FAQ’s: Children and Masks

This week, we implemented a new face mask policy for children aged 3 and older. It’s a big change for some of our kids, but we’ve been proud to see how quickly they’ve adapted! Some parents still have questions on how to best help their child, who may be struggling to wear a mask, or simply want to know more information. We’re here to help!

What is an acceptable face covering for my child?

Face masks are a popular choice for a face covering, and they’re inexpensive and easy to find. Plus, cloth reusable masks come in a variety of colors that are exciting for children. The CDC has noted that face masks tend to be the best sort of face covering protection. However, they’re not the only form of acceptable face covering. Face shields are also an acceptable face covering, as well as neck gaiters, but they need to fit properly. Regardless, a covering should be:

  • Breathable
  • Well-fitting (not too loose that it slips from the nose, nor too tight that it constricts the face)
  • Worn properly (covering both the mouth and nose)

It’s a good idea to send at least two extra masks/face coverings to school with your child, as they can easily become soiled or lost. It’s also a good idea to treat face masks as you would undergarments; reusable, cloth masks should be washed after every use to prevent, and non-reusable masks should be thrown away after each use. Masks, like other personal items, should never be shared.

Are masks safe?

Yes, absolutely! Masks are only unsafe when worn by children that are too young or those that are exempt – (see our next question). Though there are misconceptions that masks can cause oxygen deprivation or carbon monoxide buildup, this claim has been refuted by a number of accredited organizations, such as the American Lung Association. If you are especially worried about the safety and breathability of a mask, opt for a surgical three ply mask, which are worn frequently (and all day in some cases) by medical professionals.

How do I know if my child is exempt from wearing a mask?

We only require that children aged three and older wear masks at St. John’s CCDC; this would include the Fireflies, Caterpillars and Dragonflies classes. It’s unsafe for children aged two and younger to wear a mask because it poses a risk of suffocation.

However, there are certain exemptions for some children over the age of three. The exemption applies to “anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without help”, as well as for individuals who “have a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents him or her from wearing a face covering.” This definition can include many different types of disabilities, behavioral or mental health diagnoses, and more. If you’re unsure if your child is exempt or not, consult with your pediatrician, as well as your location’s director.

My child is struggling with wearing a mask. How can I help them at home?

Wearing a mask comes down to routine – the more that children do it, the more comfortable they will become with it. Model wearing your mask, and remind them that it’s how we can keep loved ones safe. There are also many varieties of cloth masks for children with fun designs that are fun and appealing to children (I mean, who doesn’t want a tiger mask?!) Some children may respond well to putting a mask on their favorite toy or doll. Other children may respond well to even naming their mask and carrying it with them, even when they are at home and don’t have to wear it.

It’s important to be up front about why they are wearing a mask. Letting them know that wearing a mask is how they can protect others is empowering for them and lets them feel like they’re doing their part, too.

How is St. John’s CCDC supporting children in wearing masks?

We understand that wearing a mask can be a new adjustment for some children. Children will NEVER be punished for not wearing their mask. Instead, teachers will be present to gently remind children how and when to wear their masks. If children struggle or become overwhelmed, we can take a break and try again, reiterating the importance of wearing a mask in an age-appropriate way. We are also incorporating mask-wearing into the curriculum to help teach children when, where and how to wear their masks. Circle time is a great opportunity to let the children voice their feelings and questions, and our plan is to take advantage of this time to develop ways to encourage COVID-19 safety.

Does my child have to wear a mask all day?

We do require that a mask be worn while at school, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all day. Masks aren’t required during naptime or mealtimes/snacktimes, which significantly reduces the amount of hours a child has to wear a mask. Considering this, children who are in school for eight hours a day may only actually need to wear a mask four or five hours a day. When they aren’t wearing masks, we do our best to maintain social distancing.

Why should children have to wear masks, if they aren’t as vulnerable to COVID-19?

It’s true that children are less likely to become ill from COVID-19 than those who are older or have preexisting conditions, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about this disease. Some children do become very ill, and it’s worth doing our part to try and prevent that from happening to a child in our program. We also know that children can be asymptomatic carriers who can pass COVID-19 to others, including staff and families who may have vulnerable family members, or even be vulnerable themselves. With so many unknowns about the virus, it’s important to err on the side of caution and protect our families.

Where can I buy child-sized face coverings?

We got you covered (pun intended)! We’ve compiled a short list of online retailers that are selling child-sized masks. Check them out!

Unable to purchase a mask? Let us know, and we can help you get a few.


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