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Now that places are starting to open up a bit more in my state, I am trying to figure out what’s the best way to protect my almost 3 year old when we have to go out in public.

Some things to consider:

  • We are still going to try and social distance as much as possible
  • We are still going to stay home the majority of the time
  • I understand that she is young, won’t keep the face mask on for a long time and the expectation isn’t for her to keep it on
  • We’ve tried to get her a decorative one, but she isn’t interested in it at all

My question: At the slightest sight of the mask, my daughter automatically responds with screaming no. How can I encourage her to want to wear it at least for a little while? Does anyone have any ways to make it seem a bit more fun for her?

———-

Clarification:
Children are not obligated, this would be purely just for me to feel that she is protected (of course with me watching with a very close eye).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Please focus answers here on helping the OP make wearing a mask more fun for the child. – Rory Alsop Jun 19 at 18:22
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In my experience, if the objection is due to the typical dislike of change, then simply being persistent and leading by example will win the day. Make it clear that she cannot go out if she does not have a mask, and be gentle but firm, reminding her why it's important - "This mask will protect you from getting sick, and will protect everyone around you from getting sick if you do get sick."

Do be conscious though that it's possible her objection is more specific. Similar to my son's objection to denim, which is likely due to sensory issues, it's very possible that she objects not because of obstinance or dislike of change, but because it is uncomfortable for her. As such, try to work out ways to make it less uncomfortable. There are different kinds of masks, some of which attach in different ways; for example, for our children we have masks that don't have elastic, but simply are longer pieces of slightly stretchy fabric that have holes cut in the fabric for the ears. Those seem to be somewhat more comfortable; the elastic strands behind the mask are uncomfortable for many.

Also consider the shape - she may prefer a rounder mask with more substance to it, for example, that stays away from the mouth and nostril, as opposed to a flat fabric mask that is closer fitting. Both protect effectively (given they are constructed properly), but it may simply require some testing to find what is comfortable for her. Work with her, make it clear you're trying different things, and ask her to try each thing once. Remind her what benefit she's getting - i.e., getting to go play at the park or whatever - and hopefully she will cooperate, at least for a short period of time.

Finally, definitely focus on that last bit: short. Children shouldn't be expected to wear masks for hours at a time. Fifteen minutes is about the most I'd expect at that age. You mention this in your question, so good job thinking of that - but also remind her it will be a short time, as she may not realize that internally (time is hard to comprehend at 3!)

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    I'd also add that allowing her to choose one, and getting one with her favourite cartoon character or something she likes on it can also help a lot. – stan Jun 17 at 15:43
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    Thank you! I never thought of trying out different shapes of masks! I will definitely continue working on this and really appreciate the tips. – Stephanie Jun 17 at 15:52
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    The ears have widely different sensitivity for different people. There was a set of headphones by Logitech (major manufacturer), that my ears didn't like. When I have used them for 30 minutes and then take them off, it feels like my ears are on fire. I lent it to a colleague and he had the same issue as me, but another didn't so I sold it to him. Certain types of straps make my ears feel like they are on fire and my ears will turn red and is extremely uncomfortable. I have no idea what causes it. – Nelson Jun 18 at 8:07
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    Also consider getting the kind that hooks together at the back of the head, rather than the simple around-the ears ones - those can be uncomfortable for children and adults. Alternatively, you can use a typical ear-loop ones and take a strip of cloth or piece of yarn or something and tie the two ear-loops behind the head rather than fit them over the ears. They even make hook-extenders specifically for this purpose, you'll notice most people who have to wear masks full time (e.g. medical staff) will do something like this. – Darrel Hoffman Jun 18 at 13:14
  • I've seen several children out and about wearing face shields rather than face masks. This might be an avenue which is easier for a child to wear, being closer to a hat, rather than something stuck over their face. Although, I don't know how easy they are to get hold of currently. Might be able to get hold of some 3D printed ones, it doesn't have to be medical grade to be effective. – Kialandei Jun 19 at 8:41
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The illusion of choice and of being in control are powerful with kids this age. Don't ask, or tell, her to put on a mask. Present her with a few different masks and ask her which one she wants you to wear. Then ask her which one she wants to wear.

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    I do not think this will work...... well atleast most of the time , but I like the idea . – LumbusterTick Jun 18 at 11:41
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    The false dichotomy is really effective at this age. – JCRM Jun 18 at 12:52
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    @JCRM Reminds me of how they will interpret higher number of cookies as being more, regardless of the size of the actual cookies. – DKNguyen Jun 18 at 14:21
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Are you wearing yourself? There is usually no problem to persuade children to do what both parents consistently do.

Also you can simply explain what:

  • She is unlikely to get sick seriously but she might bring virus to her parents who may.
  • Talks that masks are not useful have been spread because of the need to reserve them for the healthcare workers (source). If there are enough masks now, let's end with that.

Normally even younger children respond better when asked for responsibility for others. For a parent who thinks about the child first this may be somewhat contra-intuitive.

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    Seems a bit advanced for a conversation with a three year old – Kevin Jun 18 at 14:22
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    Nice link explaining usefulness of a mask for the wearer, which may help bolster OP's efforts, so +1. But I agree that this doesn't help a 3 year old. Also, I don't think altruism is as powerful a motive for this young a child as selfish motives are ("I'll give you 5 gummy bears if you wear this for 5 minutes"), but I'd love to learn I am wrong. Could you provide a source for that statement? Thanks! – anongoodnurse Jun 18 at 14:48
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    "If you do not wear, mom and dad may get sick, not you" . Assuming baby speaks in general, this looks to me short and clear enough. My child was able to understand abstractions of this complexity, but I do not remember, maybe she was four. – h22 Jun 19 at 8:31
  • @h22 - Is your experience with your child your source for your statement? I did not say that a child can't understand the concept; I questioned this statement: "Normally even younger children respond better when asked for responsibility for others." Source, please, for this claim of normal behavior. – anongoodnurse Jun 20 at 4:35
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Could you get one of the masks with a headband and clear plastic screen, and pretend it's a 'space helmet'? https://medworx.co.uk/

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+200

Every kid is different, so this may not work in your case, but I got my (almost) four year old son to wear a mask (now required in my area for children over two) by turning it into a bit of a dress-up game.

For example, my son LOVES Spider-Man and Batman, so I bought myself a Spider-Man themed mask and my son a black Batman mask for his eyes and a black mouth/nose covering. Whenever we leave the house we go “fight crime” together and I told him that we can’t take off our masks because we don’t want to reveal our “secret identities”. We’ve since branched out to other super heroes and professions (doctors with stethoscopes, etc) and have quite a collection now.

Note: We started by playing dress-up in the house first, then moved it outside while doing necessary errands.

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