How to Explain Face Masks to Children

As the new coronavirus continues to spread, Save the Children is helping families and health workers get through this pandemic by delivering life-saving supplies, crucial health information and other support.  We’re also providing parents, schools and communities with tools and tips you can trust about coronavirus and kids, including helping to clearly explain the evolving guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the use of cloth face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

As of April 3, the CDC recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” While this recommendation can be easy for adults to understand, it may bring up questions from children as to why and when to wear a cloth face mask. 

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A young girl wears a cloth face mask white standing outside in South Carolina.

Should I wear a cloth face mask?

Our experts put together 4 simple ways to explain the CDC guidelines for wearing cloth face masks in public to children.

1. Start with social distancing. While kids are aware of school closures and event cancellations, it’s important they also understand why and how these critical steps help slow the spread of COVID-19. Staying home and putting distance—at least six feet—between yourself and others is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

2. Prep for public settings. You may find that you or your children will be in a public setting like a grocery store or bus stop where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. It’s important to explain to kids that in these instances, wearing a cloth face mask is recommended because it can help to slow the spread of the virus.

3. Talk about how to care for someone sick at home. If there’s someone sick at home, the CDC has specific guidelines for how to prevent the spread of germs.  Not only should the sick person wear a cloth face covering when they are around people, others should wear one while in the same room with them.  

4. Distinguish cloth face masks from other kinds of masks. Many children are aware that face masks are not allowed at school during celebrations like Halloween. It’s important to distinguish coronavirus-related cloth face masks from other types, like those worn as costumes or as protective gear in sports. 

Please note that the CDC states that cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing or those unable to remove the mask without assistance.

You’re not alone. As the world’s leading expert on childhood, Save the Children is here to help. Visit Coronavirus and Kids: Resources from Save the Children for more tools and tips you can trust for parents, caregivers, teachers and all those who care about children in crisis.


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