Going back to school each Fall always requires some training. As parents we prepare for making lunches and having any easy system to get out the door each day. We get our kids back into routines that have slipped away during the summer months. In addition to our normal back to school preparations, this year we also need to be helping our kids get in the routine of wearing masks.
Teachers are worried about returning to school
Teachers hear the reports that children may not be as vulnerable to the virus, but they know that the information and the virus are constantly changing. They worry for their students. Teachers fear for themselves, as well as the other faculty, staff and all their family members that could be impacted by the return to school.
Yet teachers will return to the classroom.
In the next few weeks teachers will begin setting up their classrooms and preparing as best they can for the year ahead. They are going back for the parents who need schools to reopen for countless reasons.
Each teacher knows the impact she makes in the lives of her students. Whether her classroom sees 20 children for the entire day or 80 teens that rotate with the bell. The number of families her presence impacts is vast and vital.
The least we can do as parents is help teachers by preparing our kids to wear masks properly, to wash hands their thoroughly and frequently, and to do their part in helping prevent the spread of germs.
Back to school: Will students wear masks?
School districts are starting to announce finalized plans for this school year. Many districts are providing options that include full-time distance learning, face-to-face in-person instruction and hybrid options. While plans seem to be made, changed and remade, the potential continues to increase that students and teachers will be required to wear a face covering if they are returning to the classroom.
There are many concerns about returning to school in masks.
Is it effective? How will we keep masks on younger students? What happens if they lose them? Will kids with sensory issues and special needs be given another option? How much of the learning time will be taken up with redirecting students to wear masks correctly?
All of these questions (and more) are fair. Parents and teachers are both concerned.
So what can we do to help?
Preparing your child to go back to a school with masks
We can help our kids and teachers alike by working with our kids in these final weeks of summer on wearing a mask.
Teachers are begging for your help in this process. You can help by getting your child used to seeing people in masks, answering questions about why we have to wear masks, having your child practice putting on a mask alone and training to wear his mask for extended periods of time.
Don’t wait until the day before school starts, hoping they won’t have to, and expecting the classroom teacher to teach your child to wear the mask.
There is so much new to be learned the first week of school that you want your child to be comfortable wearing her mask so she can focus on everything else.
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Let your child help pick a kid size mask
Wearing a mask for safety can be made more fun when you let your child help pick out their mask.
Our kids love wearing masks at Halloween! (Actually schools usually tell them they aren’t allowed to wear the mask part of the costume to school for things like Halloween parades – so wearing a mask can be fun.) Kids love getting to pick out costumes and to wear the mask of their choosing.
Finding a special character, color or design is an important step in the mask buy-in process for younger children.
We’ve tried several types of masks with our 5 and 6 year olds over the past few months. The boys have loved Star Wars and Marvel characters that were homemade by friends and family. These masks were great for short-term use, but the elastic behind the ears was rough to keep on and became uncomfortable for longer usage.
Their favorite long-term use masks, by far, have been the Crayola Reusable Cloth Face Mask Set. They are comfortable, lightweight, and easy to put on for the kids. This mask set comes in a 5 pack with a bag to wash them each week. Plus they have cute crayon characters or great color options. This mask set will be our go-to choice if our district decides that students will return to school in masks.
(If you’d rather find a mask locally, Target stores across the country are carrying a variety of colors in kid sizes as well. These masks are an easy option to pick up when you do your back to school shopping!)
Confidence in seeing other people in masks before school begins
Seeing other people wear masks is a big part of helping your child feel comfortable and confident in wearing their own mask to school.
Many families have kept their children at home since March with limited exposure to public places. If your child has not been out much in public since face coverings have been implemented, it may be alarming for him to suddenly find everyone wearing masks.
Seeing Other People Wear Masks by Tara Tuchel is a free tool to utilize to help your child understand why everyone is wearing masks. She explains that although you can’t see a person’s whole face, they can still talk, smile and be friendly from under their mask. With this tool, kids learn that wearing masks may be different than what we are used to, but it is ok!
Model mask wearing for your child
If I’m being honest, I absolutely hate wearing a mask. This mask wearing life experience has given me a new respect for what my husband endures daily as a standard of his job as a Navy physician. (I joke that organic chemistry was what kept me from wanting to be in the medical field, but now I am most certain it would have been the masks!)
Masks drive me crazy, but if its what is required for our students to go back to school and to keep our family, friends, teachers and community safe, then we will be wearing masks.
If your child returns to a brick and mortar school, you will likely be asked or required to wear a mask when you visit the school. So if your children will be returning to school and you aren’t already wearing a mask in public, use the next few weeks to train along with them!
Teaching Kids about Germs
Helping your child learn some of the science behind germs is a great way to help him understand why teachers will be asking students to frequently wash hands thoroughly. Its also helpful for kids in understanding why schools may be requesting (or requiring) masks.
Resources like songs, videos, games, and some excellent children’s books make learning where germs live and how they spread fun for kids.
Games for Understanding How Germs Spread
Supplies: Shaker of glitter, soap and water, sink or bowl, and towels.
Today glitter will be representing germs. This activity will get messy with glitter…
- Place some glitter in your hand.
- Next, touch your child’s hands, shoulders, hair, etc. to show how the glitter was transferred.
- Explain how germs, like the glitter, are also transferred in this way.
- You can it a step further and touch the doorknob, sink handle, countertop, etc. to show how germs rest on the surfaces we touch.
- Next put a small amount of glitter on your child’s hands and your hands.
- Have child wash hands with soap for 20 seconds. At the same time, you wash your hands without soap (only water) for 20 seconds.
- Compare how soap get rid of the glitter germs better than water alone.
- Have fun cleaning all the glitter germs off of the things you touched!
Everything You Touch Germ Game
I love to use dot stickers for this activity. If you don’t have these, any sticker or even small taped pieces of colored paper work great.
- Tell your child/children that your stickers will be germs. Explain that for the next 30 minutes, we are going to see how germs spread in the areas we play.
- Have children place a sticker around the room on everything they touch over a 1/2 hour.
- Set a time for 30 minutes.
- Watch for things they touch without realizing and place a sticker on it.
- Look around at the room when the timer goes off. Talk about how we all pick-up and spread germs everyday like we did to all of these things.
Great Children’s Books About Germs
We recently picked up Do Not Lick This Book at the library. The author created a hands on approach to understanding where germs live and how they travel. While I picked up this book because of the title, I was impressed with how easily it taught about microbes. By the end of the book I was a little grossed out, but when dealing with germs, that’s a good thing, right? My kids absolutely loved it!
Sick Simon provides a realistic approach to germs that is entertaining for kids. This book emphasizes keeping germs to yourself. Its gross but a cute story, with great illustrations. This book is one that leaves a memorable lesson for kids.
We are always looking for books that are good for engaging our emerging readers. Wash Your Hands is a perfect book for practicing reading skills and emphasizing the importance of hand washing to keep germs away.
Music and Video Resources for Kids about Germs
StoryBots are a great teaching resource for kids on a variety of topics. In their song “What is a Virus?”, the StoryBots provide an in-depth explanation on what happens in your body when you are impacted by a virus. They also emphasize that you should cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze.
The StoryBots also have a great song called “Wash Your Hands & Why Do We Get Sick?” that explains that washing your hands is important for not spreading germs to fight sickness.
Is your child a Sid the Science Kid fan? “Journey of a Germ” is a catchy song Sid’s teacher sings to explain how germs travel. The end of the song drives home the idea that germs can be stopped with hand washing.
A classic episode of the Magic School Bus teaches about what happens when bacterial germs make Ralphie sick. The class journeys inside Ralphie to see how the body fights infection. You can watch Season 1, Episode 3 “Inside Ralphie” on Netflix.
Preparing kids to wear masks at school will help your child
We so often hear military kids touted as being resilient. So much of this resilience is gained not only through adapting to a variety of experiences, but also in the preparation that we as parents provide them.
Our preparation is often what helps them to feel able to face change head on.
The next few weeks we will all begin our preparation to head back to school this fall. Practicing a routine of wearing masks and washing hands now will help your child focus in the classroom in the weeks to come.
Wearing masks to school is different for everyone. With a little preparation, we can make it easier for our kids and their teachers this school year!