How to help kids wear their masks in school

Wearing a mask is a key safety measure for kids going to school. This is especially true since, according to the government of Canada, children under the age of two should not wear a mask and none of the vaccines cleared for use by Health Canada are approved for children under the age of 12.

Understanding that kids over the age of two should wear masks and actually getting them to properly wear it, however, are two different stories. 

Kids are pretty honest. When they don’t like something, they don’t like it. The willingness to put a face mask over their mouth and nose and wear it properly during school hours is not easy. Some adults even struggle to do just that. 

Throughout the pandemic, teachers have had to keep patient and figure out new styles of teaching this pandemic. From kindergarten to college, every year and school class needs a different approach. 

With the highly contagious Delta variant circulating, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status

Below are a collection of tips and tricks we’ve found from experts that could help: 

LEAD BY EXAMPLE - Family, friends, teachers, and public figures are all people who can help drive this point home. If you have a younger sibling, wearing a mask at home or grabbing one when you go out can help normalize the action. 

EXPLAIN WHY - For very young kids, the why question is a favourite. It doesn’t have to be complicated - keep it simple but take the time to explain the importance of wearing a mask. We’re helping keep people safe. This point is also related to leading by example: staying properly informed is key. Identifying incorrect information isn’t always easy, even without a global pandemic ongoing, but make sure to follow official sources of information. If your friend, coworker or family member has the wrong information, talk with them. Also remember: sometimes, when things get tough, it can be important and helpful to remember the why. 

Wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and keep yourself and others safe.

TRY TO MAKE WEARING A MASK FUN - Wearing a mask is decidedly not fun. But good habits are formed with consistency and the right mindset. Seek out types of masks that fit your personality or fashion-style and have lots of options to choose from for the week.

EMPOWER WITH CHOICES - Similar to the point above: make sure you have options. If you are talking with toddlers or young children, remember the importance of individuality and independence. Let them choose what type or style of mask they want to wear. 

VALIDATE FEELINGS OF FRUSTRATION - It’s frustrating. No lie. As the COVID-19 situation continues, it’s completely normal to be irritated, angry or overwhelmed. Normal activities are not the same. It can be frustrating, too, to watch people make choices that seem selfish and unsafe. Know that if you feel that way, it’s not just you. If you have young children, try and avoid speaking negatively about mask wearing policies or the pandemic in front of them. 

While no vaccine is available for children under the age of 12, there is lots of evidence of the efficacy of wearing face masks. A recent study in North Carolina that included 100 school districts found how wearing masks is an effective strategy to prevent in-school COVID-19 transmission. Experts agree they are a vital part of our safety toolkit and have released guidelines for reopening schools in Ontario this month.

Want more advice? Check out…

Seven tips for making masks work in the classroom

Ten videos on how to teach kids to wear a mask  

Tips from pediatric care for teachers 

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