I recently PCS’d during a pandemic, which included a mask for all members of our family (more on that story here). I was a bit concerned and could only control so much. So, prior to the nationwide mask recommendations, I decided to train my two-year-old daughter to wear a mask.
Here’s how I did it:
Allow your child to pick out their mask pattern or mask character.
Just like potty training and picking out their first pair of underwear, get your child’s buy-in by involving them in the process of choosing their mask. I was lucky enough to have a sister who had just decided to make her nieces Frozen character quilts. So she kindly agreed to make masks with Olaf on them.
Match your child or have them match someone they admire.
My daughter is currently in the phase of life where if she is matching myself, my younger daughter, or my husband she is thrilled. I used this to my advantage. I too proudly wear an Olaf mask.
Communicate the importance of wearing a mask and empower them.
It’s all about mindset: “Wearing a mask is like being a superhero! You are protecting other people!” Helping your child understand the importance of wearing a mask and making them feel empowered to do so. “Mommy and daddy wear masks to help protect others. Daddy has to wear a mask all day long at work to ensure he doesn’t share his germs.” “If you need a break from wearing your mask. We can take one as long as we move to an uncrowded space. We all need a break sometimes.”
Practice playing with and wearing your mask at home.
Start small by having your child play with the masks you plan to wear. Allow them to put the masks on their stuffed animals and dolls. Do some pretend play about going out to the store and everyone needing to put on their masks. Then wear the masks at home maybe while coloring or watching TV for the child to become accustomed to the sensation, while being distracted by the activity. Finally, trial wearing them on a walk to the mailbox each day. Then lengthen the walk a little longer. Make sure the length of these first practice sessions are doable as success is key!
Read books and stories.
Here are a couple of links to social stories written to help children feel less anxious and more empowered to wear a mask. Social stories were originally created to communicate information between professionals, parents, and children with autism. These stories can be utilized for all children to improve comprehension of complicated or emotionally charged information. Superhero books or TV shows can also be helpful to increase children’s understanding and give a character to emulate. Daniel Tiger is a favorite in our house.
I hope this gives a jumping off point for helping your children wear a mask! Let us know your best tips for improving mask wearing in your household!