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Face masks for kids and how to buy them, according to experts

If you’re looking for the best face masks for kids, start with masks they’re actually going to want to wear.
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Editor’s note: As we will report below, experts agree that face masks do not replace or relieve the need to wash your hands and social distance, and they absolutely do not alone prevent the spread of COVID-19. This article will be updated regularly to include new face masks that meet our criteria for inclusion.

Back-to-school is right around the corner — but this year is a little different. States and districts are weighing whether or not to reopen, just weeks before the slated start of the school year. Schools who do open their doors in the fall will be encouraging — and in some cases requiring — students to wear face masks in the classroom. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all kids older than two wear a face mask in public to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

IN THIS ARTICLE How to buy face masks for kids | Face masks for kids

“Cloth face coverings are the best option for most children. Any child who can mask, should,” said Sara Johnson, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine and Public Health. “Now there’s some evidence coming out to suggest that masks may also provide some protection for the wearer, so they might be even more important than we first thought.”

To that end, Crayola is entering the mask market in partnership with SchoolMaskPack with a helpful way for parents to feel safer with their kids at school. The concept to pivot to masks began in late May, when it was clear masks were going to become a must-have back-to-school item, said George Hartel, chief commercial officer of School MaskPack, in a statement.

The crayon company is selling packs of five reusable cloth masks, color-coded for each day of the week. Masks come in solid colors, crayon prints or ‘Craymoji’ patterns (with a name tag included). Packs come with a mesh laundry bag and calendar card so parents can keep track of mask use. The system is meant to make the transition back to school less stressful and encourage better mask-wearing habits, Hartel said. Crayola masks are available for pre-order right now and are expected to ship in August — just in time for school.

Parents shopping for face masks face a unique set of circumstances — and convincing your child to wear a face mask poses an additional hurdle. We’ve previously written about where to find face masks in general — as well as what to know about face masks from Etsy and other major brands, as well as masks with filters. But if you’re shopping for you and your family, there are special considerations on how to find the proper mask for your child.

“Getting a child-friendly mask probably increases compliance with wearing,” says Anna Davies, a research facilitator who previously worked in the Infectious Diseases department at the University of Cambridge. “Let’s face it, looking like Spiderman is going to be a lot more appealing than a plain mask!” To help guide your search (and help you find something your kid may actually want to wear), we consulted experts on how to find the right face masks for your kids.

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How to shop for the best face masks for kids

Children are reportedly at lower risk for the illness but not immune — and recent studies show that young children "carry just as much of the coronavirus in their noses as older children and adults." Many people who have COVID-19, including kids, don’t show symptoms, so wearing a mask can reduce the possibility that someone who’s asymptomatic might pass on the virus.

Encouraging your kids to wear a face mask outside will encourage other preventative measures, like washing their hands and social distancing, said Johnson. Before school starts, practice with your child putting on the mask and taking it off with clean hands.

“It’s important to find a mask that fits your child’s face so they’re not constantly adjusting it and touching their face in the process,” she said. “Modeling mask wearing is also important; children are more likely to wear their own mask if they see the adults around them doing so.”

Practicing mask etiquette is equally important if your children are participating in remote school, as they’ll need to wear one for trips outside the home, Johnson said.

Otherwise, you should follow the general guidance on face masks: The CDC has outlined five criteria to keep in mind.

  1. Face masks should fit snugly and comfortably
  2. They must be secured with ties or ear loops
  3. They should comprise multiple fabric layers
  4. You should be able to breathe without restriction while wearing the face mask
  5. You should be able to wash the face masks without causing damage or losing the face mask’s shape

The same guidelines for adult masks adhere to kids: Masks should have two layers of breathable fabric and fit snugly to their face. Face masks for kids should also be easy to remove and your child should be able to breathe unhindered, said Davies, who added a child-specific precaution.

“There’s a need for supervision when wearing, particularly for younger children, since looping anything around the head and neck is potentially a strangulation risk,” she said.

Popular retailers offering face masks for kids

Below is our list of kid's masks that have both a comfortable fit and kid-friendly design — style matters, after all. We’ve only included those masks whose listed features adhere to the CDC’s recommended criteria and the expert guidance above.

1. Athleta Girl Made to Move Face Mask

The athleisure brand’s ‘Made to Move’ mask is a lighter, exercise-friendly mask made to stay on your face during exercise. Its binding is made of soft elastic to keep your hair from getting caught while exercising — and two layers of the company’s patented featherweight stretch fabric: a polyester and spandex blend with a polyester and mesh blend liner. Girl’s masks come in packs of three different colors and designs, and are a slightly smaller size than their regular Women’s face masks.

2. Crayola Kids Face Mask

Masks are comprised of two layers of cloth material, and have adjustable ear straps and a nose clip for a more adjustable fit. Masks come in packs of five — one for each school day — and are available in three different designs. They're washable and reusable for up to six months.

3. Cubcoats Face Masks

These fun masks sport puppy and tiger designs and are made of two layers of fabric with a cotton inner pocket that supports an insertable filter. Masks have adjustable ear loops and a metal nose piece for a snug fit. Masks are recommended for children over five and are hand-washable.

4. Disney Cloth Face Masks

Disney is selling packs of four washable cloth masks that come in dozens of designs, including Star Wars characters, Disney Princesses and Marvel characters. The company is also donating one million face masks to families in vulnerable areas across the country, and has donated an additional $1 million in profits to MedShare, a nonprofit supporting healthcare workers.

5. Dr. Talbot’s Disposable Kid's Face Masks

Children’s masks come in packs of 10 and are made of three layers: one inner and outer layer of woven fabric and a middle layer of filter paper. Masks come with soft ear loops and have a nose clip for a more adjustable fit. Masks are disposable and should not be reworn.

6. Etsy Children Face Mask

The online retail marketplace has rounded up those making kid’s face masks, with quality options and fast shipping. They are also prohibiting sellers from making medical claims, selling mass-produced masks or price-gouging. Since the marketplace includes multiple sellers, keep an eye out for masks that follow the CDC’s guidelines we shared above.

7. Gap Kids Face Mask

These masks, available on backorder, come in different prints, including polka dots and plaid. Masks come in packs of three and are made of 100-percent cotton. Gap has also pledged to donate 50,000 reusable masks to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

8. Green Sprouts Reusable Face Mask

Masks are made of an inner and outer polyester lining and a middle activated carbon layer. Masks come in four colors — aqua, navy, coral and grey —along with a bag to store in between uses.

9. Kohl’s Fanatics Branded Face Masks

Rep your favorite sports team with these branded face masks — each made of three layers of 100-percent cotton and designed with NBA and NFL logos. All proceeds will be donated to Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization, and Second Harvest Canada, a food rescue organization. Masks are machine washable.

10. Lanier Wellness Kids Face Cover

Masks are made of two layers — including a polyester-cotton outer layer and a 100-percent cotton — and are machine washable. Masks are blue and white and come in packs of two.

11. Lands’ End Reusable Cotton Face Masks

These basic white masks, available in packs of three, are 100-percent cotton with an antimicrobial finish. Masks are machine washable and come with soft ear loops for a more comfortable fit.

12. Levi’s Reversible Face Masks

These reusable face masks come in packs of three and are made of 100-percent cotton. Masks come in different solid colors and are machine-washable. Note: Masks run small.

13. Maisonette Cotton Face Mask

The luxury children’s retailer is selling colorful face masks with simple designs and colors. Masks come in three sizes, corresponding with your child’s age: two to four years, six to eight years and 10 to 14 years. Masks are 100-cotton with soft elastic around the ears. For every mask sold, Maisonette will donate to Baby2Baby, a nonprofit providing basic necessities to needy children during the pandemic.

14. Nordstrom Cotton Face Mask

The retailer is selling packs of multi-colored kids masks, meant for children ages five to 10. Masks are made from tightly-knit cotton and are washable. Nordstrom has additionally made and donated more than 100,000 masks to distribute to Providence Health & Services.

15. Onzie Mindful Mask For Kids

The company is creating non-medical, reusable face masks for kids using up-cycled fabrics from their yoga clothing. Masks are made for children ages five to 10 years. Onzie has additionally donated thousands of masks to local hospitals in Los Angeles and will donate proceeds from every purchase to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. They are also a member of LA Protects.

16. Sanctuary Kids PPE Mask

These stylish masks come in an assorted five-pack, scaled to fit ages two to 10. Each pack comes with two dinosaur-print masks, two camo-print masks and one leopard-print mask. Masks are made of 100-cotton with a double inner layer that supports an insertable filter.

17. Uncommon Goods Children's Face Covering

The online marketplace is selling machine-washable, kid-friendly face masks in packs of two, made from two layers of cotton. Each mask sports a rainbow design created by a dozen kids around the world. Each mask with a label sporting a positive message, like “keep smiling.” Masks are intended for kids aged four to 10. The brand says 100 percent of profits from face mask sales go to NYC Health + Hospitals.

18. Vida Protective Mask

Each protective mask is made of two layers of 100-percent cotton, with adjustable straps and a multi-layer filter. Children’s masks are sold individually or in a multi-pack, and are made for those 5 and up. In addition, the company has pledged to donate 10 percent of profits from the sale to SF-Marin Food Bank and Food Bank NYC.

19. Vistaprint Mask

The printing company has created their own reusable masks that allow for a filter to be inserted. The masks come in many designs — including dinosaurs, planets and hearts — and have four filtration layers: a textile exterior, replaceable fiber filter, a cloth layer and a 100-percent cotton inner layer.

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