INFOGRAPHIC: How to explain and make it easier for children to wear a protective face mask

Provisions on the mandatory wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus also partly apply to children older than 2 years. Some children find it harder to adapt to this, some children find the mask annoying, so they feel the need to adjust the mask and touch their face, which increases the chances of the virus entering through their mouth, nose or eyes. Here are some helpful tips for parents and carers on how to make it easier for children to adjust to wearing masks:


  1. Be the model of behavior you want to see in your child – wear masks in all situations where you expect your child to wear a mask.
  2. Explain that a mask is a rule, not a choice, eg “Sometimes you don’t want to wear a T-shirt when you go to kindergarten, but it is a rule. Because of the virus we talked about, the rule now is that you have to put a mask over your mouth and nose. “
  3. Try to find or make a mask that will adequately fit the child’s face without falling off or “pinch” or “squeezing” because it will make you feel it less, less likely to want to take it off your face and touch your face less.
  4. Allow the children to choose the color or decorations on the mask they will wear, thus gaining a sense of control and autonomy in this situation.
  5. Offer and help younger children make a face mask for their favorite stuffed pets or dolls.
  6. Children like to feel morally superior to adults, explain to the child that he is more responsible than adults who do not wear masks and thus do not protect others.
  7. Explain to the child that it is okay if he/she is a little hot or sweating under the mask, but remind him/her that he/she is sometimes hot and sweats under clothes, but that it passes.
  8. Offer your child to draw their favorite cartoon character with a mask on their face.
  9. Normalize the wearing of masks by showing your child photos of other children wearing face masks.
  10. Do not promise children that they will be able to stop wearing masks for a while, but focus on the fact that if most people wear masks and adhere to other measures, including children, fewer people will be sick.


In its guidelines of 13 July 2020 (link:, the Civil Protection Headquarters of the Republic of Croatia states that masks should not be worn by children under 2 years of age. preschool children older than 2 years if the child “despite the efforts of parents / guardians to wear a mask resists wearing the mask or cannot refrain from touching the mask and face (some children are bothered by the mask and feel the inescapable need to adjust the mask and touch the face, thus the chances of getting the virus through the mouth, nose or eyes increase) ”. It is further stated that children after the age of two up to the lower grades of primary school can wear the mask only with activities that are limited in time (activities lasting a maximum of an hour or two) and when they are under constant supervision of parents / guardians (for example when driving in public transport, health care or shopping, although parents are advised to take their children to shops only if absolutely necessary) ”.


Experiences of other countries

In her recommendation to parents, American doctor Deborah Gilboa notes that masks serve to reduce the transmission of droplets and that children need to be emphasized that ” we wear masks for each other, you wear a mask to protect me, and I wear a mask to protect you .”

Nicola Principi and Susanna Esposito from the University of Milan emphasize in the paper entitled “To disguise or not to disguise children in overcoming COVID-19” published in the European Pediatric Journal that it would be good to teach children to put on a mask every time they leave home. the ability for children to forget about the mask.

A Swedish study on wearing respiratory protective masks on 118 children and young people aged 7 to 20 found that wearing masks can be a bigger problem for adolescents than for younger children who are more tolerant of wearing masks, potentially because they have more rounded faces (Mauritzson- Sandberg, 1991). In the same study, the author notes that most children who gave up wearing the mask within 3 to 5 hours cited boredom as the reason, and that with greater motivation and need, children would wear the mask even longer.


How to make it easier for children to “read emotions” behind the face of a parent / guardian covered with a mask

Research on the impact of emotions on a mother’s face with a child crossing a transparent plexiglass that visually acted as the end of a cliff with a deep fall, proved that emotions perceived by young children on their mothers’ faces have a significant effect on children at risk (Sorce, Emde, Campos and Klinnert, 1985).

Katz and Hadani (2020) cite several strategies from practice during the SARS epidemic in 2003 that can make it “easier” for children to read emotions from the faces of parents or guardians:

– Introduce children to the mask you will wear in a safe environment.

– Allow children to feel the mask, put it on your face and yourself (under your supervision) and explain that other people they meet will have masks – thus allowing them to predict future events, which will reduce their anxiety.

– Play with the children “Guess my facial expression” by frowning while wearing the mask and asking the child to guess your facial expression, then raise your eyebrows and open your eyes wide and ask the child the same question… So you can do for more facial expressions, and after the children give their answer take off the mask and show the expression of the whole face.

– Play with children “Now you see me, now you don’t see me”, by having a smile behind the mask, after which you will remove the mask. Tell the child that you are currently laughing no matter what the mask does not show.

– It is good to explain to children that wearing masks alone will not protect us from the virus if we do not adhere to other measures such as maintaining physical distance, regular hand washing and not touching the face with unwashed hands. By teaching children to follow measures aimed at slowing down and stopping the spread of coronavirus, we also teach them to follow the rules, which is a potential basis for learning to take responsibility in adulthood.


Children and COVID-19: Risks of disease and to what extent they transmit coronavirus

The data suggest that children and young people are significantly less likely to get sick than adults, and in cases of infection with the new coronavirus, they generally have milder symptoms (Wu and McGoogan, 2020). Recent data, however, indicate that children can still suffer from more severe forms of the disease, so New York City Health said on May 31 that the mortality rate of children and young people under 17 in the sample of 15,233 deaths was 0.06%, or 9 deaths.

The results of the research are not entirely consistent about the extent to which children transmit the coronavirus. While some results suggest that children can be as contagious as adults (Jones et al., 2020), others suggest that children are in most cases not carriers of COVID-19, but that the virus was transmitted to them by adults living in household (Cai et al., 2020; Posfay Barbe et al., 2020). However, experts note that it should be borne in mind that lower rates of infection in children and adolescents may be due to frequent asymptomatic cases among children, which result in less excretion of infectious droplets through cough, but also that due to school closures, children’s contact was limited. lives (Lee and Raszka, 2020).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that children over the age of 2 should wear a face mask when in public places frequented by a larger number of people to further slow the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics note that pediatric masks, other than surgical masks, can be made from simple washable fabric (unless children have other chronic conditions or illnesses). Also, recent pediatric research due to the increase in the recording of asymptomatic cases of coronavirus infection in children also emphasizes the importance of gradually accustoming children to wearing masks, but without the use of coercion (Esposito and Principles, 2020).

Experts from Ohio Children’s Hospital note that children under the age of 2 have less developed airways, which increases the risk of suffocation by wearing a mask (Macklin, 2020), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention further states that masks should not be worn on people, in this case to small children who are unable to remove them on their own. In order to reduce the possibility of infection in smaller children younger than 2 years of age, it is recommended to limit the contact of caregivers, as well as to take care of physical distance and regular hygiene.


By: Krešimir Prijatelj, MSc. psych.



American Academy of Pediatrics (2020, 5. lipnja) Cloth Face Coverings for Children During COVID-19. [accessed 16th July 2020]

Cai, J., Xu, J., Lin, D., Xu, L., Qu, Z., Zhang, Y., … i Xia, A. (2020). A Case Series of children with 2019 novel coronavirus infection: clinical and epidemiological features. Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Esposito, S. i Principi, N. (2020). To mask or not to mask children to overcome COVID-19. European Journal of Pediatrics, 1.

Gilboa, D. (2020). CDC says children should wear face coverings. Here’s how to get them to do it (K. Breen, intervjuer). Today. [accessed 16th July 2020]

Jones, T. C., Mühlemann, B., Veith, T., Biele, G., Zuchowski, M., Hoffmann, J., … & Drosten, C. (2020). An analysis of SARS-CoV-2 viral load by patient age. medRxiv.

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Mauritzson-Sandberg, E. (1991). Psychological effects on prolonged use of respiratory protective devices in children. Ergonomics34(3), 313–319. doi:10.1080/00140139108967315

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Posfay Barbe, C., Wagner, N., Gauthey, M., Moussaoui, D., Loevy, N., Diana, A. & L’Huillier, A. (2020). COVID-19 in Children and the Dynamics of Infection in Families. Pediatrics, e20201576.

Sorce, J. F., Emde, R. N., Campos, J. J. & Klinnert, M. D. (1985). Maternal emotional signaling: Its effect on the visual cliff behavior of 1-year-olds. Developmental Psychology, 21(1), 195–200.

World Health Organisation (2020). Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19. [accessed 16th July 2020]

Wu, Z. & McGoogan, J. M. (2020). Characteristics of and important lessons from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in China: summary of a report of 72 314 cases from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Jama323(13), 1239-1242.

Tko ne treba nositi masku? [Who shouldn’t wear a mask?] (2020). [accessed 16th July 2020]


Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center cannot be held legally responsible for any translation inaccuracy. 

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