I'm a Mom and a Designer: Here's How to Pick a Face Mask Your Kids Will Want to Wear

As a mom of two young boys, it was challenging to get my sons to want to wear a mask. Here are some creative tactics I've used to encourage my kids to want to wear one.

Masks and kids
Photo: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

When will things go back to normal? That's a common question for all of us after months of living with COVID-19 restrictions. Keeping a reasonable physical distance from others and washing our hands regularly and thoroughly have all become common practices to ensure our health and safety. And while some of these are easier to instill in our kids, I've learned through my own experience and from speaking with friends that mask-wearing can be challenging.

At first, I myself was hesitant about the idea of putting something over my children's mouths and noses for an extended period of time. There's no way they will keep these things on, I thought. After all, the only masks they ever wore prior to the pandemic were for fun, like the ones worn on Halloween. These new, everyday masks were unfamiliar to them, so since they were also apprehensive at first, I thought it was up to me as their parent to take the pressure off of the practice and inspire them to actually want to wear them.

Now that masks are worn almost everywhere, including at school, I wanted to make the experience more fun and enjoyable for my two kids, who are 3-and-a-half and 5. As a professional designer and creative director for more than 15 years, I naturally fell back on my artistic background in devising a plan to inspire joy in mask-wearing.

I started getting into design in my freshman year of high school when my art teacher recommended that I create the front cover of our school's course calendar. I was hooked after that. I love being creative, but never without boundaries and logical sense, and that's the spirit I try to bring when inspiring my boys. Have fun but think of design as a form of communication that has a purpose and an objective. In this case, the goal is to take away the fear and difficulties of mask-wearing for kids and bring some personalization and fun into 2020's hottest new accessory.

Focus on Your Kid's Individual Interests

My kids are very particular about the colors they like. For example, my older son will only wear blue and orange, while my younger son is all about green and purple. They also have distinct preferences for which animals and superheroes they like the most. If I can get their unique, self-assigned favorite animal, color or object on a shirt, hat, sock, or mask, my sons will wear it. Obsession is a strong motivator.

Tailoring the mask design to your kids' interests really shifts the focus from a mandatory act to a more enjoyable practice. If he or she prefers certain graphics or colors, or if they like to participate in pretend play, lean into that. I've seen masks that make you look like a tiger or shark, which would be so much fun for any kid.

Be Flexible and Do-It-Yourself

Finding clothing or masks geared specifically to your child's interests is easier to do when they're into mass-produced characters like Spider-Man and Iron Man. When your older son's favorite animal is an aardvark, okapi, or tapir though, finding masks (or anything) featuring those animals can be extremely difficult.

But I found an easy way to work around that. I made custom iron-on transfers with my son's name and favorite animals for his school masks. I created a page of these solid iron-on transfers by using StickerYou to add different animal designs along with his name. I bought cotton kid's masks from Old Navy and ironed them with an iron (no steam). They've stayed intact after weekly washing since the summer. It's guaranteed that no other kid will have the same mask, and every morning he excitedly chooses which animal he wants to wear that day—a win-win!

If your kids are anything like mine, you'll find that they will put stickers on their masks as well. Let them do that for fun, but of course, remove the stickers before washing, as most are not made to last through the wash cycle. We've also put stickers and labels on the clear plastic pouches that we use to store clean and dirty masks for school, which is just one more thing that my older son gets to personalize.

We stepped it up another level by getting superhero-themed lanyards (a lucky find at a comic store). My kids love superheroes and having the lanyard keeps their masks from being thrown on the ground.

Match with Your Kid

You can also encourage your younger children to enjoy wearing masks by matching with them. When my 3-year-old wasn't keen on wearing his mask to go into a store, I got us green masks in the same pattern. He was really happy and proud to be twinning with his Mama.

Offer Them Options

Offering choices is another tactic that works when it comes to kids and masks. This makes them feel like they're in control of the situation. I always give my sons two to three options of which mask they want to wear that day. After they choose, they're happy to wear—and keep—their masks on all day.

Vivian Choi is the director of design for StickerYou. She has worked as a freelance creative director and designer for more than 15 years, specializing in logo design and branding, photography, packaging, apparel, and web design.

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