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According to the Centers for Disease Control, children 2 years and older should wear a cloth covering over their nose and mouth while in public. However, typical face masks aren't always the most kid-friendly when it comes to their design and comfort.
Though face masks are becoming a part of our everyday lives for the time being, experts say children can understandably find them a bit confusing and intrusive.
"Younger children in particular, can find them frightening," said Dr. Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of "How Toddlers Thrive," told Shop TODAY "It is unclear what masks are, they look odd and who is behind that mask is not clear. For children who rely so much on the adults to take care of them, the mask can be scary. For many children, putting a mask on can feel new and intrusive, which can cause challenges."
This may be why we're seeing the rise of kid-friendly colorful, vibrant designs on marketplaces such as Etsy. And now, Disney is also selling non-medical reusable masks for children, featuring its popular and beloved characters.
The designs feature classic icons like Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh, as well as modern favorites from the Marvel and "Star Wars" movies and a few Disney princesses. The masks are sold in packs of four and can be purchased in either small, medium or large sizes. All of the designs are currently available for pre-order and are expected to ship by the week of July 15.
Disney will also be donating one million masks to families in underserved communities across the U.S. The company said it has also already met its goal of donating $1 million in profits from sales of the masks to MedShare, a humanitarian aid organization, which will use the money to help support hospitals and healthcare workers on the frontlines.
If you're having a tough time convincing your child to wear a normal face covering, the cheery designs of these Disney masks can help make them feel less intimidating.
"Children love wearing items of clothing that depict their favorite characters, and there's no reason to think that masks will be any exception," said Dr. Rebecca Schrag Hershberg, a psychologist and parenting coach at Little House Calls. "In fact, masks have the added bonus of being the accessory of superheroes; if your kid is into Batman, for example, then this trend was made for your family."
Klein also thinks the idea of kid-friendly prints is worth a try if your child is having a tough time with regular masks.
"For any child who is hesitant to wear a mask, making them child-friendly could be quite attractive. It also makes masks seem less threatening to a child if they have a child motif to them," Klein said. "The message is that the mask is for a child and it makes them more fun. So it could help some children."
Clinical psychologist Dr. Alison Locker told us that while character-based masks might be appealing, it's ultimately up to the parents to help instill the importance of adhering to safety guidelines during these unprecedented times.
"Masks are uncomfortable — even for grown-ups —so it’s important to make it clear that masks keep us safe and we need to wear them the same way we wear seat belts. They are not a choice," Locker explained. "Parents need to be prepared to let their kids 'play' with masks to demystify them, but to understand that this is not a fun game and kids will feel anxious no matter what the masks look like."
When it comes to speaking to your child about the coronavirus pandemic in general, Hershberg thinks it's best to keep the conversation honest yet not overwhelming.
"Speak slowly, and provide bite-size chunks of information before pausing to let your children process and ask any follow-up questions they may have," Hershberg told us. "Explain the importance of wearing masks simply, and capitalize on the fact that we all need to do it; we are superheroes in our germ-fighting masks banding together to save the day!"
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