Helping Your Child Wear a Face Mask

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

Current guidance in England from states:

“You must wear a face covering at all times on public transport or when attending a hospital as a visitor or outpatient… If you can, you should also wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

Evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you. However, if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms, it may provide some protection for others you come into close contact with.

Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 3 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly”

Wearing face coverings is a new concept for everyone. It can be particularly scary and overwhelming for children to see people wearing masks. Guidance is changing rapidly and we do not know if face masks will be here to stay for a while or may be a temporary accessory. It can be useful to prepare for the long-term and support our children in being as comfortable as possible with this new change that can have a big impact on their sense of safety and comfort outside of their home.

Children rely on facial features to recognise others. Wearing masks blocks friendly smiles and prevents children from seeing facial expressions that typically help them feel comfortable. Even when familiar adults wear masks it can feel scary to a child.

It’s important to know that it’s normal for kids to feel uneasy or anxious with these changes. Masks can also feel uncomfortable to wear. Be patient, it may take time for your child to adjust to seeing masks and wearing them.

Help Your Child Understand and Focus on The Positives

With school-age and older children, it is important to help them understand why people are wearing masks using age appropriate language. Firstly, children need to understand a little about Coronavirus (see more on this here).

Then, take your time to explore what children think the masks are for, ask them questions and listen to any fears or worries they may have. Giving them opportunities to express their feelings and/or concerns about wearing a mask can provide an opportunity for them to gain control over this new experience. For some older children, wearing a mask and seeing others in them may not be a big adjustment, but for others they may need time to process this.


“We have to wear masks when we go on the bus now. Have you seen people wear a mask?”

“What do you think the masks are for?”

“When you see people wearing masks, what does it make you think of?”

If your child is pre-verbal you can play peek-a-boo wearing a mask to help them understand that you are the same person with or without it. Let your child know that even when their mouth is covered, their eyes still show, and their voice can be heard so people will be able to recognise them.

Show your child images of superheroes who wear masks and have a conversation with them about the positives of wearing a mask.


“When we go outside we have to wear a mask to keep our noses and mouths safe.”

“It is a rule to wear shoes when we go outside to protect our feet. There is a new rule that we have to wear masks when we go to the shops to protect our noses and mouths from germs. It also helps keep others safe”

You can also watch this useful video with your child to explain PPE. This may be particularly useful if you need to go into hospital for an appointment.

Give Your Child Choices

Encourage your child to help choose the mask they wear. Give them a choice of materials and colours and spend some time together decorating it and making it special to them using stickers, fabric markers, or patches. This can help them get more control and will help them feel more comfortable to accept and wear the mask.

There are huge range of masks out there, take your time to choose what works best for you and your family.

Make the Mask as Comfortable as You can

One of the barriers to wearing a mask for kids is comfort. The more comfortable you can make the mask, the more likely it is they will wear it and keep it on.

To make masks more comfortable and to prevent them from hurting your child’s ears, try attaching buttons to a hat or a cloth headband so you can loop the elastic around the buttons. This can make masks a lot more comfortable for children to wear.

If your child wears glasses, you can use a small elastic band or thread to add buttons to your child’s glasses. You can then loop the elastic around the buttons instead of around their ears.

There are huge range of masks out there, take your time to choose what works best for you and your family.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Wearing a mask is a new behaviour, and like anything new, it will take time for your child to adjust and get used to it.

For young children, use a doll or soft toy to practice wearing a mask. You can adapt one of your child’s masks to fit the toy or make one specially for them using a hairband or extra piece of fabric. Explain to the doll or soft toy why they have to wear a mask if they go outside or are playing in the garden with your child. Do this with role play and remind your child if the doll/soft toy isn’t wearing a mask outdoors so they can put it on them and practice the steps.

If you are expecting to go out often with your child and use public transport or go to busy areas where a mask is compulsory (e.g. attending a hospital appointment), try and wear a mask frequently at home. The more your child sees faces with masks on the less strange and frightening it will be for them. Use mirrors and play ‘the emotions’ game, teaching your child to read your eyes and eyebrows for emotions such as happy, sad, surprised, confused etc… Use over-exagerated eye expressions and make it fun.

Tips for kids who are deaf or hard of hearing

If your child has a cochlear implant or wears hearing aids, you may want to choose a mask with straps in the back rather than an ear loop mask. Ear loop masks can cause extra noise as it rubs against the ears and that may be annoying to those who use hearing aids or cochlear implants.

If your child often relies on lip reading, you may want to look for a mask that has a clear piece across the mouth for you and for them. This is usually made out of Vinyl and you can find several styles online. Universal face coverings are especially difficult for children who use lip reading to communicate. Be patient if it takes them longer to understand or communicate.

Acknowledge and Validate Their Emotions

However your child reacts, accept this as a normal reaction to a rather scary change. Allow them to feel whatever they are feeling and offer comfort. Validate your child’s emotions and normalise how they are feeling about wearing a mask or seeing others wear them. Remind your child that some things remain constant no matter what changes are happening.


“It is frustrating that we have to wear masks, but it is nice to be able to go to the shops again”

”I’m sad too that we cannot see people’s faces, shall we try and guess how people are feeling by looking at their eyes?”

“It is strange seeing people wear masks. Their voices sound the same though!”

Remember - wearing a mask is a big adjustment! Allow your child time to play while wearing the mask so they can get used to it. Make it fun, be patient, and don’t be discouraged if your child struggles with it.

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