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If you’re a parent of a young child, you’re understandably exhausted as we come up on year three of a pandemic. While COVID-19 still continues to spread around the United States and the rest of the world, a lot has changed since the onset of the pandemic. Most notably, children ages 6 months and up can now receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

In June 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for these drugs in children ages 6 months to 5 years old and, soon after, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced their recommendation for this age group to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

As of July 27, 2022, 800,000 U.S. children ages 6 months to 4 years received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC still recommends that all children, vaccinated and non-vaccinated, continue to take the necessary precautions to stay healthy and protect those around them. This includes washing their hands frequently, practicing physical distancing, and wearing a face covering, such as a face mask, when out in public.

That last one is just as important as the rest, as mask-wearing has shown to be a critical tool in reducing the spread of COVID-19 — especially when used universally within communities, according to the CDC.

Children over the age of 2 should wear face masks in public, according to the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), especially in situations where physical distancing is difficult.

While it can be challenging for some parents to get their child to wear a face mask (or wear anything that they don’t want to), it shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, according to the AAP, more than 14 million children in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic.

Just like with adults, face coverings are not necessarily as effective in preventing kids from developing COVID-19, as much as they are in preventing the transmission of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking, and a cloth face covering acts as a barrier to help prevent the spread of those respiratory droplets,” explains Jeffrey Kahn, MD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s Health and professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

It’s also important to remember that while masks are a step in the right direction, the most effective way to protect your family from COVID-19 is by staying home and limiting your interactions with folks outside of your household as much as possible.

While you might see adults sporting surgical or N95 face masks, when it comes to kiddos, you’ll want to get them a handful of small cloth face masks.

One of the most important factors is to find one that fits their face well to help prevent them from fidgeting with it, explains Vivek Cherian, MD, an internal medicine physician based in Baltimore, Maryland.

This isn’t always the easiest task, seeing that a comfortable, well-fitting face mask is often hard to come by, even for adults.

Adjustability features such as ties or a metal nose bridge can help with this. A face mask should fit snugly over your child’s nose and mouth without any gaps and shouldn’t inhibit their ability to breathe comfortably in any way.

And if you’re making your own face masks for you and your family, the CDC recommends two layers of tightly woven 100 percent cotton.

Any children over the age of 2 should wear a mask any time they are in a public setting where physical distancing is difficult to practice, such as in a grocery store.

The only times that it’s safe for your child not to wear a mask is inside their own home, while swimming, or when playing outside with other children at a 6-foot distance.

“If your child has a developmental disability, mental health condition, or sensory disorder that makes it difficult to wear a cloth face covering, it may be best to avoid crowded places or social interactions where masks are needed,” says Kahn.

If you’re looking for guidance on how to talk to your kids about wearing face masks, be sure to check out this article with expert advice from pediatricians and developmental psychologists.

To create this list, we enlisted the help of board-certified pediatricians to share their recommendations.

We also thoroughly relied on the CDC guidelines that have been set for preventing the transmission of COVID-19 in children. Customer reviews and ratings also played a role in our selections.

Price guide

  • $ = under $5 per mask
  • $$ = $5–$10 per mask
  • $$$ = over $10 per mask

Best overall

Happy Masks

  • Price: $$$
  • Material: polyester

Young children need a mask design that’s lightweight and breathable, but one that they won’t have trouble keeping on.

Happy Masks have a stiffer design that’s more beak-shaped, so they hold up over time and don’t compromise on their ability to shield your child from potentially hazardous particles in the air. In fact, they block out 99.9% of viruses and other germs as small as 0.3 microns.

Kids love how comfortable these masks are, and parents love the fact that they can be washed (up to 50 times).

To keep these masks in mint condition, hand wash instead of using the machine and let air dry.

Pros

  • fun, kid-friendly design
  • blocks out 99.9% of germs and viruses
  • comfortable and washable

Cons

  • limited availability
  • runs large

Best for everyday use

Athleta Girl Everyday Non Medical Masks

  • Price: $$
  • Material: polyester/spandex with cotton liner

Athleta is known for creating clothing that’s comfortable and easy to move in, so it’s no surprise that they tapped into the mask-making game. This five-pack of nonmedical masks, designed for ages 5 to 10, features colors that go with any outfit (hey — that’s important!) and has a wire-free design that fits securely around your child’s face.

They’re made with three layers of fabric: a lightweight outer layer and two more breathable inner layers. And, while it doesn’t say it online, our market editor has the adult version of these masks and says they’re machine washable!

Pros

  • soft and comfortable
  • come in basic colors that match your child’s wardrobe
  • gentle around the ear area

Cons

  • no wiring around the nose area
  • too large for elementary aged kids

Best animal design

Cubcoats Kids Face Masks

  • Price: $
  • Material: cotton

It’s hard not to love these adorable, nonmedical face masks that turn your little one into a puppy or a tiger. They also make a shark design that converts into a wristband — very handy. Designed for children ages 5 years and older, they’re made with a cotton inner layer that’s soft against your child’s skin.

The metal nose piece wraps carefully around your child’s nose for a tight and secure fit. Plus, these masks come with an inner pocket where you can add a filter for extra protection if you choose.

While the product description on Amazon says that these masks can be washed, it doesn’t indicate whether or not you can throw them in the machine, so it’s best to hand wash and dry these.

Pros

  • comfortable enough for all-day wear
  • affordable

Cons

  • run large
  • ear loops don’t always stay in place
  • not meant for drying machine

Best for travel

Dr. Puri New Micro-Dust Protection Face Premium Mask

  • Price: $
  • Material: non-woven fabric

If you want your child in a KN95 mask, but find that they’re too large or simply uncomfortable for your child’s small face, this KF94 mask, which is the Korean standard for respirator masks, is a great alternative.

They’re designed to block out 99% of NaCL particles and are super easy to put on. They open up just like an envelope and are the right size for your child’s face. They also tend to be more comfortable because they give your child more space inside than cloth or fabric masks do.

The only downside is that these masks are for single use only, so they’re better for travel or occasions when your child will be in a crowd versus everyday wear.

Pros

  • block out 99% of NaCL particles
  • comfortable and well sized for a child’s face
  • doesn’t tug at the ears and provides ample breathing room

Cons

  • meant for single use
  • reviewers say they can run small

Best window face mask

Andy & Evan Kids 3-Pack Peek Through Mask

  • Price: $$
  • Material: cotton

Andy & Evan created face masks that have a translucent, plastic window so that you can see the wearer’s mouth. This is great for young children still fostering their cognitive development and learning to communicate. Honestly, we could all use a smile!

These nonmedical masks are made out of a breathable, two-ply fabric, and the peek-through window is made out of a breathable BPA-free and hypoallergenic material. The masks are machine washable and can be tumble dried.

Pros

  • allow your kids to show off their smile
  • affordable
  • machine washable

Cons

  • not as breathable as other masks
  • ear loop can slide off easily

Best face masks for outdoor play

Green Sprouts Child Reusable Face Mask

  • Price: $$
  • Material: polyester

Green Sprouts is best known for protective sun hats and clothing, so it’s no surprise that they joined in on the mask-making game. Their nonmedical masks are made of the same impressive moisture-wicking fabric that’s great for keeping your child comfortable on those hot summer days.

They come in two sizes — child and youth/adult small — with a storage bag to keep the mask clean when not in use. To clean, hand wash the masks in a bag of warm water with liquid soap only — no bleach. You can tumble dry on low.

Pros

  • contoured fit accommodates most children
  • soft, breathable fabric
  • easy to wash and dry

Cons

  • some reviewers report inconsistent sizing
  • ear loops can fall off easily

Best budget face mask

Old Navy Triple-Layer Cloth Face Masks for Kids

  • Price: $
  • Material: cotton

Old Navy’s 100% cotton nonmedical masks come in plenty of different colors and patterns. They’re machine washable and fit snugly over your child’s face.

There’s no age range, and they only sell one size, but reviewers say they’re great for kids ages 5 to 8.

Pros

  • affordable
  • come in various colors for mixing and matching

Cons

  • no wiring over the nose area
  • some reviewers report the masks shrinking in the wash
  • only suitable for a limited age range

Best to buy in bulk

EYELOV Kids Colorful Face Mask

  • Price: $
  • Material: nylon

For less than $2 a mask, you score a pack of 10 breathable, fabric face masks that your kids can wear and switch out like they do their T-shirts.

These nonmedical masks are made of a soft and lightweight nylon fabric, they’re breathable and comfortable thanks to fabric-wrapped loop coverings that are gentle around your child’s ears.

They also come in a variety of different colors and prints and are washable by hand or machine. One size fits most children ages 3 to 8.

Pros

  • affordable
  • comes in a pack of 10
  • fits most children ages 3 to 8

Cons

  • threads can come loose easily
  • can shrink in the wash
  • not as breathable as other masks

Best disposable face mask for kids

Brookwood Medical Kids Disposable Face Masks

  • Price: $
  • Material: non-woven fabric

Sometimes you want to use a face mask and then toss it in the trash, especially when said mask is wrapped around your child’s face as they attempt to eat ice cream from a cone. For these occasions, a disposable face mask can come in handy.

This mask comes in a pack of 10 or 30 and in more patterns than your little one could dream up. They’re four-ply and have an outer non-woven fabric, two middle electrostatic cotton layers, and an inner defense cloth.

They have a 3D design that lets the mask sit comfortably around your child’s face while giving them space to breathe. They’re a good option for children ages 3 to 12 and are meant to be thrown out after each use.

Pros

  • comfortable, breathable fit
  • four layers of protection
  • can be thrown out after each use

Cons

  • some reviewers report a chemical smell
  • some reviewers report that the ear string snaps easily

Best antimicrobial face mask

Grove Co. Kids Face Mask

  • Price: $
  • Material: cotton

Repeated wear of reusable masks can sometimes cause them to smell or deteriorate over time, but antimicrobial masks tout benefits that prevent both of these circumstances from happening. They feature biotechnology that allows them to be self-sanitizing to some degree.

This pack of three 100% Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton masks has an antimicrobial coating on the inner layer, which you may find lengthens the longevity of your child’s mask and reduces the smell that can be associated with reusable masks. The brand claims that this coating can last for up to 40 washes — and in the machine to boot!

Pros

  • features antimicrobial coating
  • made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton
  • features fun prints

Cons

  • runs small
  • some reviewers report inconsistent sizing

Best fit

AirPop Kids Reusable Face Mask

  • Price: $$
  • Material: polypropylene

If you’re looking for a face mask that will maintain its structure and fit over time, these breathable kids masks are a great buy. They are made with a unique ergonomic foam that circles around your child’s face comfortably without allowing any gaps. The mask protects against 99% of germs and viruses.

It exceeds community face coverings guidelines set by the European Committee for Standardization and has earned an array of other reassuring certifications, which are listed on the brand’s website.

It’s important to note that this mask is not designed to be washed in the machine. Rather, it’s best to hand wash it with 70% alcohol or soap and water.

Pros

  • protects against 99% of germs and viruses
  • exceeds guidelines and well certified
  • doesn’t allow gaps in wear

Cons

  • not meant for machine washing
  • ear loops can tug too tightly

ProductsPriceMaterialProsCons
Happy Masks$$$variesfun design, blocks out 99.9% particles, comfortable and washablelimited availability, runs large
Athleta Girl Everyday Non Medical Masks$$polyester/spandexsoft, comfortable, gentleno wiring around the nose, runs large
Cubcoats Kids Face Masks$polyester/spandexcomfortable, affordableruns large, ear loops don’t always stay, not meant for drying machine
Dr. Puri New Micro-Dust Protection Face Premium Mask$non-wovenblocks out 99% of NaCL particles, comfortable, doesn’t tug at the earsmeant for single use, can run small
Andy & Evan Kids 3-Pack Peek Through Mask$$cottonshows off your kid’s smile, affordable, machine washablenot always breathable, ear loop can slide off easily
Green Sprouts Child Reusable Face Mask$$clothtrusted brand, contoured fit accommodates wide age range, fabric is breathablesizing not always consistent, ear loops can fall off easily, expensive
Old Navy Triple-Layer Cloth Face Masks for Kids$cottonaffordable, come in various colorsno wiring over the nose, some reviewers report shrinkage in the wash
EYELOV Kids Colorful Face Mask$nylon/spandexaffordable, comes in pack of 10, fits most agesthreads can come loose, can shrink in the wash, not as breathable as competitors
Brookwood Medical Kids Disposable Face Masks$non-wovencomfortable, breathable, four layers of protection, disposablesome reviewers report chemical smell, ear string doesn’t always stay in place
Grove Co. Kids Face Mask$cottonorganic, features antimicrobial coating, fun printsruns small, some reviewers report inconsistent sizing
AirPop Kids Reusable Face Mask$$polypropylenehigh level of protection, exceeds community guidelines, no gaps in wearnot meant for machine wash, ear loops can tug too tight

What age can kids start wearing masks?

The AAP recommends against children under age 2 wearing face masks. But it strongly encourages their use in children ages 2 or older whether or not they have been vaccinated and especially if they live in an area with high transmission of COVID-19.

What fabric is best to use for a child’s face mask?

The safest fabric to use in an effort to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 or other airborne illnesses is a N95 mask. However, these are often not very breathable and not great for everyday wear. N95s are also not recommended for children. Other fabrics that can be useful for children’s face masks include cotton, nylon, and polyester.

Are there children’s N95 masks?

There are no N95 masks for children because the FDA currently recommends against them. There isn’t enough information about their safety and breathability in young children.