The one-year anniversary of this COVID-19 pandemic has come and gone. And much to our disdain – but also very much for our safety! – we’re still wearing masks. A challenge that many of us have faced as parents is the reality that over this past year (and then some), our babies have become toddlers and the world they know is one of social distancing and face coverings. For a little while there, we may have been able to get away with our little ones going “mask-less” but the more comfortable we become with emerging from quarantine into the real world, the more we may face strict rules about children over 2 wearing a mask (i.e. for travel and school).
What are the Mask Rules?
The CDC states that all children over the age of 2 should wear a mask when in public and around people they don’t live with. Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami mandate that all persons over 2 years of age are required to wear facial coverings in public areas, at parks, and inside establishments. When it comes to travel, airlines and theme parks are some of the places where you may encounter very strictly enforced mask rules.
So, How Do We Get the Mask On (and keep it on)?
Being a toddler is tough. Handling a toddler can also be tough. Considering these two facts, it can be quite the challenge to get our little rascals to even agree to put a mask on, let alone wear it out and about. Try out some of the tactics below and just remember to take it one step at a time:
Try a fun/themed mask.
Your child’s favorite character/theme (for example, Elsa or dinosaurs) may get them excited to wear it. You can even choose a mask based on your activity – like an animal mask for a zoo outing or a Minnie Mouse mask at Disney.
Ensure comfort/appropriate size.
This may mean you’ll have to try out a few but things will probably not work out too well if your little one’s mask is uncomfortable. Disposable kid’s masks are a little lighter and more breathable than the reusable cloth ones so your child may be more cooperative with those than with Elsa or dinosaurs (although in our house, dinos win every time).
Set an example.
If your child doesn’t get out much but sees you putting your mask on before you walk out the door, they will get the idea that ‘this is what we do when we go out.’ If you are out with your little one, when you get to your destination, put on your mask in front of them and say something along the lines of, “Ok, now it’s time for your mask!” Hopefully, they’ll be happy to be just like Mommy (or Daddy!). If you have a mask hanging system in your house, let your tot hang theirs next to yours for a little added enthusiasm. Examples can also be set by your child’s favorite neighborhood hero! If your kiddo aspires to be a firefighter, veterinarian, trash truck driver, or even a ballerina, show them that all these people wear masks too.
Incorporate masks into playtime.
If playing dress-up is big in your household, throw some masks in that dress-up bin. Additionally, you can practice putting mini masks on dolly or teddy. Even Barbie can wear a mask!
Make a game out of it.
When out in public, you and your little guy(s) and/or girl(s) can create your own mask game. Don’t let anyone see your nose! Whoever keeps their mask on the longest gets a special treat! Etcetera. Lots of giggles and funny voices are encouraged!
Everyone is allowed to “unmask” (while stationary) to eat or drink. Offer a snack or drink if you’re starting to see that the mask is becoming bothersome. Toddlers are stationary in their stroller, right? Just be prepared – the longer the outing, the more snacks you’ll surely need (where do they put it all?!).
Getting your toddler to wear – and keep on – a mask may seem like it’ll never happen but I assure you that if you keep practicing and try these suggestions, you can get there! Just remember that this is ultimately about your child’s safety and wellbeing. Here’s to a safe and healthy 2021 for both you and your toddler!