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Preschoolers *can* wear masks all day—here’s how

Kids are surprisingly adaptable to change, especially with our help.

how to help young children wear masks
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It seems clear that masks will play an important role in how we all navigate public spaces safely again. For young children headed to preschool, pre-K or kindergarten, wearing masks at school is now an expectation. And when we can't be sure that our kids will be able to keep six feet away from people outside the family, masks can help keep them safe. They also provide us with a feeling that we are more secure when we have them on—as if a piece of our shelter-in-place cocoon stays with us as we venture out into the world.

That said, masks can be challenging. They look strange, even scary to kids. Many kids do not like to have their face touched at all, never mind by an irksome mask. This is especially true for kids whose sensory systems are extra sensitive to touch.

But, kids can make friends with masks. Humans are wired to prefer that which is familiar to us, but kids are much better than we are at accepting new things. We can introduce masks in ways that help masks feel normal and even empowering for kids.

Here are a few simple steps that can make masks work for young kids heading to preschool, pre-K, kindergarten...or a friend's house.


Babies and toddlers do not need masks. The CDC does not recommend masks for children under 2 or for anyone with difficulty breathing, so it is okay not to worry about cajoling your toddler into their mask.

Make sure kids can take off their masks. Kids older than 2 should be able to take a mask off, but that requires that you provide a mask that is easy for kids to take off. Masks that tie in the back, for example, may provide too much challenge for kids, whereas a mask that tucks around the ears is easier for kids to remove, if needed.

Make sure masks are comfortable. In a rush, we whipped together poorly sized masks made from particularly scratchy bandanas, safety pins and hair ties—a bad move. It took much convincing to get our 5-year old to even try a new mask after that. Lesson learned. To the extent you can, make sure your child's mask is soft, properly sized and easy on the ears.

Pick fun masks. If you can, pick masks made in colors or patterns that your kids like. The masks will be less scary—even fun to look at—in the mirror.

Let kids pick their masks. If you have a child who is sensitive to how clothing rests on their skin, pick more than one soft mask if you are able, and welcome your child to pick the mask that they like best. My middle child is really jazzed about this mask he can color in himself. Feeling in control of that selection can make all the difference to kids. Plus, all kids will be more likely to wear their mask if they feel it reflects them!

Practice at home. Identify times during the day here and there for the family to wear masks at home. Keep the time short and sweet at first, then make it longer each time. Kids will build their stamina every time you practice, and they can get used to wearing their masks and to seeing you wear yours.

Sing silly songs in your mask and giggle at how funny they sound. An impromptu dance party to a favorite song can also work wonders. Take photos and send them to loved ones, or have a family video call in masks. These simple moments help them associate masks with positive and joyful feelings.

While we're at it, mask practice can help us reinforce the rules.

When you are working on normalizing masks, you can also reinforce good practices by modeling them and explaining them to kids in gentle ways. A few examples:

  • Per the CDC, you should wash your hands before and after you put on a mask. So try adding "washing our hands" as a step in practicing putting masks on. It can't hurt to reinforce hand washing!.
  • Experts also recommend not touching our masks once we're out and about. I've told my kids to get their mask comfortable, then don't touch it again. Mom or Dad can take it off for you.
  • For the grown-ups in your kids' lives, remember that the CDC also recommends that we wash masks after we have used them in public. If you don't have a washing machine at home, really hot water and soap should do the trick.

The idea of moving from shelter-in-place to reopening feels like a frightening leap of faith, but just like our kids, we'll likely feel more ready if we get a chance to make friends with each of these ways to stay safe.

Founder, Tinkergarten

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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