Children over two are now required to wear a face mask inside public buildings in Edmonton.
The idea of three-year-old wearing a mask properly may be difficult to imagine, but University of Alberta professor of educational psychology Jacqueline Leighton said normalizing mask use can help significantly.
“For kids to be encouraged to wear face masks, one of the things parents can actually do is wear masks themselves,” Leighton said. “If a child sees that mom and dad are wearing masks, they’re more likely to see that practice normalized.”
Leighton said practicing wearing a mask at home, even though it’s not required will also make a difference.
“The other things for families to do is put the mask on a favourite stuffed animal or stuff toy.
“(Families can also), put on a mask for a couple minutes a day and look in the mirror and talk about how the child feels wearing the mask, and all of these efforts that are done to normalize and to slowly habituate the child to putting on a face covering.”
Leighton does note, however, that if a child is adamant and fights wearing a mask, they shouldn’t be forced to.
“Part of the reason, is that very young children will pick at their mask … If a child is constantly touching their face it actually defeats the purpose,” Leighton said.
“Some children with special needs, if that upsets them, should not be wearing them. That is children with cognitive and physical disabilities, because masks can prove to be a choking hazard.”
Edmonton pediatrician Dr. Raphael Sharon has required parents and kids to wear a mask at the clinic for months. He says 95 per cent of kids don’t mind wearing it.
“If we can explain to them why wearing masks is important, it makes a big difference and in kids nature they always want to help,” Sharon said.
“There are kids’ size masks that are good for two years and up. It will be much smaller (than adult ones), and fit their face properly, you want it to be sealed both here as well as there so it won’t get contaminated.”
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Sharon said even though masks are now mandatory in Edmonton, other guidelines still need to be followed.
“(Masks are) not the only thing, physical distancing, washing your hands and wearing masks all together is important.”
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