It’s now illegal to go anywhere without a mask in my county.
Same for you?
Once this order was in place, I knew my kids would need lots of practice wearing masks inside before I could trust that they could keep their masks on outside for our walks and bike rides.
I knew exactly what to do to help my 3-year-old and 5-year-old become more comfortable with wearing a mask and I want to share my Child Life tips with you!
You can also watch me share these tips on my KSL News segment Helping Children Feel Comfortable Wearing a Mask.
Here are some ways you can help kids fear masks less and maybe even want to wear them just a little more:
1. FACILITATE MEDICAL PLAY
The first thing I did with my kids was facilitate some medical play.
Medical play is a powerful tool you can use at home with your kids anytime you need to normalize medical equipment.
I grabbed all our medical play tools and told them to round up some “pretend patients” and we got to work.
Here are some of our medical tools ready to go with a couple items we had at home I added (kitchen scale and measuring tape):
Here's our patient waiting room:
We saw COVID-19, broken legs, hurting tummies, and even some hurt paws.
I explained to my kids that some of their patients might have Coronavirus so we would need to make sure we keep our masks on while we are seeing our patients to keep us safe and healthy!
This is a great first exposure to the mask for kids and helps normalize them!
My kids got lost in the play and forgot about their masks, helping them to feel more comfortable with having them on all while taking the “scary” out of them.
They didn’t keep their masks on the whole time, which is what I anticipated, but after this play session they were far better at it!
Medical play, while providing a good avenue for rehearsal, also allows kids to play out what they are seeing and feeling.
Not only did our medical play help my kids to feel more comfortable with the masks, but it also taught them what they needed to learn: why masks are important to keep on.
Children often need to understand the WHY before they can comply when asked to do something scary, so don't forget to teach why they need to wear masks!
If you need some help with how to talk to kids about COVID-19, click here.
2. LET YOUR CHILD CHOOSE THE MASK
We know kids love control and while they don’t get to choose if they wear a mask or not, getting to choose the fabric for their mask helps them feel some control and like they do have a choice in the matter.
My kids got lucky and could pick their fabric out of some choices from a friend who made them.
So, after our medical play session, my 3-year-old set up his play around his basketball mask.
He wore his Utah Jazz, basketball shorts, and played basketball while wearing his mask.
3. DECORATE THE MASK
Glue some stickers on, foam shapes, add glitter, a silly mouth, rhinestones - go crazy!
This helps kids feel ownership over their mask and they might even get excited to wear their creation around!
4. ADD A MASK TO A PRETEND PATIENT
Some kids are so fearful they won’t even touch or put a mask on for a second!
These kids need some extra time getting familiar with their mask through play, so add a mask to their dolls, stuffed animals, and action figures first.
Incorporate lots of play with the masked "pretend patients" before you move to encouraging your child to wear her mask during your medical play.
Good luck to all you parents trying to keep masks on your kids!
I hope and pray no more children need to be tested for COVID-19, but if your child does need to be tested, read my post How to Prepare Your Child For Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing.
You can also watch me share my tips on how to help kids wear masks from my KSL News segment: Helping Children Feel Comfortable Wearing a Mask!