For nearly two years, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued complicated—and occasionally contradictory—guidance on when you should wear a mask, depending on whether you’re inside, outside, vaccinated, or not vaccinated. In all the confusion, it’s easy to miss one big demographic that remains unvaccinated: Children below age 12 still can’t get the shots at all. In many parts of the country, they’ve also returned to school in large numbers (or not, as the case may be).
I have two young children myself, and watching them adjust to a mask-wearing climate has been a strange, proud thing. My son entered the pandemic as a mask-resistant 2-year-old. At 4, he now calmly asks for his mask and puts it on before heading out to the playground. Unvaccinated children over 2 years old should wear face masks in public spaces. If your kids have gone back to school, or if you’re planning larger holiday gatherings, you should probably refresh your mask stash.
I’ve spent almost two years testing masks on my kids. As I noted in my Best Face Masks for Adults guide, the ideal mask is the one that fits well and that your kid will like. I also keep an eye out for masks that have been independently tested and certified by the new ASTM face mask manufacturing standards. If you’re looking for ideas to entertain your small (or not-so-small) kids, check out our guides to entertaining preschoolers during quarantine and how to set up a virtual workspace for your kids.
Updated October 2021: We added current information and new face masks from AirPop and Flo Mask.
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