Kids with sensory processing issues can be a real struggle for families when shopping for everyday clothing, and new coronavirus mask mandates have created a whole new challenge. But there are some sensory -friendly face masks for kids that can help you manage the situation a little easier. It may take a little trial and error to find the right one for your child, but knowing where to look will hopefully help speed up the process.
In an email to Romper, Joanna Heglar, a special education teacher in North Carolina, suggests parents of children struggling with sensory issues look for a mask that "stays away from the face [and doesn't] suck in when the child wearing the mask breathes or talks." She also says the mask should be made from a fabric that is "breathable and doesn't feel restricting" and is sized right. "You definitely don't want anything that's too heavy or too big on your child's face."
If the mask itself isn't what's causing your child's sensory reaction, it might be the way it feels on their ears. Ideally, Heglar says, "ear loops should be made from a light, soft fabric." It may also be helpful to try "some type of strap behind the head" or get a mask with straps that wrap behind the head to see if that will make your child feel more comfortable.
Once you've found a mask that's comfortable for your child, you will still want to give them a little time to get used to wearing it for longer stretches of time. Heglar says a lot of her students with sensory issues have grown more comfortable wearing their masks because their "parents were thoughtful and practiced with them" by having them put the mask on and "gradually increasing" how long they wear it at a time.
If you're at a loss for where to begin looking for a sensory friendly mask, here are a few that may help your child feel a little more comfortable.
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1. Three-Layer Mask
Available in size XS to Large (kids to adult)
Available in both kids and adult sizes, this mask has three layers of protection, domes over the mouth to provide space, and is made from breathable cotton. It stays put using a nylon strap that wraps around the back of the head and can be adjusted for the right fit.
2. Quilted Cotton Mask
Available in one size, best fits women and children (3 years old and up)
With its unique design, kids can comfortably wear this mask without compromising its efficacy because it still fits snugly over the nose and chin. It's made from quilted cotton to remain breathable and light on the face and, while it does have ear loops, they have a soft slider to help them stay put without adding extra pressure to the ears.
3. Single-Material, Double-Layer Soft Jersey Mask
Available in various patterns. Adult size available for $22
Since this mask and its straps are made from the same material, there is a uniform texture throughout to help eliminate sensory overload. It's made from a soft jersey tee shirt-like fabric that provides stretch without the use of elastic. The straps can be easily adjusted to get the right fit and the mask is machine washable.
4. Box-Style Mask
Available in S/Child, M/Teen, L/Adult and with two "ear saver" options
Not only is this mask designed to be sensory friendly with a box-style face covering, but it's also available in some fun patterns for your child to choose from! The mask stays on using either a velcro or button "ear saver" that straps across the back of the neck and the inside of the mask is lined with a super-soft silk fabric to reduce irritation.
5. Mask With Velcro Straps
Available in multiple patterns and in sizes S, M, L (ranging from 3 years old to Teen)
For kids whose sensory issues have to do with the ear pieces rather than the face covering, this mask has wraparound velcro straps at the neck to keep the ears clear. It doesn't have any elastic in the design to keep it sensory friendly, but if you're having trouble getting it tight enough, you can add the nose adhesive strip which is included with your order. This Etsy shop owner has a lot of different fabric options, too, and is willing to work with families on custom orders.
6. Mask With A Filter Pocket
Available in multiple patterns
This mask is made with two layers of super soft 100% cotton and has a pocket between the layers for an optional filter. It has a wire nose piece to help the mask stay secured to the face without feeling suffocating, and the soft straps wrap around and tie behind the head to keep the ears free from irritation. It's also safe for the washing machine and dryer.
7. Elastic-Free Mask With Removable Nose Wire
Small fits child or petite adult. Other styles and sizes available through the Jumbo Jibbles Etsy shop
Instead of tying at the neck, this mask goes on like a necklace and then ties up on top of the head to stay secure. This specific style is made from 100% cotton from a super soft vintage bed sheet, but all of her masks are one of a kind and there are plenty of other color/style options available. All of her masks are made from soft materials, without the use of elastic, have a fitted chin, and come with a removable nose wire so your kiddo can choose to wear it however it's most comfortable for them.
Finding a sensory-friendly mask may seem intimidating, but there are some really great (and great looking!) options out there that can keep your little one comfortable and safe.