Beginning Monday, Michigan's mask mandate is now in effect for children as young as 2 years old.
Kids ages 2-4 are now required to have face coverings while in public spaces and places like camps or daycare centers. Previously, the rule only extended to kids as young as 5.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the expansion earlier this month in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases among kids.
Recent state data shows child infection rates are now higher than they've been at any point during the pandemic.
Many know it's going to be a challenge to get kids to wear masks, and it's hard enough convincing some adults and teens to wear them. But at Early On Development in Detroit, administrators are taking a creative approach when it comes to convincing toddlers to keep their faces covered.
“I spy with my little eye game. Because most of the children have some colorful masks," Dr. Perdita Terry said.
It's an idea Terry said a parent with several kids at her daycare center gave her, and she said it's worked really well in the past few days they've been testing it.
“When we’re doing circle time, we kind of do the I spy game," she said. “Can you find a princess or a different color? And that kind of helps keep the children engaged.”
Terry said many of her teachers are also opting for clear masks right now so kids can see their expressions.
“Our teachers are kind of having our minds at the table here to come up with some more interesting things that we can do for the children," she said.
COVID-19 cases among children are rising in the state, and hospitalizations among kids are near the highest they've been since the start of the pandemic.
“If kids are at school, at daycare, playing with each other, that’s a way they can take the virus from one place, transport it back to a household where there might be vulnerable people," Beaumont internal medicine physician Dr. Justin Skrzynski said.
Household transmission, especially with the U.K. variant cases continuing to climb, is a growing concern for doctors.
The head of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is backing the expansion of the mask mandate.
"We know that wearing a mask significantly reduces the spread of infection and should be part of the comprehensive strategy to reduce COVID-19-including for children age 2 and up….Use of masks does not restrict oxygen in the lungs even in children, it is recommended to wear a mask with layers to filter droplets effectively," he said.
Here are ways parents can help make the transition a little easier.
- Use child-friendly language. Keep it simple and compare it to something they already do, like wearing shoes when they go outside
- Model mask-wearing. If your toddler sees you do it, they're more likely to also
- Practice through play. Have your child put a mask on their favorite doll or stuffed animal
- Let them pick their own mask and get creative
“Maybe finding a mask in their favorite color, maybe they have a favorite cartoon character that they could find a mask with that. Anything you can do to get a child to let them make choices… compliant with what we need them to do," Lucy McGoron, an assistant professor of research at Wayne State, added.
Another idea is letting your kids pick a place in your home where masks are kept. They can decorate, leave them in charge of keeping it tidy, and make them feel like they're part of the process.
Experts warn also to take baby steps and avoid punishment, but rather stick to positive reinforcement for when your child does wear the mask properly.
The latest mandate is in effect through May 24.