How to Get Your Toddler to Wear a Mask (without too much struggle)

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic where the general recommendation is for people to wear face masks when they’re out in public, especially when it’s not possible to socially distance.  This includes anyone aged 2 or older.  It’s easy enough to follow for most adults and older kids, but getting your toddler to wear a mask is a different story.

If you have a toddler, you know that they sometimes will do anything but what you ask them to do.  They don’t like being forced into unfamiliar situations and will sometimes resist things irrationally.

My 3 year old has a fear of little pieces of fuzz that you’d randomly find on the ground in your home.  She screams and acts like you would if you saw a giant spider. Makes no sense. But hey, that’s toddlers for you.

So when it comes to figuring out how to get your toddler to wear a mask in public, some parents are faced with a new challenge.  

We’ve done a little bit of research and put together some suggestions for helping you with this issue.

Let’s check it out.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links. See affiliate disclaimer at the bottom of the page.)

How to Get Your Toddler (or Child) to Wear a Mask

Now, there isn’t exactly a magic formula to making this work, but we have a few suggestions that should help get your kid to wear a mask.

#1 Lead by Example

This is kind of the #1 parenting rule in general, so hopefully it comes as no surprise.  If your child sees you wearing a mask outside the home, he or she is more likely to follow.

I’m guessing if you’re here right now, trying to get your child to wear a mask, you probably wear one too. ๐Ÿ™‚

#2 Make it Fun

This is yet another pretty common rule when trying to get kids to do stuff.  You have to make it fun.  Hell, you might even need to treat it like potty training.

One way to make to make it fun is to give them kid-friendly options for their mask and let them choose the one they want.  Fortunately since the pandemic started, there have been lots of creative masks produced for toddlers and older children!

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Crayola Kids Face Masks – this is a set of 5 reusable cloth face masks colored for each day of the week.  They’re machine washable and come with a mesh laundry bag

#3 Practice at Home

It’s probably not a good idea to wait until you’re out in public to get your toddler to wear a mask for the first time.  Toddlers are already hard enough to deal with as it is when you’re out. ๐Ÿ™‚

Practice wearing the mask at home.  Have them try it on, showing them how to put it on.  Put yours on too. 

You can also have your child put a mask on a large doll or stuffed animal for practice (and to make it extra fun for them).

The more you can normalize wearing the mask, the less of a struggle it’ll be to have them keep it on when you’re outside of the home.  It’s kind of like wearing shoes (and my toddler had a phase where she would ALWAYS take her shoes off as soon as we got in the car).

#4 Get Creative

This kind of goes along with #2 above (make it fun), but you can turn the mask into more than just something you wear.  Make it an art project!

If you’re buying blank or disposable masks, you can have your toddler or young child decorate the mask using markers or stickers.

They may be hesitant to wear a regular mask, but if it’s something they created or decorated, they will usually be excited to put it on and show it off to other people.

(It’ll also give you something else to do with your kid if you’re stuck in the house!)

#5 Watch Other Kids (and Characters) Wear It

Sometimes leading by example as a parent isn’t enough.  Kids respond to “peer pressure” (which I know sounds like a negative thing) so it can be helpful to see other kids or characters they admire wearing a mask.

Fortunately there are some great YouTube videos out there that kids can watch to help be encouraged to wear masks.

Here are a few that we like:

“Why Do People Wear Masks”

“Wear Your Mask Song”

“Let’s wear Face Masks!”

#6 Implement a Reward System

This probably isn’t the one I would start with, but a lot of times when young kids don’t understand the reason behind what you’re asking them to do, they need some extra incentive to do it.

The same can be said potty training, bedtime, and other things that your young kid wants to do.

This doesn’t have to be some big complex reward system.  You can start with something as simple as stickers.

Such as, “if you successfully wear your mask to the grocery store, you get one sticker.” If stickers themselves aren’t enough motivation, they can be progress toward a larger reward.

For example, “if you collect 5 stickers, you can have an extra story at bedtime.”

The issue with reward systems is that you want them to be temporary.  Similar to rewarding potty training, you’re just trying to get them used to whatever it is they need to be doing, with the expectation that eventually they will do it without the reward.

That just about “covers” it!

Hopefully with the tips above, you’ve figured out how to get your toddler to wear a mask.  If one thing doesn’t work, try something else!

With a little practice, patience, and repetition, your toddler or young child will become a mask-wearing pro.

What have you found to be an effective way to get your toddler to wear a mask? Leave a comment below!


About Eric and Tiffany Matthews

We're Eric and Tiffany, the parents behind Cynical Parent. We're just normal parents who are navigating parenthood with both eyes wide open (probably because there's a kid yelling nearby). And of course, we're pretty cynical. Don't believe everything you read or hear, whether it's on the internet, or from a close family or friend (or even from us!). Every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Sometimes you just need to try and see for yourself. :)

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