Getting My Toddler To Wear A Face Mask

Small girl with face mask standing outdoors and picking flowers, coronavirus concept.

By Anna Keller, curiouser & curiouser

This time last year, I can’t imagine what we’d have thought if you told us we’d all be wearing face masks when in public. I certainly couldn’t have imagined our kiddos in them, and yet here we are! If there’s one thing this pandemic has reinforced for me, it’s the flexibility of our children. Getting my 3-year-old daughter, Maggie, to wear a mask hasn’t been difficult (thankfully!). She hasn’t been upset by wearing a mask or seeing others in masks. In fact, she’s been far easier to deal with when it comes to mask wearing than many adults. 

I really think the key to my toddler being so great about wearing her mask has been telling her why we’re asking her to wear a mask in the first place. She’s only 3, but she’s absolutely able to understand a pared down version of the state of the world. When you ask my kiddo why it’s important for us to wear masks, here’s the response you’ll get: “Because the people are feeling sick and we don’t want to spread germs!” She’s got the basics down – enough for her to make sense of why people’s faces are half covered these days. 

We also got her some cute masks she’s excited to wear, which has been helpful in really playing up the mask wearing. Some have animal noses and mouths, and so while Maggie wears those she pretends to be a cat or a bear. Others match mine (we love matching any way we can!), and some others are in colors she loves (like pink tie dye). Zulily has some adorable mask options for kids, too! You can check them out here

I know not all kids are the same, and so I did some research to put together a few tips to help encourage your toddler to wear a mask. If you’ve been struggling with getting your child to wear a mask, hopefully some of these ideas will be helpful! 

First of all, as a reminder of the recommended COVID-19 guidelines, CDC recommends that all children over the age of 2 wear a face mask when they’re in public to avoid spreading the virus. Masks particularly serve to protect others from the wearer, so they work best when everyone is wearing a mask.  

For some toddlers, face masks may seem scary and they may not like not being able to see people’s full faces. For other children, the hurtle may be that they don’t like the feel of a mask on their face and aren’t good about keeping it on.  

Okay, let’s jump into some strategies for helping your toddler wear a face mask: 

Model mask wearing frequently

If your toddler sees you wearing a mask often – and not making a big deal about it – it can be quite helpful. It will also make sure they get used to Mom and Dad being underneath a mask, and them still being able to easily communicate with you. Consider popping a mask on around the house for a few minutes or an hour or so each day to start to desensitize your toddler to being around someone in a mask. After a while, maybe your child will ask to wear their mask, too (or you can encourage them to do so)! 

Let your toddler personalize their mask

Make a mask even more fun by turning it into a craft project. For example, grab some toddler disposable face masks and let your child decorate them with markers. You can also let them add some puffy paint to a fabric mask to add some personalization.  

Show your toddler other children wearing masks 

Whether you point out other toddlers calmly wearing a face mask in public or pull up photos of toddlers in masks online to share with your child, don’t underestimate the power of peer influence! Sometimes a child will be resistant to something – like wearing a face mask or trying a new food – if the prompting comes from you, but when another toddler wears the mask or enthusiastically enjoys the food, it can be a game changer.  

Normalize masks in other ways

You can get creative with this by putting face masks on your child’s favorite stuffed animals, or helping them to draw face masks on characters in coloring books. 

Always prioritize comfort 

Toddlers will not be on board with anything uncomfortable, and this absolutely applies to masks. Even if you have the most adorable face mask around (and your toddler LOVES the look of the mask), they’re not going to be willing to wear the mask for a long period of time if it keeps falling off or is too itchy or restrictive. Try out a few to see which kind of face masks work best for your toddler.  

Give lots of praise  

When your toddler does a good job wearing a mask, let them know how excited and proud you are! You can even implement a reward system to encourage consistent mask wearing (such as giving your child a sticker to add to a chart when they successfully wear their mask). 

If you’re a parent and have other tips on getting a toddler to wear a face mask, let us know! I’m sure there are tons of creative ideas out there now that we’re several months into this strange reality… 

Anna Keller

Creator of Curiouser and Curiouser, Anna Keller blogs about parenting, pregnancy, health & wellness, fashion, and more. Her compelling content can be read by those who love brands such as Beyond Yoga and the blog Triad Moms on Main.

Anna’s priority in all that she does – whether it’s with her family and friends, through her writing, during her work as a Pure Barre teacher, or as a Beautycounter consultant – is connection. After all, from connection comes understanding, purpose, and joy.