Helpful tips for getting a toddler to wear a mask

As a toddler mom, the thought of my daughter turning two and having to wear a mask in public places and on airplanes incited some fear and anxiety. I mean, I can barely get this girl to put on clothes most days. How was I going to get her to wear a mask? This article is about getting a toddler to wear a mask.

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If you’re in the United States, the CDC recommends that individuals two and older wear a mask in public settings and around people who don’t live in their household. (Source) They have guidelines on fabric, fit, layers, coverage, nose wires, and much more.

Although the mask mandate starts at the age of two, the CDC is clear that children under two should not be wearing masks. A lot of states and businesses are handling mask mandates differently. Some businesses and institutions have strict mandates and others are more lenient when it comes to toddlers and mask-wearing.

My toddler has been great with some transitions and not so great with others. Initially, when we introduced her to wearing a mask, she absolutely refused to wear it. It was not happening. 

Inside, I was freaking out because we planned a trip and bought airplane tickets to visit my husband’s family, so she would have to wear a mask on the plane. Thankfully, things turned around but we did have to put in some effort for her to wear a mask.

So, here are some tips for getting a toddler to wear a mask.

Purchase fun designs

We purchased several mask options for our daughter. It’s always great to have your toddler pick out their own masks in a store. If you normally shop online, then get masks that cater to their current interests.

Target and Amazon are great places to shop for children’s masks and they are super budget-friendly. Here are links to some options below.

We prefer masks with adjustable ear straps and an adjustable nose wire for comfort and form-fitting.

Let them make the decision

I find that giving my toddler an option between two masks gives her a little more authority in the decision to wear one. 

With toddlers, there is this innate need for them to have agency in decisions that affect them. I see this so often in my toddler. If it’s mommy or daddy’s idea, then absolutely no way but if she gets a choice or it’s her own decision, then she’s good.

Getting a toddler to wear a mask can be tricky but giving them authority over the decision, even if it’s just a little, helps.

Be a role model

getting a toddler to wear a mask

My toddler sees my husband and me wearing masks in public settings all the time. She also sees her daycare teachers wearing masks all day long.

When it was time for her to wear a mask, it was easy to point out that mommy and daddy wear masks, her teacher wears a mask, her uncle wears a mask, the neighbor wears a mask, and so on. Now, it’s her turn to wear a mask too.

If I get a little desperate, I’ll bring her friends into it by saying “[insert best friend’s name] wears a mask, [other friend’s name] wears a mask” and so on. This has worked on more than one occasion.

Explain why we wear masks

getting a toddler to wear a mask

I tend to believe that toddlers are capable of understanding more than we give them credit for. Depending on their age, they may not be able to have full conversations with us but they absorb so much every single day.

If you have an older toddler, suddenly expecting him or her to wear a mask without an explanation may be a little jarring. Explain to your toddler why he or she has to wear a mask. A simple explanation can be comforting and help with their decision to wear one.

I usually say things like ”wearing a mask keeps us safe”, “the mask protects you from germs”, or “we have to wear a mask inside the store”.

Start with small outings

My toddler understands the distinction between being at home versus being out and about in a public place. I make a point of showing her that I’m putting on my mask in the car before we go into a store.

For a long time, we didn’t take our daughter to public stores. If we needed items, one of us would stay in the car with her, or we would go out alone.

Now, because we want to teach her the importance of mask-wearing in public, we are more apt to take her along with us. Even if it’s a 10-minute grocery trip, that’s 10 minutes of practice wearing the mask.

Keep them handy

getting a toddler to wear a mask

Make the mask available to your toddler when he or she is playing at home, on a car ride, or out and about. It’s a good idea to stash one in vehicles and in your purse or diaper bag.

As a toddler parent, I feel like I have to pack a bunch of things before we leave to go anywhere, even if it’s just the park. So, it’s easy to just keep essential items, like masks for me and my toddler, in the car.

Practice, practice, practice

Depending on your toddler, it might take a while before they start wearing the mask correctly and appropriately. That’s okay. It takes time to get used to something new but it will happen.

My daughter still pulls the mask below her nose or she’ll take it off when we’re in a store. Occasionally, she’ll chew on it, so there will be a giant wet spot right in the middle. I mean, these things are kind of to be expected with toddlers.

But the fact that we are past the stage where she absolutely refused to wear one is progress already.

Final thoughts on getting a toddler to wear a mask

So, there is a CDC recommendation that any individual aged two and older wear a mask in public. Now that my toddler is two, we have been actively practicing mask-wearing.

I’ve found that getting a toddler to wear a mask can be tricky and requires some creativity. Depending on your unique toddler, it might take a while for them to get into the habit of wearing a mask. 

We experienced defiance and resistance to the mask from our toddler in the beginning, but she is slowly coming around thankfully. I hope you enjoyed these tips on getting a toddler to wear a mask.

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