Education

Homework for parents: Get kids ready to mask up for school

Posted July 15, 2020 4:24 p.m. EDT

For kids across the country getting ready to head back to school, a mask is the new fall accessory.

It's not optional. From opening to closing bells, kids everywhere from kindergarten through high school must get used to wearing a mask.

Pediatrician Dyan Hes says, "I think keeping a mask on is just a practice of exercise. It's something that has to become like muscle memory."

Masks will be required as children move about their day. They will keep their faces covered as a precaution to contain the spread of coronavirus within schools.

For those plans to be successful, it is parents who have the homework.

"If you wait to teach your child how to use as mask until three days before school starts, it's never going to happen," Hes says.

"You have to start like easing them into it while they're watching TV at home. Yes, they might not need to wear a mask because they're not with any strangers or outsiders, but let's say, 'Okay, we're going to watch Paw Patrol now, or we're going to read a book, let's put our mask on and see how long we can keep it on for.'"

Sites like Etsy have hundreds of thousands of masks for sale. Allow kids to choose the one that seems most cool.

Another approach is to practice with dolls and toys.

Parents of children with special needs face an extra challenge.

Those who have textile defensiveness, a sensory issue, physically can't keep a mask on.

Occupational therapist Marianne Rho says, "I think what really needs to be implemented is go with baby steps, seeing how far your child can do it, and then ask an adult to see if they could take a mask break."

Face shields might also be another option for those kids who are sensitive to a cloth mask.

Lastly, explain to kids that masks and school go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other right now.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.