Let's face it, wearing a mask isn't fun. And getting your toddler to keep one on in public is much like persuading them to wear that one hat on a sunny day. It is developmentally appropriate for them to protest almost everything, including something that is intended to keep them safe. But the pandemic isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and it is our duty and obligation to enforce the latest guidance that will protect both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. At our daycare, here are some tips and tricks our team finds the most successful in getting kiddos to wear a mask (and keep it on).
#1 - Starting Small
Have them hold it. Touch the mask o their face. Ask them if they want to hold it. Start off with their handling exercise to get them comfortable with it before you put it on their face.
#2 - Wearing the mask in a fun and calm environment
Start at ten minutes, and increase the amount of time you keep it on gradually every day. Make sure you start off in a fun and calm environment- maybe you may just have to start during screen time for this exercise.
#3 - Extend the location outside of the house
Begin and home from time to time, and then start extending locations to other settings, such as the park, daycare, the store, etc. Make it fun, invent some games, and make sure to model good mask usage!
#4 - Reinforce mask usage
Once your child is comfortable wearing the mask, start to reinforce in various settings, by various individuals, at various different times. .
#5 - Personalize and make it fun
Have them become an active participant in picking out a mask! Things to consider when personalizing: favorite color, interests, characters, and patterns.
#6- Focus on comfort
Some items we've seen kids use to keep masks on are ear savers, adjustable straps around the head tie straps, headband attachments, and sensory friendly masks. There are many options on there to try and make this experience just a little bit easier on our little ones.
#7- Have a few handy
Have a couple of masks on hand while the others are in the laundry. We all know how quickly they can get wet from slobber!
#8- Be clear about expectations
This is a great opportunity to teach our children how to keep themselves and their friends safe! Reinforce the behavior and be specific about expectations! Define the rules of mask usage, why there are rules (to keep you safe!), create a break system, and reward them when they have done a good job.
Consistency helps form good habits.
Getting our children to wear a mask is a challenge, but it can be done with consistency, structure, and routine. By following the steps above, your child will be comfortable and confident in their mask usage without you around. Our little ones are capable of so much more than we give them credit for!