Oh man, here we are in 2021, and masks are sticking around much longer than I think we all anticipated! Please note, this post IS NOT about debating whether toddlers should be wearing masks. This IS meant to help out the mamas and dads who will be in a situation where their toddler is required to wear a mask. Or if you are more comfortable with your toddler in a mask, depending on the situation. I am a big believer in doing whatever makes you the most comfortable in what has been a tough year+!
So if you’re a little concerned if you’re sweet but very capable of a tantrum, toddler will wear the mask the whole time on an airplane…this is for you.
Above all else, my strategy is to try and make wearing masks feel fun for my toddler.
Buy fun masks
I love these dog mouth masks! The tongue is a winner. Once he puts the mask on, Dawson is instantly transformed into a dog (or so he likes to pretend)! He barks at everyone, but, hey, he’s wearing the mask.
You know your toddler best! What can make the mask fun? Do they become Elsa when wearing the mask? Even a plain black mask in a pinch; can become a dinosaur if you enthusiastically tell them it turns you into a dinosaur!
Be silly with your toddler and try to have as much fun with it as possible!
Prepare them for wearing a mask
Days or even weeks before your trip or event, start the conversation with your toddler. Tell them how fun it will be to ride on an airplane (or attend your event). “And on airplanes, we wear masks!”
And add a little pretend/role play. Our rug becomes the airplane, and we “play” riding on an airplane! That includes wearing a mask the whole time. “Okay, let’s have a sip of water. Okay, masks back on!”
We pretend to put on our masks before we walk into the airport. Walking through security with a bark and a thank you. The “tunnel” (jet bridge). Getting on the airplane and putting on our seat belt.
Play it cool
They are tired and over wearing the mask.
The hard part is, “Dawson, NO, you have to wear your mask” will absolutely invite a tantrum and the always fun toddler power struggle. They know the rules that they must wear the mask on the plane (at Science museum etc.) like you practiced!
Keeping masks “fun” is the key. Raising your voice and telling them they must wear the mask will backfire both in the moment and long term.
If you can, give them a second to see you’re not reacting to their tantrum. Deep breath.
Get them set up with a new show on their iPad, and then try again when things have settled. But the more you try to force it, the more they will resist!
Starting to resist the mask is also when I like to have a second or third surprise mask. “I hear you don’t want to be a doggie anymore. That’s okay! Ready for a surprise? Look, now you’re a dinosaur! Rawr! Ah, there is a dinosaur on the plane!!!”
“Okay, let’s take a break from being Elsa. Do you want to be Olaf or Ana?”
Take a mask break
Maybe everyone just needs a break to regroup on mask-wearing.
If you are in a place that you can step outside, this is an excellent way for everyone to take a breather. And set a clear expectation with your toddler. “We’re going to step outside for a mask break! When you’re ready to go back inside, we’ll put the mask back on!”
If you’re on an airplane or somewhere you can’t physically walk away the answer is: snacks. Masks aren’t required when eating, so it’s a great way to take a break. Again, explain what’s happening to your toddler.
“Your mask is falling off! That’s okay; it looks like the doggie needs a snack. Let’s let him take a snack break, and then we’ll put the doggie mask back on! Do you want cheddar bunnies or a pouch?”
BONUS: if all else fails, lollipops.
This is the type of hard-hitting science-backed parenting tips I hope you expect from me! But joking aside, lollipops for the win. It keeps their mouths busy for a more extended period. Remind them after the doggie has his lollipop, we’ll put the mask back on!