One of the most common things we’re hearing from parents right now is “My child won’t wear a mask!” We can all sympathize, especially when it’s hot outside. As adults we’re able to talk ourselves through it using reason and logic, but it can be extremely tough to convince some kids, especially those with sensory and language challenges, to wear a mask for any length of time. Here are my 5 tips to help your child tolerate a mask, including a social story we wrote that you can read and/or watch with your child. (Update 9/14/20: We’ve created a free downloadable version of this list. Check it out here!)
Make sure it is comfortable
Make sure the mask is not too loose or too tight. Trial several different masks — there are many different options for material, fit, and closure. If your child is able to communicate what particular aspect of their mask is bothering them, show them different options that might eliminate that problem. For instance, if your child is bothered by the masks that loop around ears, show them one that ties behind the head or attaches to a headband or hat. Be willing to problem solve!
Make it special
Help your child feel like the mask is theirs by decorating with stickers, markers, patches, or letting them choose a fun pattern.
Start practicing at home before your child needs to wear the mask in the community. Use yourself, friends, family, and other kids to model wearing masks. It can be helpful to engage your child in a highly preferred activity, such as a favorite TV show or game, while they practice wearing the mask. You might also try setting a time limit and offering a reward at the end if they tolerate the mask the whole time (i.e. wear the mask for 5 minutes without taking it off and earn a favorite treat).
Incorporate masks into pretend play. Practice putting them on dolls and stuffed animals. You can pretend to be doctors, superheroes, nurses, and other people that wear masks.
Educate and explain
Talk to your child about why it is important to wear a mask and when they need to wear a mask. We wrote this social story for you to print and/or watch with your child to help with this effort 🙂