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4/16/20blog post

cloth face masks for children

By now you have probably heard that the CDC has released recommendations that people should wear face masks when the 6 feet of social distancing cannot be achieved.  While most kids are spending their time at home or in their own backyards away from others, there are times that kids may need to wear face coverings.  By planning ahead and talking to your child, you can help them be less scared about wearing a mask and ensure they are wearing facial coverings at the appropriate times.

First, remember children younger that 2 should not wear cloth face coverings.  This can be a choking hazard. For babies, it best to keep them home whenever possible.  If you must take them out, keep them a safe distance from others.  For infants still in car seats, cover the car seat with a light blanket to limit exposure.

There may be times that children do need to wear a face covering like when you need to take them to the doctor, pharmacy, or grocery store.  These are the times that make many parents nervous with young ones who don’t understand the importance of social distancing and keeping their hands to themselves.

If your child is wearing a face covering, make sure it covers your child’s mouth and nose and stretches from ear to ear. Kids should be taught to wash their hands before and after they wear it and avoid touching it once it's on their face. Your child should avoid touching the front of the face covering and take it off from behind.

Cloth face coverings should not be worn when eating or drinking and they should be washed after each wearing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some additional guidance for parents regarding face coverings.

  • Children do not need to wear a mask if they are home (as long as they have not been exposed to anyone with COVID-19). 
  • Children also don’t need to wear a mask if they are outside as long as they can stay at least 6 feet away from others. Remind children that they should not touch tables, water fountains, playground equipment or other places were infected people may have touched (or germs may live).

As with all parenting, it’s important to consider your child’s development in many situations.  You may need to reconsider using a cloth face covering if the covering is posing a choking or strangulation hazard  or if the face covering causes your child to touch their face more than when they were not wearing it – it’s all about balance!

Ultimately, staying at home and following physical distancing is really the best way to protect your family.  Handwashing, taking your shoes off when you enter the home and wiping down surfaces are also good ways to keep your home safe.

Seeing so many people in face coverings can also be scary for kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some great ideas to help ease your child’s worries (see photo above).

You can also help children by making sure you are answering their questions about face coverings in a developmentally appropriate way.

For children under 3, use simple language they understand to answer their questions. An answer to why people are wearing face coverings might be: “Sometimes people need to cover their face because they are sick and when they are better they will stop wearing them.”

For children over 3, try talking about germs. This is a great opportunity for a science lesson too! Explain that some germs are good and some are bad and the bad ones can make you sick. Since we can't always tell which are good or bad, the cloth face coverings help make sure you keep those germs away from your own body.