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Prepare children for masks
Discuss coronavirus with kids
Jazmen Daniels mask
Jazmen Daniels poses for her first day of 4-year-old preschool at Incredible Years.

The first day of school should not be the first time for children to experience wearing a mask. Health and education experts provide tips for acquainting children with masks as well as how to discuss coronavirus with kids.

When classes start Thursday at Great Bend USD 428, a cloth mask must be worn by all teachers and students in hallways and common spaces, in the classroom, when working closely with another, and when social distance cannot be maintained. Wearers are advised:

• Put on your mask before entering school

• Only wear your mark for one day, then wash

• Wear your mask correctly - cover your nose and mouth

The Action Learning Network ( says parents can help children become familiar with masks by first being a mask role model. “Wear your mask and explain how it keeps both you and others safe.” Parents may even want to make play masks for stuffed animals or dolls, using materials around the house.

Let kids choose their mask color or decorations. Starting at home, practice wearing a mask for short periods, gradually working up from a few minutes to 30 minutes.

Parents should also teach children to wear their masks properly. Teach them to wash their hands for 20 seconds before touching the mask. Then, put it on and loop it around the ears, making sure to cover the nose, chin and mouth fully.

Paula Daniels, who works in the office at Eisenhower Elementary School, said her 4-year-old daughter, Jazmen, is ready for preschool where she’ll be wearing a mask.

“Wearing masks isn’t too bad; they just get hot sometimes,” Jazmen said.

“I know masks are a big debate and I don’t think it should be forced but there are times and places that they are needed more than others,” Paula said. “At school kids and staff spend hours with each other and if that’s what is required, that is what we will do in order for child interaction. I am more worried about my children losing the socialization with friends than the virus.”

Discussing coronavirus with kids

Safe Kids Inc. provides suggestions for discussing coronavirus with kids:

• Although the coronavirus may cause anxiety, you can model a cool, calm demeanor. Have positive conversations and limit media exposure.

• Listen to their fears. Allow children to lead the conversation with their questions. Address their concerns, but remind them there are positive things they can do to protect themselves – like wearing a mask at school and washing their hands.

• Empower children. Say things like, “We don’t have to get sick if we’re careful with our germs. We can be heroes by being careful with our germs and keeping them away from others.”

• Encourage them with words of stability. You can say, “Not everyone will get sick, and the more we practice our plan, the more people we can keep well!” and “We may not be able to do everything we want for a little while, like going to the movies or playing with our friends, but it won’t be like this forever.”