The CDC recommends that all children over 2 years old wear a mask, either when outside or when social distancing isn’t possible. In lots of ways, kids’ face masks should follow the same guidelines about fit and fabric quality as masks for adults: They should be made of at least two layers of breathable fabric and should fit securely, covering the nose and mouth completely without causing discomfort. We also know that having metal in the nose bridge and adjustable ear straps make for a tighter, more comfortable, fit too. But kids can be a particular type of picky.
So even though we’ve already pulled together a comprehensive list of face masks for kids, we turned to the real experts — parents — to find out the masks their children willingly put on their faces. And after talking with 17 parents of kids ranging in age from 2 to 11, we found that the masks kids are most excited to wear often have bright colors or a fun pattern. In other words, it’s something that kids actually like to look at. But they also need to be safe and fit well, which is where the parents’ experience comes into play. With all that in mind, here are 14 face masks for kids that are approved by both parents and the kids themselves.
Best overall kids’ face masks
If the clog is the status-y shoe of the Park Slope mom, the face masks from Ottotto are the status-y masks for their kids. Several people from the Park Slope Parents group we spoke to recommended these masks, including Sarah Wallace, who says her 4-year-old daughter owns three of these masks and “literally looks forward to putting them on,” perhaps the highest praise anyone can give a face mask. They’re created by a mom from Park Slope named Reina Nishida, who pivoted her embroidery business to mask-making when the pandemic hit, and she takes orders through her Etsy shop, including customized designs. Jessica Kausman got a custom mask for her My Little Pony–obsessed 4-year-old daughter: “I emailed her and I said, ‘Could you source the fabric?,’ and so we picked the fabric together and she made my daughter her favorite My Little Pony mask.” And not only does Kausman’s daughter like the design, it fits well: “She doesn’t mess around with the ears, it covers her face perfectly, and she can pull it down when she needs to and it doesn’t fall off.” Ben Epstein’s 5 and 9-year-old daughters also liked the personalization, but he says, “On top of being incredibly well made, they have nose bridges for a proper fit that stays over the nose and adjustable elastic bands.” These masks also have a filter pocket for added protection.
“This is the most popular mask in all the New York City mom groups,” Miraim Cohen, owner of the blog The Very Best Baby Stuff, says. “People rave about it.” It was too small for her 5-year-old son, but it works for her 2-year-old daughter who typically refuses to wear a mask. “Usually when I mention masks, she says, ‘It hurts me,’ which it doesn’t, she doesn’t like the idea of her face being covered and you can’t blame her,” Cohen says. She had no choice on a recent paddle-boating trip but to wear a mask, and with the Joah Love everything went smoothly. “She wore it for a few minutes and then she wore it again when it was time to get off, and she ended up not even taking it off.” Nina Pearlman, a member of Park Slope Parents, likes these for her 5-year-old too, saying they are comfortable and lightweight. “We were just in the park for like five hours, and it’s like he doesn’t even notice they are on.” She particularly likes that they have the adjustable ear straps “so that you can make sure they fit really snugly.”
Best (less expensive) kids’ face mask
Many parents we spoke to have had some encounter with these masks from Target. Brent Hernandez, the director of student services in the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation at the University of Maryland, and father to a 5-year-old daughter, likes how it is specifically made to fit a kid’s face, so there aren’t any gaps, and it comes with a pocket for filters. Bari Kartowski, a member of Park Slope Parents, says her 11-year-old is a fan. “He did two weeks of seven-hour-long outdoor masked camp in them without complaint,” she says.
As far as mask bells and whistles go, these have metal in the nose bridge for a more contoured fit and it has a pocket for a filter. The only thing this doesn’t have is adjustable ear straps, but to get around that, Tova Halpern, the CEO of Fresh Theatre Arts and mom of three, purchased her own cord toggles to help get a perfect fit on her small, 6-year-old son’s face. This two-pack also happens to be the least expensive of the masks on this list, which was a selling point for Torrina Bennett-Michael, mom to a 7 and 9-year-old in New Jersey, who says her kids seem to lose their masks from time to time so she appreciates that these are affordable if they need to be replaced.
Best basic kids’ mask
These masks don’t have adjustable ear straps or metal in the nose bridge, but according to Cohen, she says these fit her five-year-old son perfectly. “My 5-and-a-half year old can wear his mask for long periods, even on a hot day, without fussing with it or complaining,” she says. “It doesn’t bother him at all, which is great because for school, unless they’re eating they have to wear the mask 100 percent of the time.” She also feels safe with him wearing them as they have two layers of fabric and come with a pocket for a filter, which is important, but it helps that her son is super excited about the panda print.
Best set of kids’ face masks
We’ve previously recommended these face masks for kids, and it turns out they are a hit among parents too. Erin Bakst, the senior vice-president of people and culture at Vox Media, says they’re a hit with her 3-year-old, because “they tend not to get up into the kiddo’s eyes.” She adds, “They’re bright, the cut is good, and the ear loops are adjustable. They’re my favorite.” Jason Ormand, a senior engineer on the developer experience team at Vox, who has a 4-year-old son, likes the fit, too. “Kids have no patience so the simple loops on the Crayola masks makes it very quick and easy to put them on.” Plus, “The Crayola masks also have a wire in the nose bridge portion of the mask so you can get a better fit,” but he notes the fit isn’t 100 percent perfect. “I do not like how short the Crayola masks are,” he says. “As my child talks, his chin ends up pushing the mask down over a relatively short time.”
One thing these masks do have going for them is that they come in a set of five, designed to carry your kid through a week of school. They could wear a different mask every day, and bring them home to wash on the weekends.
Best designer kids’ face masks
“This is the bougiest recommendation ever but Lele Sadoughi’s are the best,” says Abigail Aronofsky, the director of brand strategy at Vox Media. Lele Sadoughi started making face masks for adults and kids with a two-layer design with contour fit, adjustable elastic ear straps and an opening for a filter pocket, and for Aronofsky’s 5-year-old daughter, who “has a pretty small face,” these fit without much adjustment. “According to her (she is 5 so take with a grain of salt) they are the most comfortable masks, and she loves the heart details,” says Aronofsky. But she does say that they hold up well when you machine-wash them in a lingerie bag.
Best kids’ face mask with a vent and filters
This ended up being Vox Media employee Heather Savatta’s kid’s Goldilock mask. Her 5-almost-6-year-old daughter says the mask is comfortable, cute, and easy to keep on during the day. Better yet, “She likes most that she feels like her breath doesn’t get too hot in it,” Savatta says. “She has had this hot breath problem in other masks.” When it comes to what really matters, mom likes the adjustable ear loops for a tight fit and that it has a vent. Not only does it have an insert for filters, it also comes with a set of ten filters.