As we're all adjusting to the new normal, one thing is clear: masks are here for awhile. While I don't know what school will look like for my kids this upcoming year, I do know that if they attend in person, they will need to wear masks for 7+ hours a day.
They complain after 20 minutes in the grocery store.
So here are a few things we're doing at our house to build up our kids' tolerance to wearing masks for long periods of time. Our goal is to have them feeling comfortable for at least five hours a day before school starts in person (whenever that may be).
Here's what we're doing.
Find the right masks
This might be the hardest part, but as we've all probably discovered, not all masks are equal. Purchase or sew several mask options to help your kids find out what is most comfortable for them. We've found that lightweight masks that are not too thick or too tight are the best for our kids.
Our son loves wearing a buff.
But be sure to check with your school to see if any mask policies are in place. It would be a bummer for your child to get used to wearing a bandana for 8 hours a day only to find out that bandanas are not considered an appropriate face covering at school.
And be sure you have enough of whatever type of mask they like best. At the very least they'll need to keep a backup at school, and I'm hearing that some schools are requiring kids to bring three masks each day. (I really saw the importance of this when my son got a bloody nose while wearing a mask last week. Luckily we had another one handy, but it made me realize that he would definitely need a back up at school for situations just like that.)
Here are a few that we love:
Play a Game
Each night we're playing a 10-minute game called Guess the Emotion. I wrote out a bunch of different emotions on notecards. We all sit around the table wearing masks and everyone draws a card. When it's your turn, you have to show the emotion on your face, and everyone else has to guess what emotion you're conveying. It's so much harder than it sounds.
But it's good for two reasons. First, we're wearing masks which helps to build up our tolerance. Second, it highlights how much harder you have to try to show someone how you're feeling through your eyes. This reminds us that just because someone looks annoyed with their mask on doesn't mean they're actually annoyed.
I don't know about your house, but screentime has been a constant quarantine battle at our house. I'm not even going to tell you how many hours one of my kids logged last week when my husband and I were both finishing up big work projects. In an effort to acclimate our kids to masks, we've now set limits (again) on their screentime, AND we've mandated that they have to wear a mask during that screentime.
This helps them get used to wearing a mask while doing something they love. And hoepfully this will help them better tolerate it when they're doing something that's not quite as much fun.
Get them out in Public
One of the biggest things I've noticed with my kids is that they're anxious when we're out in public. This is a combination of being worried about the virus and also not leaving the house for so many months. But if you're going to send your kids to school, then you probably need to get them out in public too. Wear masks. Show them how hard it is not to touch everything. Let them see that they can be in public, be careful, keep their distance, wash their hands, wear a mask - and still be okay.
This activity will also get them used to wearing masks in a public setting.
Set a Timer
Start with 30 minutes a day and increase by 15 - 30 minutes each day until you're at the hourly threshold you're going for. This will not be fun for anyone, but it will help you all realize what in-person school may feel like. It will also help you troubleshoot things like what happens if you sneeze in your mask or if a loop breaks or if you need to get a drink of water.
While none of these activities are what I want for my kids, I do want them to adjust as well as they possibly can to their new normal. With so many anxieties, I do not want their first day of school to be their first experience in wearing a mask for an extended period of time or spending time in public with other people.