The first time we went into lockdown, the week preceding the Spring Break in March of 2020, I wouldn’t have imagined that it would be extended till the Fall and beyond. There have been so many discussions on the mass loss of jobs, the crippling of the economy, and the overall setback to our social life. Life, as we know it, stands altered. But one of the biggest casualties of the pandemic is the loss of childhood and the summer fun that keeps us going through the long hard Canadian winter.
But as humanity always does, we have found a way to survive this pandemic and reclaim our lives partially by appropriately masking ourselves, sanitizing our hands, and keeping a safe distance. So let us get to the point of discussion - masks, that too for kids.
Canadian Public Health guidelines state the following.
Non-medical face masks or face coverings should:
- allow for easy breathing
- fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
- maintain their shape after washing and drying
- be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
- be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment
- be made of at least 2 layers of tightly-woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen)
- be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping
Over the past few months, we have all tried and tested a lot of masks for ourselves, as well as for our kids. But till now our decision was limited to a choice of masks for our kids while they are under our supervision and care. It was usually for a limited period, as long as a shopping trip or a stroll in the park or bicycle ride. When Toronto District School Board (TDSB) rolled out its back to school plan it took some of us, parents, by surprise with an ambitious 5-day week elementary school program, while others heaved a sigh of relief. If you are one of those parents, who were skeptically hoping for this, there is overwhelming evidence that you are not alone.
The Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) came out with its study Covid-19 Mental Health Impacts
Since COVID-19, more than half (59%) of parents noted behavioral changes in their child ranging from outbursts or extreme irritability to drastic changes in mood, behavior or personality and difficulty sleeping/altered sleeping patterns as well as persistent sadness and more.
While browsing through their pages, I came across this Six Tips to Support Your Child’s Mental Wellness and Prepare for the Start of the School Year. You might find it useful.
Last week, amidst the many last-minute changes to the initially announced return to school plan, Toronto District School Board (TDSB) decided to implement face masks for all students. For parents who chose to send their kids for in-class learning, especially for elementary kids, the challenge is manifold as to which mask would protect our kids as well as be comfortable enough for them to keep it on for the entire school day. So I reached out to a few of my closest friends with young kids and sought their feedback on a few available re-usable masks for kids.
In the early days of the lockdown, while we were still trying to make a sense of the new regulations, very few vendors had masks for sale. Almost all the pharmacies had sold out their stock of sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, and of course surgical/ medical use masks. But, while we made our peace with exorbitantly overpriced local grocery store-bought masks and disinfectants, the name brand apparel companies like GAP and Roots saw an untapped opportunity. By May they had launched their first reusable masks. They have improved upon and diversified since then. Here are the ones I could collect feedback on.
We pre-ordered a multi-pack of 5 washable cotton masks for kids. Most importantly, they were triple-layered which was the first requirement coupled with a good comfortable fit. We believe it was beginners’ luck for our six-year-old son because they are still the ones we most use. They are extremely comfortable, washable, retain their shape and now they have a very wide range of prints from simple patterns to monsters that every kid will love to wear. As a price-conscious parent, I cannot help but appreciate that they retail much cheaper than any other brand or local seller.
The kids’ contour masks retail at quite a reasonable price and comes with adjustable and seamless elastic over the ear straps. They also have pockets for inserts. There is also a simpler version with a soft elastic band over the ear without the adjustment option. Also, as is usually the case with GAP vis-à-vis Old Navy, for a premium price you get a set of more appealing and stylish looking masks. So if you have a kid who likes to look on fleek, this might be a better-suited option for you.
I have seen a lot of kids using these knit cotton masks that are washable and reusable. As they are made of knit cotton, their fit and comfort both are very good for long-duration use. Surprisingly, they are also very reasonably priced for a multi-pack option.
Staples, as well as Bentley, are retailing the BondStreet Non-Medical Kids Reusable Masks. And these were recommended by a very active ten-year-old boy, who vetted its comfort as well as fit. These have adjustable ear straps and are available in a wide range of graphic face prints that appeal to kids of all ages. They also have an interior pocket to insert filters. On this note, I would like to highlight that filters are non-washable and must be disposed of after about three uses. While choosing these, we must also provide for a pack of disposable filters.
Amazon and Walmart
It is an obvious question why I have not mentioned the two departmental store giants Walmart and Amazon (online). I did go through their products and found most of the vendors to be unknown brand names. The options are numerous and I am sure we could find three/ two-layered re-usable face masks for kids that’s perfect. As is my approach to writing an article, I try to limit it to the products I have personal experience or feedback. Do let me know if you found the perfect pair in Walmart or Amazon.
I would like to add a cautionary note about the masks being retailed by our neighborhood grocery stores. Before buying their products, please ensure that the masks are indeed two-layered, cotton or linen (for comfort), and retain the shape after a few washes. From the feedback I have been able to accumulate, they happen to be single-layered and lose shape after a few washes.
Now if you have a kid going to elementary school, who usually misplaces his water bottle or loses one of his mittens, how many reusable masks do you think he will need for in-class learning? I think one too many. Though my son is used to these cotton re-usable breathable masks, I am planning to buy a box of kids single-use masks. When I run out of most of our cotton masks, I will be reaching out for these disposable masks.
But I would start with at least 10 cotton reusable ones, the well-worn ones to be precise, so that it is one thing less that his little mind has to worry about those first few weeks of going back to school after a hiatus of almost six months.
None of the links provided in the article are either affiliated or sponsored to any brand.