Toddlers seem ready to protest. That means learning to say no to new foods, sharing toys and yes, even refusing to continue wearing masks.

During the pandemic, mask regulations in many parts of the United States have only been applied to children five years of age and older. But as some regions see a new surge in COVID, along with an increase in infections in pediatric populations, this claim may also extend to younger children.

In Michigan, a new rule requiring children ages 2-4 to wear masks went into effect April 26 as health officials aim to ensure a “good faith effort” at facilities like child care centers. children, preschools, camps and other public areas.

The masking sequence follows recommendations from the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC has recommended that children under the age of two should not wear masks.

At Michigan Medicine CS Mott Children’s Hospital, the Childhood Life team is accustomed to helping children of all ages deal with hospital situations they might be hesitant to, including poking fun, medical treatment, and potentially scary situations is different. Now, three Mott child life experts share their best tips for equipping families with the tools to promote the health and safety of the youngest members of their community.

1. Use child-friendly language.

Children respond best to explanations that are simple, positive, gentle and concrete, says Courtney Hoffenbacher, Mott’s child life expert.

“Let’s explain it like the rule that people wear shoes when we go to the store, also the rule to wear a mask when going out of the house.

“For older toddlers, it can also be helpful to tell them that masks protect us from other people’s germs and protect them from ours. And it will help keep us and others healthy and safe. “

2. Model wearing a mask.

Children pick up behavior from their peers and adults, that’s why toddlers pretend to chat on toy phones or want to use very interesting tools.

If they see a parent and older sibling wearing a mask, and it’s a rule that applies to everyone, they’ll likely want to imitate the behavior, says Hoffenbacher. But parents need to be aware that being obedient and rebellious in these ages is something to keep in mind.

“Like many things, forcing a child to wear a mask can lead to a fight,” says Hoffenbacher. “Control is an important part of a child’s development and understanding. Instead of fighting for power, model them how to wear a mask to normalize and make them feel more comfortable.”

“Children are greatly influenced by the people around them.”

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3. Practice through play.

“While words are important, children process emotions and learn through play,” says Mary Harwood, Mott’s child life expert.

She recommends planning any outings that require a mask, whether at a doctor’s appointment, the store, or daycare, through exercise that feels pleasurable.

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