How to get your kids used to wearing masks

Worried about getting your child used to wearing a mask? Health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton has some advice.

Choice and play important in normalizing new practice, says health-care consultant

Students in Nova Scotia will be required to wear masks in hallways where they can't physically distance and on buses beginning in September. (Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

This is part of a series from CBC's Information Morning where Halifax health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton discusses her "health hacks" — ways to make your experience with the health-care system better.

Learning how to properly wash your hands and don a mask have become essential life skills, but getting kids used to this new reality can be a challenge.

On Friday, masks will be mandatory in most indoor public spaces in Nova Scotia, and this September all students will be required to wear masks in school hallways and on buses.

The province has made exemptions to the rule that takes effect on Friday for children under two, and children up to four if their caregivers cannot get them to co-operate.

Health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton says it will take time for kids to pick up this new practice, and she's encouraging parents to lead by example and gently introduce regular mask-wearing ahead of September.

Now is the time to get children used to wearing masks ahead of September and the start of school. Our health columnist Mary Jane Hampton has some tips on how to do that. 8:12

"We need to get kids ready for this," Hampton told CBC's Information Morning

"It's of the utmost importance that we don't leave the normalizing of masks, and even the introduction of masks, to things that teachers and school bus drivers need to be dealing with." 

The first step is choosing the type of mask your child wears.

Hampton said if you're going the reusable route, it's best to have a few masks on hand so you can make sure the one your child is wearing is clean. 

Health consultant Mary Jane Hampton encourages parents to model good mask-wearing and bring kids into indoor public spaces so they can see other people wearing masks. (Robert Short/CBC)

Letting kids have a say in the design of the mask might make them more willing to try it on, she said.

"Give them an opportunity to customize them to make them a reflection of who they are so that it's less of an imposition and more of a personal statement," Hampton said. 

Education Department officials have said masks will be provided for students who do not have one.

Creative tricks

Parents can teach proper mask use by wearing masks themselves, and also involving masks in kids' playtime, Hampton said. 

"Have a couple of extra masks on hand so that they can be role playing by putting them on their teddy bears and their dolls," she said.

If your child is still resistant to a mask, Hampton had there are some creative tricks parents can use, including adding buttons to the back of a baseball cap so the mask stays in place.

Tying the mask to a lanyard that can be worn around the child's neck is another good way to make sure the masks don't end up lost or dropped to the ground, she said. 

She said it's also important to remind kids that wearing a mask should always accompany regular and proper hand washing.

"I think that once again children are going to surprise us," Hampton said. "I think that they're going to be the ones that feel that this is actually no big deal."

With files from CBC's Information Morning