As we enter the third year of the pandemic, the omicron variant has proved especially contagious—meaning face masks for kids are still a good idea. Even though the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for children ages five and up, children are being hospitalized with the coronavirus in record numbers as the U.S. contends with another variant-driven spike in overall cases. And while boosters have just been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for those 12 and older, they’re still not available for kids between the ages of 5 and 12.
To complicate matters further, some school districts have opted to continue remote learning, while others are back full-time in their classrooms. All to say: Children heading back to school after the holiday break still need to wear the best face masks to protect both themselves and those around them.
However, if you’re a parent, you’ll know it’s not exactly that simple. Getting your older kids to wear a face mask might be easy, but the real challenge is finding something for younger children: Not only do you have to find a washable mask that fits properly, but you have to get something they’d like enough to wear without constantly trying to pry it off their face.
Curious about what to look for when shopping for a kids’ face mask? “The primary concern is that the face mask be well-fitting on your child,” says Kelly Fradin, M.D., a pediatrician, writer, and public health advocate working in the Bronx. “If there are gaps around the mask, it defeats the purpose. Although elastic may be easier for kids to manage, it may not achieve the same seal as a mask that ties depending on the mask and the child’s face.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that a kids’ face mask should be put on the same way as an adult face mask, in that it “should securely cover the nose and mouth and stretch from before the ear to the other side,” according to the organization’s website. An adjustable nose wire and adjustable ear loops can also help ensure the perfect fit. (A nose piece that can be tightened over the nose bridge can also keep glasses from fogging, in case that’s a consideration.)
Besides fit, parents should also consider the mask’s material. Fradin recommends something soft and breathable, like a cotton face mask. “We know that less breathable materials like denim may be slightly better at blocking viruses from going through the mask, but these will almost certainly be intolerable for children,” says Fradin. “Children are more active than adults and breathe more per minute, so we should allow them to wear a mask they can breathe through easily. This will also increase the likelihood they will wear the mask.” A few layers of fabric that’s more lightweight will often do the trick.
Fradin says that most kids ages two to six will find it difficult to wear masks without touching it often for long periods of time. “In truth, if your child is touching their face often while wearing it, it may do more harm than good,” she says. She recommends washing the mask after every use. And she has one more tip: To keep kids from tearing the thing right off their face, make a game out of it. “Putting a mask on a stuffed animal or drawing masks on pictures of people may help demystify masks,” suggests Fradin. “Also training children to tolerate wearing it for brief periods and building up to longer sessions might be effective too. There are even children’s books about masks.”
If you’re looking for where to buy face masks for kids online, you can start by shopping the options below. Whether you’re looking for a mask set for several kids or searching the web for fun patterns, there’s something here to keep every child happy—and as safe as possible.
LittleMiaBella Kids’ Reusable Face Mask
ABG Accessories Boys Reusable Fabric Face Mask (Three-Pack, Ages 4–14)
Ilandistyle Organic Cotton Kids’ Mask
As news about the novel coronavirus pandemic rapidly evolves, Glamour is committed to bringing our readers the most accurate and up-to-date facts. As a result, information in this story and others like it may change, and we will update when necessary. For the most recent news about COVID-19, please visit the CDC, the WHO, and your state’s department of health.