At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, my son was only 18 months old. I didn’t expect the pandemic to continue as long as it has, so teaching him how to wear a mask was not even a priority for our family. But now he is approaching his third birthday, and he has to wear a mask to doctor’s appointments, to participate in activities, and to attend school. How do we teach our son, who has a meltdown in the morning because his underwear is orange and not blue, to accept and use a mask?
We turned to literature for help because our little guy is a huge bookworm! I have included eight books to encourage your toddler to wear a mask. If your child does not care for books (let’s be real, they have minds and personalities of their own), I have also included tips and advice from my toddler mom friends that might just work for you.
Doing My Part
This book is about a little girl and the changes she has to make because of the pandemic. She even takes her doll along with her who is wearing a mask too. The story rhymes and is short enough to hold a two year old’s attention. We also love this book because the photos depict an actual little girl, so it is a great real-life social story. You can get a free copy of the e-book here.
This is such a cute book that lets your child’s imagination run wild. Lucy can be a detective, explorer, or pirate with her masks . . . but with her special mask, she’s a superhero saving the world. It’s sure to capture even the shortest attention span. Find the book here.
This book discusses the COVID-19 virus and mask-wearing (when, where, and how). I love how simple and easy it is for little ears and eyes to follow. Mia is such an adorable character that your kiddo will surely relate to. Find the book here.
Wear Your Mask, Baby Shark
Are you even a toddler parent if you’ve never had the “Baby Shark” song stuck in your head? Use it to your advantage with this book. It’s read/sung to the original tune and includes dance moves to go along. Included are some mask-wearing tips at the end of the book. Find it here.
When I Wear My Mask
Little Abigail has different animal masks that each give her special powers by putting her in that animal’s place! She has cat, mouse, fox, and tiger masks. Maybe your little one will want to wear their cat mask so they “can climb up a tree and chase after rats!” Find the book here.
Smiling From Ear to Ear
My son LOVES animals, so this book was a huge hit. Each page features various animals participating in different activities while wearing their masks and having fun. There are tons of opportunities to discuss mask patterns and colors to subtly bring attention to all the really cool masks, too! Find the book here.
Heroes Wear Masks: Elmo’s Super Adventure
This book is a little long for a two-year-old (at least mine), but there are some great takeaways. And toddlers adore Elmo. It even has some tips for parents at the end. Elmo and his mom talk about germs, washing hands, wearing masks, and social distancing from friends. Because of Elmo, my son now knows how to take good, deep breaths when he is feeling anxious about these changes. Find the book here.
Sharing a Smile
Sophie loves her neighbors, but notices one is afraid of all the mask-wearing changes. She realizes that sometimes it takes a friend to help another feel brave. She decides to make masks with her grandpa for everyone in their neighborhood to match their personalities . . . and one special mask to help her friend feel brave. It’s such an adorable story and free to check out at the Albuquerque Public Library. Find it here.
I also reached out to some of my friends who have gone through the “teaching your toddler to wear a mask” transition. Here are some tips and tricks that worked for them.
- Find masks with characters your child loves. Even better, let your child pick their own mask and yours too!
- Make sure the mask fits well because your child will not wear it if it is uncomfortable. One recommendation is getting custom-fit face masks from Etsy.
- Wear the mask during fun activities that your child loves. If they want to take their mask off, give them the choice of going home or putting the mask on and staying.
- Explain to your child that superheroes wear masks to protect people and they can be a superhero too if they wear theirs.
- As a parent, model the correct use of masks and/or try wearing your mask the wrong way and have your child correct you. My son loves being “right,” so we will definitely try this trick!
- Celebrate mask wearing for short periods of time and build on that (5 minutes, 10 minutes, 2 hours, and eventually all day!).
- Use peer modeling by sharing videos of other children wearing masks. If you personally know another child who is able to wear masks, schedule a play date to teach your child. If their friends are doing it, they will want to as well!
- Give compliments to other people about their masks and over-exaggerate! Your child will see that wearing masks is fun and cool.