How to Get Your Toddler to Wear a Mask

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While there is hope that the pandemic will end with two newly approved vaccines, there is still a need for mask-wearing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And, as recommended by the CDC, everyone over the age of two should be wearing masks. But getting a two-year-old to wear a mask can seem like an impossible feat when you consider how challenging it can be to get a two-year-old to do anything. But if you are considering putting your toddler in any sort of daycare setting you need to prioritize mask-wearing as many childcare providers are requiring them as well. We have a few strategies on how to get your toddler to wear a mask below.

Use a Special Character
For many children seeing a favorite character doing something is the best form of encouragement and can work wonders in getting your toddler to wear a mask. Sit down with your toddler and read a story like Heroes Wear Masks: Elmo’s Super Adventure to introduce masks in a non-threatening way. It can also provide an easier way to explain where and when we wear masks. Another option is to show a video of a character wearing a mask. Sesame Street has a short video with Oscar the Grouch and so does Arthur. Your toddler will get more comfortable with the idea of wearing a mask as they see it more and more in their books and shows. You can even get a matching mask for a favorite doll or stuffed animal so your toddler can practice putting a mask on for someone else before they have to wear their own.

Give Kids a Choice
Toddlers are all about showing their independence and often want to be the ones to make the final decision on everything. Have a few mask options ready and give them the choice of which one to try first. Getting a mask in their favorite color or character is helpful but remember to also focus on the fit and comfort of the mask. Try buying a mask with adjustable straps so it can properly fit your toddler’s face. You may be able to get your toddler to wear a mask with an exciting print but if it’s not comfortable it’s not going to stay on.

Practice Wearing Masks at Home
Don’t wait to go outside to wear a mask for the first time. Practice wearing a mask at home for short periods of time. You can make a game out of it by having a dance party and wearing the mask for the length of a song or a favorite show. Find other opportunities to practice like taking a walk around the block with masks. Practice, practice, practice! Make it part of the routine of leaving the house (shoes, jacket, mask) so it becomes part of your toddler’s routine.

Show-off for Friends
Get your toddler excited about showing their mask to special friends or family members. Try having your toddler show their mask to grandparents or friends over Zoom or Facetime. Sometimes seeing another adult that is not the parent doing something makes a toddler want to do it more. Try showing your toddler how others are wearing masks. And when you are able to get your toddler to wear a mask shower them with lots of praise.

Provide a Reward for Wearing a Mask
Sometimes the easiest way to get your toddler to wear a mask is to provide a reward. A favorite treat or extra screentime can be just the enticement that can get your toddler to wear a mask without pushback. With older toddlers, a sticker chart can also be a good motivation tool. If you do have a situation where your toddler has to wear a mask bringing along candy or a special snack can be the quickest way to get your toddler to do so.

Wearing a mask can be hard for adults so keep that in mind when you are trying to teach your toddler. Don’t force it too much and try not to make it a stressful situation. Just focus on exposing your toddler to masks frequently. With time they will learn and you will feel more comfortable trusting that they will wear a mask when it’s necessary.

This post originally appeared on Upfront Blog.

Shefali Shah is the Co-Founder of Upfront, the company that makes prices public and searchable in the daycare industry. She was formerly at Google and loves exploring new cities, making elaborate recipes, and finding reasons to celebrate with family and friends. Shefali resides in Baltimore, MD with her husband and two small children.