mask. Here are a few suggestions that might help you persuade your kids to embrace wearing a mask.

Colorful, Fun Masks

First and foremost, the type of mask matters. Your kid is more likely to wear something with his or her favorite color, pattern, or cartoon character than a plain white or blue one. If your daughter’s favorite backpack has Elsa from Frozen on it, she’d probably love a face mask featuring the same image.

If your son is really into trains and cars, get him a mask with his favorite models on it. He likely won’t be as quick to take it off if it’s displaying his fave vehicles.

You’ll find a plethora of options online at Etsy, Amazon, Paper Cape, Zazzle, and more. If you sew, you can make one yourself, using your kid’s favorite print or design. You can even make one out of that old pair of pajamas you’d put in the donation pile.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you actually do it. Your kid won’t be excited to wear a plain white mask, and you might get frustrated trying to explain why everyone needs to wear one. If you show up with one that has a fun design, though, that’s half the battle!

Practice at Home

Practicing wearing face masks at home can yield success because your kids will get more comfortable wearing them. Seeing you and other family members wearing them will also have a positive influence. So, take some time each day to make mask-wearing look like it’s the “normal” thing to do.

You can take it a step further and turn it into a game. Make a mask part of a story in which your kid is a superhero whenever he or she wears one. Your chances of getting them to keep one on will increase dramatically.

Kids have an insatiable need for games and storytelling. Anytime you can weave wearing a mask and good hygiene into an epic tale, go for it!  You should notice an improvement in compliance. Step into their world to figure out what will excite them enough to stay in their newly assigned role.

Not only will they love this new game in which they get to be a superhero and save the world, but they’ll also spend more time with you. It’s a win-win!

Communication Is Key

A father and son lying on a carpeted floor, talking about wearing a face mask.
George Rudy/Shutterstock

Simply putting a mask on your kid’s face and expecting him to be obedient is almost impossible to accomplish without a prior conversation (or two). You have to explain why wearing a mask is so important and how it will keep everyone safer.

Kids understand more than we think, so be as honest as possible. You don’t have to go into the gruesome statistics about deaths. However, do your best to explain how wearing a mask protects not only themselves, but also those around them—and especially grandma and grandpa.

Remind your child about that time she had a cold or the flu, and then explain that wearing a mask will prevent her from feeling that way again. If your child is lucky enough to have never experienced any of that, explain how yucky it feels to be so sick, and how you can’t even play with your toys or watch TV. Knowing this will make him stop and think.

Speaking of TV, this is a great time to enlist the help of videos featuring characters and personalities your kids enjoy. For example, the brothers behind the popular PBS KIDS show, Wild Kratts, released this PSA about the importance of wearing a mask.

And that’s just one from an entire playlist PBS put together to help you talk to your kids about the coronavirus and good hygiene.

Cater to their interests and needs, rather than explaining it from an adult perspective. Whenever you try to see the world through their eyes, you’ll understand your kids better, and not just during a pandemic.

If your kid is tantrum-prone or just extremely playful, don’t get discouraged or frustrated. Again, turn it into a game! Tell them they turn into their favorite superhero whenever they put on their masks and leave the house. While they’re on the streets, they have a mission to accomplish and they have to keep that mask on so no one will recognize them.

It’s always more helpful to tap into a child’s active imagination instead of quashing it.

Do It with Kindness

If you take your kids on a walk and notice they’re trying to lose their masks, don’t yell or get angry. Kindly remind them about their superhero’s or use the reward method.

Tell them if they keep their masks on until you’re all back home, they can watch an extra half hour of TV, stay up a bit later, or you’ll make their favorite dinner. Even if you don’t normally use rewards to negotiate with your children, this is an unusual situation. Perhaps doling out a few treats is worth straying from the norm if it makes life a bit easier and keeps everyone safer.

Kids’ attention spans are notoriously short. They’re very easily distracted, so they’re not necessarily trying to be willful or disobedient when they take off their masks. If you get upset or raise your voice, it might have a counter-effect, and cause them to connect wearing a mask with a negative experience, which is exactly what you don’t want.

Instead, give them something to look forward to if they keep their masks on until you’re all back home.

Getting kids to wear something they find uncomfortable isn’t easy, even if they can comprehend some of the serious reasons behind it. Fun and exciting patterns and prints, along with a cool fantasy storyline can make a world of difference!

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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