Homework may not be the most difficult assignment kids will face when they return to school this fall. Keeping a mask on all day may be a tougher challenge.
"Sometimes I get bothered because, when I breathe hard, the air goes in my eyes," says Ramon Obrador, who is heading into second grade.
He has been practicing keeping his mask on for long periods of time to get ready to return to school.
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"We've been talking to him for months now, expressing the importance for keeping them on," says his mother, Gilda Obrador. "He'll have to wear it for at least seven or eight hours, because as soon as he catches the bus, he's got to have to have it on."
When asked if he thinks he can wear the mask all day, Ramon said, "I guess, I have to try to see."
Having kids practice wearing masks is a great idea, says Dr. Mark Blumenthal, the associate chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Newton Wellesley Hospital. The more they wear it, the more they are used to it.
Have your kids try to keep the mask on while watching a movie, or set a timer and offer a reward to build up mask endurance.
Blumenthal recommends a cloth mask with at least two layers of fabric and says a good fit is key.
"You want to make sure that it's tight over the nose," says Blumenthal. "A lot of [masks] have a metal clip -- you want to try to squeeze that over the nose, so it kind of blocks and forms a little bit of a seal. But the most important thing is that it stays up. A lot of people have a mask that is too big and it will kind of drop below the nose, and for the mask to be effective it really has to be covering the nose and mouth."
You can find masks just about everywhere, in all kinds of colors, styles and patterns. Finding one your child loves will help.
"I think the more interesting they are, the better it is for the kids," says Blumenthal. "The more likely they are to wear it, and especially for the young kids. Sometimes you can have them decorate their mask or create their own mask and they're much more interested."
And that strategy could work with your teenager as well. The doctor says that age group presents a big challenge when it comes to mask wearing.
"Unfortunately, that age group feels a little bit invincible and so they are also thinking well, if I get COVID, I'm not going to get sick," says Blumenthal. "I think when they're getting together with their friends, they're not wearing masks quite as much as they should be."
There are masks on the market geared to teens, so have them pick out their own. Ramon's favorite is a sports mask with baseballs, basketballs and footballs on it. But his mom is more concerned with comfort.
"I wanted something that was knit so it feels soft on the skin and the plan is to send him to school with a couple of masks so he can change them throughout the day," she said.
It is a good idea to send kids to school with extra masks, just in case.
And keep a mesh laundry bag on hand to collect used masks at the end of the day. You can throw it right into the washing machine and it will keep the masks from getting lost in the laundry.