Coronavirus: How to help children get used to wearing a face mask or covering

How to encourage children to wear face masks. (Getty Images)

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This World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its face masks and coverings advice, revealing the non-medical protective gear should be worn in public where social distancing is not possible to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The global organisation over the weekend said its new guidance had been prompted by studies over recent weeks. 

Additionally, the UK government has also advised that face coverings should be worn by children over the age of two in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible.

The advice applies to everyone aside from babies and toddlers, those with respiratory issues and those who find it difficult to wear face coverings.

“If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet,” the guidance states.

This means that wearing a face mask or covering could become a more regular occurrence for children as the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 continues.

But wearing a face mask feels strange enough for grown-ups, so you can just imagine how odd it feels for little ones. Possibly even a little scary.

Read more: How coronavirus measures may be affecting children's mental health

Introducing masks to play can help children get used to them. (Getty Images)

So, how do we get children used to the idea of wearing a face mask or covering?

Pre-school education facility Abacus Ark and Medicalsupply.co.uk, an international personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement agency, have provided their top tips for helping children ease into the idea of wearing a mask.

Choose the right mask

The UK guidelines urge the public not to buy medical grade masks. Medical grade face-masks are considered as any face mask which are classified under the BS EN 14683:2019 standard.

There are plenty of material masks for adults and children available to buy online.

Know when/where children should wear them

It is recommended that children wear masks in places where it is hard to follow maintain social distancing measures.

This applies when using public transport, or when visiting shops.

“Any child who is not able to remove the masks on their own should not be wearing any face covering,” a spokesperson from Medicalsupply.co.uk says.

“It’s important the masks are not making it difficult for the child to breathe and it is safe for them.”

Read more: How to talk to children about the coronavirus

Role modelling

“Like anything with children under-five, to get them to follow rules without a battle, you need use a combination of role modelling, consistency and making something interesting to them,” a spokesperson for Abacus Ark explains.

One of the best ways to get children used to the idea of masks is for them to see you modelling mask-wearing behaviour, highlighting when you wear a mask, or pointing out when you see someone else wearing a mask.

This will create the perception that this is the correct behaviour and must be followed.

Wearing a mask or face covering can be strange for children. (Getty Images)

Help kids get used to masks

As much as you can, parents should try to give kids time to practise wearing their masks before they might need to wear one outside the home. Teach them how to put them on and take them off.

Read more: Parents describe how it felt to send their children back to school

Introduce masks to their play

Put masks on their dolls and cuddly toys, role play with them... this will help make masks a more normal part of their everyday world.

If you make something fun and interesting, your child will be more likely to play along. An idea could be to decorate the mask using their favourite character from a book or something that they like to play with, such as unicorns, trucks etc.

Be consistent

It’s a good idea to ensure mask-wearing becomes part of their regular routine. Combine putting a mask on with their regular routine – for example: “shoes, coat, mask”. Ensure you follow the same steps each time. It won’t work straight away, but after a few days you’ll see it happening.

Practise safe mask wearing

It is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.

Where to buy face masks for children

Yahoo Lifestyle is committed to finding you the best products at the best prices. We may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability are subject to change. 

3x Hype Kids Floral Graffiti Face Mask Set | £24.99 from Hype

Children’s Face Mask | £6.99 from Etsy 

Kids Cotton Animal Face Mask | £12 from Not On The High Street

Happy Kids Face Mask | £13 from Vistaprint

Leaf Print Face Mask Children’s | £19 from Rachel Riley