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Kid wearing mask COVID-19 Children's Wisconsin

Help! My kid won't wear a mask

With mask mandates in place in a lot of communities throughout the state, parents may need a little help in getting kids to jump on board. It may take a little work but with these tips and tricks, your child should be ready to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.


First, talk to your kids in simple terms about why people are wearing masks. Tell them that it’s important for everyone, not just adults and sick people, to wear masks because they help protect us and those around us. Many people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning they have the illness without showing symptoms. Explain that wearing a mask is an act of kindness because it helps prevent COVID-19 from being unknowingly spread to and from other people. Masks do this by stopping the spread of respiratory droplets that we inadvertently spray when we cough and sneeze but also even when we talk.

Parents, you can try a little experiment. Try to blow out a lit candle with a mask on. Not being able to blow out a candle with a mask on shows how you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by demonstrating how droplets are stopped by the mask. Note: if you can blow it out, you should look for a different mask.

Mask recommendations for kids

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids under the age of 2 shouldn’t wear masks due to suffocation and choking hazards. Also, parents of kids with cognitive or respiratory impairments should exercise caution with masks for their children — if you have any questions or concerns about whether your child is healthy enough to wear a mask, it's best to reach out to their primary care physician. Masks don’t have to be worn all the time, for example when you’re at home or outside where you can be at least 6 feet away from others. For kids 2 and older, masks should be worn in public where social distancing isn’t always possible, such as at the grocery store, doctor’s office and public transit. But, whenever possible, leave kids at home.

What masks are best?

We’ve all heard that N95 masks are the best. N95 masks should be saved for the health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle and those who are immunocompromised. For the rest of us who aren’t facing daily exposure to COVID-19 or another life-threatening illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) recommends using two layers of tight-woven material for masks that are good at blocking virus particles, for example an external layer of high thread count sheets and an internal layer of flannel. Bonus! They are washable and reusable. Click here to learn how to make a mask at home.

Tips for getting kids to wear masks

  1. Be a role model. You want your kids to wear a mask? Show them how it’s done! By presenting a positive and easy-going attitude about wearing a mask, kids will be able to follow your lead.

  2. Do practice sessions at home. Find a time when kids are in a good mood, well rested and have had a little something to eat. Allow kids to hold the mask, sniff it and generally get the feel of it. Then have them either hold it to their mouth or put it on, starting with a few seconds, gradually building up to longer periods of time. Normalizing mask wearing in low risk environments can help avoid unintentional exposure outside your home.

  3. Make it fun. Find a mask with their favorite character on it or, if you’re crafty, make masks your kids can decorate. You can even make masks for their stuffed animals and dolls.

  4. Normalize it. Once they have a mask they like, you can try reading their favorite books or coloring a picture while wearing masks as a way to get used to it. Set up a video call with grandparents or friends with everyone wearing masks to help normalize it. Distractions can be a good way to help them get used to this new sensation of something covering their nose and mouth. Don’t forget to give your kids lots of praise for their efforts.

  5. Provide incentives if necessary. As with any new behavior, some kids may need a little encouragement. Use ideas that have worked in the past: sticker charts, picking out a small treat, getting to stay up 15 minutes later or an extra book at bedtime can all be good incentives for kids struggling to wear masks.

  6. Acknowledge their frustration. Kids may experience frustration with how COVID-19 has disrupted their lives. Wearing a mask and the feeling of tightness around their face may feel like another negative impact of this virus. Acknowledging and normalizing their feelings can be helpful to getting kids to understand the importance of wearing masks. If your kids are still struggling, check out this blog post on how to talk to your kids about COVID-19.

What we are doing at Children’s Wisconsin

Children’s Wisconsin encourages all patient families and visitors to bring masks whenever visiting one of our locations. The masks should be worn the entire time you are in the hospital or clinic — put it on before entering the building and take it off after leaving. If you do not have a mask, we will provide you with one. Keep in mind our supply of masks is limited — Children’s Wisconsin may not be able to replace lost or misplaced masks, so please keep track of the one provided to you.

When you visit Children’s Wisconsin hospital or clinics, all employees will be wearing a mask. It’s important for your safety and the safety of the staff and doctors.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Children’s Wisconsin strongly urges everyone to refrain from gathering in large groups, especially indoors, and to wear a mask whenever out in public and proper social distancing is not possible. Make sure you are still washing hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds or, if soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

As always. if you have any questions, about COVID-19 or your child's health in general, please reach out to your child's pediatrician.