New AAP Guidelines Stress Face Coverings for Children Two and Up

little asian girl wearing a face mask

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Key Takeaways

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says children as young as two should wear a face covering to quell the spread of COVID-19.
  • Parents can teach kids to wear face masks by practicing at home.
  • The right face mask goes a long way toward helping young children feel comfortable wearing a mask.

Parents play a critical role in teaching their toddler-aged children health and safety techniques to avoid exposure to COVID-19, including wearing a face mask. 

Coercing a two-year-old child to wear a face-covering in public can be a hassle. But a recent recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics asserts that it’s worth the struggle, stating, “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly endorses the use of safe and effective infection control procedures to protect children. For COVID-19, effective infection control and prevention requires the use of a cloth face covering.”

New AAP Recommendation

The organization encourages parents to teach kids proper mask-wearing and hand sanitization techniques, rather than assuming their toddlers are too young to be included in such safety measures. Further research is needed to determine exactly how and whether kids transmit the disease in a manner similar to adults.

But a recent study finds that viral loads found in kids, even those who are asymptomatic, rival those of critically ill adults. That suggests kids—babies and toddlers included—are able to spread the coronavirus and potentially infect more vulnerable groups (namely, older relatives). 

When Should Kids Wear a Face Mask? 

For extremely young kids, such as two- and three-year-olds, it’s not ideal to have them wear a face covering for many hours of the day. But, says David Kollar, CEO of Plus Guardian, a company that manufactures face masks, “It’s been advised by leading organizations like the CDC that kids over the age of two wear a face mask, especially when it’s not possible for them to keep a safe distance from others.”

What Mask Is Best for Toddlers and Young Children?

The right mask can go a long way toward helping fidgety kids be more compliant. “The best kind of mask for kids is something comfortable and safe, so preferably a cloth mask,” says Kollar. “Having a mask in a pattern or style that kids like will also help encourage them to wear it. And adjustable clips and adjustable ear loops are key for comfort, and for allowing the mask to stay safely on a child’s face.”

It’s always a good idea to try on several different types and let your child take the lead on what works for them. But if your little one is too young to do that, opt for a soft mask in a breathable fabric like cotton that fits well without gapping or being too tight. And when you find something that works, be sure to grab a few so you can wash them after your toddler wears them. 

Things to avoid when choosing a mask for a toddler are coverings that can easily slip out of place while they’re running and playing, such as a neck gaiter, and anything that could pose a strangulation hazard. Young children should never be put down for a nap in a face covering of any sort, even one that’s hanging loosely around their necks.  

How Can Parents Get Toddlers To Wear Masks? 

A recent news story tells the unfortunate tale of a young mom and her six children who were kicked off a commercial flight because the youngest child, a two-year-old, refused to put on a mask. All parents know how stubborn toddlers can be, and it’s an uncomfortable feeling to have to force a little one to wear a face covering.

But there are some ways to avoid such an unpleasant situation. It all comes down to training little ones and relating to them on a level they can understand. 

David Kollar, CEO of Plus Guardian

Take the time to explain that by wearing a mask, the child is almost like their favorite superhero as they protect their loved ones. Making it relatable for them makes it easier to understand and increases willingness and excitability about wearing one.

— David Kollar, CEO of Plus Guardian

“Explain to them that the mask helps protect their best friends, favorite teachers, and grandparents from getting sick, which means they can spend more time together,” says Kollar.

Along with this, practice with your child at home, first with you putting the mask on for them, and then letting them try to do it on their own. Once your toddler masters this, their comfort level with wearing a face covering will likely improve, says Kollar. 

What This Means for You

Young children learn by mimicking others, and they’re incredibly flexible when it comes to new experiences. When parents and daycare providers model proper mask-wearing techniques and help kids find a face covering that works for them, even the youngest kids can successfully follow health and safety protocols set forth by the CDC and AAP.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Face masks.

  2. Yonker LM, Neilan AM, Bartsch Y, et al. Pediatric SARS-CoV-2: Clinical presentation, infectivity, and immune responsesJ Pediatr. 2020;227:45-52.e5. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.08.037