As churches are planning to relaunch in the coming weeks, everyone is asking how to keep members safe and healthy. One option recommended by both the CDC and Governor Abbot’s report is for staff, volunteers and members to wear cloth or non-medical grade face masks or coverings while at church. Face masks protect both the individual and those around them, and while not mandated, are a great idea for keeping your church safe.
In preschool and children’s areas, however, masks can present a challenge. Preschoolers and young children may be fearful when they see their teachers wearing a mask or face covering. They may also find wearing a mask uncomfortable and resist having to keep one on for the entire time they are at church. It is also important to remember that a face mask should never be placed on a child younger than two years old because it can be a suffocation hazard.
Parents and teachers can help prepare preschoolers for face masks by practicing and making masks something fun and personal. The following are some ideas for easing the transition to wearing face masks:
- Practice wearing masks with your preschoolers and children at home. Encourage parents and their children to put on their masks and look in a mirror, then take them off and put them on again. Remind preschoolers that they can still see a person’s eyes and hear their voice when they wear a mask. Also remind them that masks help us keep our friends healthy and safe. By wearing a mask, they can be a helper.
- Challenge families to make pretend masks and decorate them at home. Pretend masks can be made with paper towels or coffee filters. Talk about how face masks are not something scary, but that they help us to stay healthy and keep our friends healthy.
- If you can provide disposable, non-medical grade masks for your teachers, volunteers, preschoolers and children, challenge them to personalize their masks each week by using markers to draw on them at the beginning of the session. For older children, this activity can be a way to introduce the memory verse by having them write it and decorate it on their mask.
- Since disposable masks may not be available due to short supply, consider ordering blank bandanas for each preschooler and child. These are available from places like Oriental Trading. Preschoolers and children can use fabric markers to decorate their mask before they wear it. Masks can be gathered at the end of each session and washed for the next week.
- If you or your volunteers are doing Bible story videos for your preschoolers and children, consider wearing a mask during some of your videos, especially in the weeks leading up to relaunching preschool and children’s activities. Talk about how when we wear masks, we can still see each other’s eyes and hear each other. Remind preschoolers and children that we wear masks to be helpers and to keep our friends safe and healthy.
No matter how you choose to use masks or face coverings in your preschool and children’s areas, remember that some preschoolers and children may be fearful or need help adjusting. Be ready to calm those fears by reminding preschoolers and children that masks are not something to be afraid of—they are a way that we can help others stay healthy and safe.
Sarah Johnson is the ministry program coordinator for childhood discipleship for Texas Baptists. She has also served for many years in preschool and children’s ministry and currently teaches kindergarten Bible study at FBC Lewisville.