We all want to protect our children from bad things – like accidents and illnesses. With microscopic coronavirus germs making so many people sick, it’s only natural to take steps to shield them from this danger as well.
Health officials remind us that homemade masks are merely a stopgap measure to protect people of any age from coronavirus. The first line of defence is to stay home and away from any environment where you could pick up the bug.
However, if you are a single parent or your partner is working long shifts, you don’t want to leave your child home alone while you buy vital supplies. The same goes if your regular childcare provider cannot step in, leaving you on your own. If you must take your kids to the store, stay six feet from other shoppers as a precaution.
So you’ve taught them how to follow social distancing guidelines and wash their hands to the tune of “Happy Birthday”. The next step is making a face mask for kids. In just a few minutes, you can whip one up, regardless of your sewing ability. Let’s get started.
How to get your child to keep the mask on
Masks only work if they stay on your face while you are out and about. Very Well Family has some great tips on how to get your little ones excited about masking up, especially when they are so young that they don’t understand the risk. Here are some quick and easy strategies you can try:
1. Talk it out
Start with a clear but firm discussion about why they need to wear a mask. Most children are innately empathetic and want to take care of people around them. Tell them about the virus in language that is age-appropriate and invite them to be part of the measures that limit its spread.
2. Involve them
Next, choose the materials together. They can pick a once-beloved, outgrown t-shirt, a favorite pillowcase, or a color they like. The more say they have, the more likely they will be proud to show off their festooned faces rather than tear the mask free.
3. Decorate their mask
You can also decorate the mask to reflect a favorite animal or a profession they relate to, using patches that feature characters from their favorite TV show or decorative stitching.
4. Make a “buddy mask”
Why not up the fun by making a companion mask for a favorite doll or teddy bear, so your child can have a mask buddy. Having their hands full with a toy while you’re running errands can also keep them from touching other surfaces. Just remember, the mask buddy needs a bath after going out in public, just like your kiddo’s face mask!
5. Reward them
Throw in a reward if the mask stays in place during an outing. You can offer a free treat, extra TV time, or craft supplies, like a sticker. You know what makes your child tick so find the right incentive to make this experience a positive one.
6. Turn it into a game
Tap into your child’s competitive spirit by making it into a game. Maybe start out with 10 points and deduct one every time a sibling touches or removes a face covering. You probably won’t need prizes beyond bragging rights, especially if you have more than one child.
7. Plan ahead
To avoid frustration with this new routine, you’ll also want to build extra time into each trip since donning and adjusting masks will eat up additional minutes. You may also need a reminder pep talk or a review of the game’s rules periodically to keep young minds engaged.
8. Manage your own expectations
Be patient. You and your children will get used to this over time.
Remember: do not leave masks on children when they are not supervised. Since it does restrict breathing somewhat, you’ll want to watch to make sure they are safe.
How to make face masks for kids
#1 – Quick and easy t-shirt method for face masks for kids
If you’re not equipped for or gifted at sewing, this is a great option. Not only is it easy to find a t-shirt to use, but a tightly knit cotton is also a recommended fabric barrier for germs, even more so if you double it.
For kids, this is a soft material that they’re already used to wearing that may even show a cartoon character or other playful image. If you tie it on, busy little fingers will have a harder time removing it.
The CDC has a great pattern that only requires a t-shirt and a pair of sharp scissors. Essentially, you cut the bottom seven inches off a shirt then slice a seven-inch rectangle into one side, leaving one-inch strips above and below. Next, you slice those narrow strips at the ends, so they become upper and lower ties.
You can play around with the dimensions to make sure they fit the small person who will wear it. Start out with the dimensions listed above and cut it smaller to tailor it better. If it’s still too big, cut another loop from the bottom of the same shirt and try again.
#2 – Cotton masks for kids with tied elastic ear loops
Some parents advise that masks that are easier to remove are better for kids since it’s faster for parents to slip them on and off between errands.
If you have a child who resists wearing a mask, this may also spare you from unnecessary meltdowns, especially during the period of adopting this new habit. Tantrums are difficult enough during regular shopping trips; no one wants to endure one when there is a lineup or when tempers are already short among the adults in the room.
See Kate Sew has a good pattern for face masks for kids. It includes dimensions, advice, and a video tutorial. She has simplified it so novice stitchers can get started without lessons and with minimal supplies.
Her version also includes a filter pocket so you can insert an extra layer of fabric, a coffee filter, or a paper towel to block even more germs. This extra layer may keep smaller disease-carrying microbes at bay.
You’ll need some tightly woven cotton, such as store-bought fabric, a bed sheet, or a pillowcase, plus cord elastic and a yarn needle. This is in addition to regular sewing supplies, like scissors and a sewing machine.
For each mask, cut out one front piece and two back pieces.
For small children, the front is 5” x 6” and the back is 6” x 6”. For older children, add one inch to make it seven inches wide instead of six.
- Fold the back pieces in half and press them lengthwise.
- Pin one each to the top and bottom of the front piece, with right sides together.
- Sew all the way around with a ¼-inch seam, with back pieces overlapping on the sides.
- Clip the corners. Turn the mask right side out and press.
- On each side, stitch one half-inch in from the edge to create a casing.
- Thread your yarn needle with six inches of cord elastic. Leave a long tail so it stays threaded.
- Insert the needle into the bottom of the casing and push through to the top.
- Tie the ends of each cord elastic to create a loop. Try it on your child and adjust as needed.
- Cinch the elastic so the sides of the mask are gathered and stitch back and forth over the elastic.
- Do the same thing on the other side.
#3 – Cotton masks for kids with stitched-in elastic ear loops
The Stitching Scientist offers a slight variation, using wider elastic. Her version takes about 10 minutes per mask.
This requires one piece of fabric each for the back and the front – 4” x 6” inches for kids ages 2 to 4 and 5” x 7” for ages 4 to 12.
For ear loops, her pattern calls for 5 inches of 1/8-inch elastic for each ear loop for kids under 4; 6 inches each for children over age 4.
- Pin elastic ends to the front of the mask, half an inch from the top and the bottom to create a loop on each side.
- Lay the back over the front with right sides facing and pin in place. The elastics stay inside the square as you sew.
- Stitch all the way around with a half-inch seam allowance, leaving a 2-inch gap between your starting point and ending point.
- Turn the mask right side out and press.
- Topstitch the 2-inch gap to close it.
- Make 2 one-inch pleats on each side of the mask.
Once you get started, you may find this creative process so quick and fun that you’ll want to make more. Given the demand for masks, you can offer extras to other families who have yet to discover this type of pandemic crafting.
If you make masks for others, make sure you wash your hands and the fabric before sewing. And do not try the masks on your children before giving them out. The goal is to keep the masks as germ-free as possible.
After your children wear their mask outside of home, remove the masks – without touching the front surface – and put them in the wash. Use warm, soapy water and dry them on high heat or in direct sunlight.
Again, you know your child best so you can pick the best option for your skill level and your child’s temperament. Using all these techniques, you will add another layer of protection to your family until a vaccine is available.