Avoid a Food Allergy Scare on Halloween

​​Halloween can be one of the trickiest days of the year for children with food allergies. Kids often haul home pounds of treats, and even small amounts of an ingredient they are allergic to can cause a potentially life-threatening reaction.

Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help ensure Halloween’s frights stay festive and don’t involve a medical emergency.

Reading before eating

  • Always read the ingredient label on any treat your child receives. Many popular Halloween candies contain some of the most common allergens, such as peanuts or tree nuts, milk, egg, soy or wheat.
  • If the ingredients aren’t listed, arrange for a treat “exchange” with classmates or friends. Or, bag up the goodies your child can’t eat because of an allergy and leave them with a note asking the “Treat Fairy” to swap them for a prize.
  • Be aware that even if they are not listed on the ingredient label, candies (both chocolate and non-chocolate) are at high risk of containing trace amounts of common allergy triggers, because factories often produce many different products. Also, “fun size” or miniature candies may have different ingredients or be made on different equipment than the regular size candies, meaning that brands your child previously ate without problems could cause a reaction.
  • Teach your child to politely turn down home-baked items such as cupcakes and brownies, and never to taste or share another child’s food.

Food-free fun

  • Offer non-edible goodies to trick-or-treaters and classmates. Food Allergy Research & Education’s Teal Pumpkin Project, which promotes safe trick-or-treating options for food-allergic children, suggests items such as glow sticks, spider rings, vampire fangs, pencils, bubbles, bouncy balls, finger puppets, whistles, bookmarks, stickers and stencils. Consider supplying some to neighbors whose homes your child will visit.
  • Plan alternatives to trick-or-treating, such as watching an age-appropriate creepy movie together.
  • Center parties around festive activities such as costume parades, pumpkin decorating contests, Halloween themed games, crafts and scavenger hunts or spooky storybooks. (During the COVID-19 pandemic, especially if your child is not yet eligible to be vaccinated, keep safety steps in mind.)

Don’t keep others in the dark

  • Inform teachers and other adults with your child about the food allergy and how to react to an emergency.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2015). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Are Your Children Getting Enough Physical Activity?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids 6 years and older get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity​ on most days of the week. This can come from walking to and from school, for example, or a sports practice.

After many schools closed and sports seasons stalled because of COVID-19​, it became more challenging for children to stay active. But even as children stay home more, active play such as hopscotch, jumping rope or a game of tag can help keep kids healthy and fit. Active play comes naturally to kids and has many proven health benefits: better sleep​, improved mood, increased focus, healthy muscles and bones, fundamental strength and coordination development, relaxation and resilience, building social skills. Are your children getting enough physical activity each day?

Check out this Physical Activity Checker on the healthychildren.org website. Start by entering your child’s name. Type in the name of the activity, how long your child does the activity, and the intensity. Enter as many activities as you wish. The stopwatch will calculate the minutes for each activity and let you know when you hit 60 minutes. Add more family members and check their activities, too!

Some kids may be reluctant to spend more time being physically active because it has not been part of their routine. We encourage you to focus on the play element of activity, to make it part of your family’s daily routine, and to make physical activity an enjoyable experience that your family does together.​

Your Child’s First Crush


Do you remember the first time you looked at a classmate and your heart pounded just a little bit harder? Many kids go through this in their teen years, but some children can feel romantic interest well before puberty.

Learning how to be in a healthy one-on-one relationship is a normal part of learning how to be an adult. Talking with your child about relationships with their peers at every age sets the foundation for healthy personal connections as they grow. This learning process does not begin with the teen years, but as soon as a child begins noticing other people and how they relate!

Learning about relationships

Children first learn about loving and caring relationships from their families. But they also get messages about relationships from friends, television, and social media. Some of what they learn may not be healthy, so talking with your child about relationships is important. You may find teachable moments in scenes from movies or in song lyrics – carefully selected, of course!

Primary school relationships

Young kids often say they are dating. Some may try to sneak kisses from classmates, but often they do not go anywhere or even hold hands. This is typical, and it is important not to tease children or to dismiss their feelings.

  • Special friends. Help your child understand that having feelings for someone else is normal, but that dating is not appropriate until well into adolescence. Explain that just as adults sometimes have people they feel closer to and want to spend more time with, they may also feel more strongly about one friend that another. But this does not mean that they are necessarily in a dating-type relationship. Seeing friendship as a normal interaction between people of any sex is an important lesson.

Adolescent & teen relationships

Adolescent dating may involve physical affection such as kissing, cuddling, and holding hands. There is not a specific age at which dating is best. Every adolescent matures at a different rate and may be ready for a romantic relationship at a different age.

  • Remember how real it can feel. Some adults may be cynical about or dismiss teenage relationships. They realize that friendships and love at this age can be short-lived. However, this does not mean a teen relationship is less important or less strong than an adult relationship. Friendships and even romantic relationships in the teenage years are just as real, and perhaps as painful, as relationships at any other point in life.
  • Be ready to talk. Don’t be surprised if your child, who always told you everything, starts to clam up and go silent. It is a natural process for adolescents to put family relationships in the back seat, socially, as they learn to develop their friendships. Your role has changed from main character to supporting cast. But your teen needs your support and advice as they navigate the ups and downs of their relationships.

How to start talking about romantic relationships

Talking about relationships with teens can be a minefield! Your teen may feel bad about not having dated or may even have felt rejected by someone. So, bringing up the topic may have the opposite effect you intend.

  • Tread lightly & listen. Instead, to open the topic, you might begin by asking, “Are any of your friends dating?” After that, it is less important what you say, than that you listen carefully. If your teen says absolutely nothing, then it might be best to wait and ask again a few weeks later. Pushing for information can be a mistake.

Here are some other ways to encourage positive communication with teens:

  • Try not to react. If your teen shares a bit of information, try to listen without judgement or reaction. Simply hear what they are saying and then ask a question about it without offering your opinion.
  • Don’t participate in the drama. If your teen shares a concern, create a safe space with a positive, problem-solving attitude. This helps avoid making your teen feel it is an overwhelming problem. Be a calm voice of reason.
  • Don’t overly empathize. Maintain a reasonable distance from the ups and downs of teenage life. This means if your daughter has a fight with her boyfriend, you sympathize with her feelings, but take the long view.

Not Alone

  • Dating. Keep in mind that most adolescents (even older adolescents) have never had a dating relationship. Among 15- to 17-year-olds, most (66%) are not and never have been in a romantic relationship.
  • Sex. Despite a lot of peer pressure, more than 50% of teens wait until after high school to have sex. Keep in mind that you are the best person to teach your teen about relationships, love, commitment. What teens learn about sex may help influence their future choices and health. For instance, if your teen chooses to abstain from sex, they avoid the risk of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. If your teen is sexually active, proper use of birth control can help reduce these risks.

Warning signs your teen is in an unhealthy relationship

Although it is a good idea to let your teen learn through experience, it is important to know when to step in. Some relationships are so unhealthy that they may be dangerous to your teen. Here are some signs you may need to step in and have a serious conversation with your teen, welcome or not:

  • Signs of extremely controlling behavior or extreme jealousy
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Unexplained or poorly explained bruises or injuries
  • Loss of interest in activities that your teen previously enjoyed
  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Drop in grades
  • Extreme changes in personality, especially around their partner
  • Frequent arguments
  • A big age difference between partners


Keep in mind that you and your teen may not always agree on what’s best. Though you may not control over your child’s love life, you can be supportive through the joys and heartbreaks that will happen along the way.

Source: Adapted from “Your Child’s First Crush,” HealthyChildren Magazine, Winter 2020. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Why I Vaccinate: Parent Testimonials

​​​Did you know the overwhelming majority of parents vaccinate their children?

In an effort to transform statistics into real conversations about how children and families benefit from immunizations, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asked parents to send in personal stories and testimonials about why they vaccinate their children.

Here’s What Some of You Said:

  • “There are SO MANY things I cannot protect my child from, so I will take every safe and healthy way to protect her that I can find. Vaccinating her from potentially deadly diseases is a gift—one that she needs now that diseases we thought we had conquered are starting to come back.”   —Bonnie Stetz, Mom
  • “I vaccinate, because I want to keep my children safe. It’s the same reason that they wear helmets and seatbelts.”   —Kelly Hargraves, Mom
  • “I vaccinate my kids, because I believe in providing them with the best healthcare possible. Vaccinations play into that because they protect children from harmful, sometimes deadly diseases. Failing to vaccinate intentionally puts my kids (and others’ kids) at risk.  ”   —Marina Mayer, Mom
  • “I vaccinate, because I truly feel it takes a whole village to raise a child. I’m not only protecting my child but also those around her.”   —Cassie Thompson, Mom
  • “Vaccinating is just one of many ways that I strive to give my kids the best possible chance for healthy and happy lives. Plus, it’s the responsible thing to do for others who are too young for vaccines or who have compromised immune systems.”   —Heather Cooper, Mom
  • “The primary reason I vaccinate my children is because it is recommended by my pediatrician whom I trust. Our pediatrician’s practice sees hundreds of children day in, day out and have children of their own, not to mention years of medical training and expertise.”    —Anne Lee, Mom
  • “My wife and I vaccinate our children, because we trust science. We trust the scientific method and we trust the overwhelming amount of doctors who recommend vaccination. There is no possible way we can know everything as a parent, so there have to be authorities which we can trust.”   —Travis Harmon, Dad
  • “In a nutshell, I trust my pediatrician and the overall guidance of the AAP. I believe thorough testing has been done to ensure they are safe and that getting vaccinated is safer than not getting vaccinated.”   —Stacy Cordero, Mom
  • “As a parent and provider, I vaccinate. I have seen too many preventable illnesses and death. There is strong evidence that shows vaccines are safe and clearly worth the effort. As far as I am concerned, there is no reason not to vaccinate.”   —Ann Petersen-Smith, Mom

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2017). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Childhood immunizations during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Why is it so important for my kids to get caught up on their childhood immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Although you are probably juggling a lot of responsibilities right now, making sure your children are up-to-date on their shots is one of the best things you can do to protect them against some pretty serious but preventable diseases.

Pediatricians have seen a sharp drop in vaccinations since the start of the pandemic, which is a really frightening trend. When children are not vaccinated, they are at risk of getting diseases like measles, polio and hepatitis A and B that can cause lifelong disability or death. Falling vaccination rates can lead to new outbreaks of dangerous diseases. And that’s the last thing anyone needs on top of COVID-19.

Regular visits to the pediatrician

Immunizations usually take place at your child’s check-ups. (Here are the recommended vaccination schedules for birth through age 6 and 7-18.) Keeping these appointments is very important so your kids don’t miss out on shots or other important care, such as physical exams and health screenings.

But if your c​hild does miss a shot, you don’t need to start over. Just go back to your pediatrician’s office so your child can catch up with the vaccines they need to stay healthy.

​In addition to getting caught-up on routine immunizations, ​​here are some other reasons to visit your pediatrician right now:

  • Newborn visits
  • Hearing and vision screenings
  • To check on developmental milestones
  • To check blood pressure and other vital signs
  • To treat infections or injuries
  • Adolescent health concerns, such as menstrual care and depression screening​
  • Routine lab tests
  • For pre-participation physical examinations before returning to sports or other activities.

Call your pediatrician

Pediatricians are being extra careful to make sure their offices are safe. If you are worried about COVID-19, call your doctor’s office to learn about the strict cleaning and disinfecting they are doing to keep everyone safe.

Do you have other questions about vaccines or well child visits? Be sure to ask your child’s doctor. Pediatricians are seeing patients and available to answer any questions that you have. In fact, they would love to hear from you.​
More information

Written by Shaunte Anum-Addo, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., and a member of the AAP Section on Minority Health, Equity and Inclusion. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Mental Health During COVID-19: Signs Your Child May Need More Support

The ongoing stress, fear, grief, uncertainty created by COVID-19 pandemic has weighed on all of us, but many children and teens have had an especially tough time coping emotionally.

An estimated 40,000 children in the United States have lost a parent to COVID-19, for example. Many families have also lost financial stability during the pandemic. At the same time, children have had vital supports including school, health care services, and other community supports interrupted by the pandemic. And many have experienced or witnessed increased racism and xenophobia during the pandemic, particularly toward families of Asian descent.

Even with the protection of the COVID-19 vaccines now available to children old enough for them, pandemic-related stress and traumas may have lasting effects on the developing minds of children and teens.

Continue to check in with your child often and watch and listen for signs they are struggling. And remember that your pediatrician is here to help.

How is your child coping?

Invite your child to talk about how they are feeling. Feeling depressed, hopeless, anxious, and angry may be signs they could benefit from more support during this difficult time. Keep in mind that adolescents and young adults may try to hide their struggles because of fear, shame, or a sense of responsibility to avoid burdening others. Younger children may not know how to talk about these feelings but may show changes in their behavior or development.

Recognizing signs of stress in your child

Signs of stress and mental health challenges are not the same for every child or teen, but there are some common symptoms.

Infants, toddlers and young children…

may show backward progress in skills and developmental milestones. They may also have increased problems with:

  • fussiness and irritability, startling and crying more easily, and be more difficult to console.
  • falling asleep and waking up more during the night.
  • feeding issues such as frantic nippling, more reflux, constipation or loose stools, or new complaints of stomach pain.
  • separation anxiety, seeming more clingy, socially withdrawn, hesitant to explore, and seeming to fear going outside.
  • hitting, frustration, biting, and more frequent or intense tantrums.
  • bedwetting after they’re potty trained.
  • urgently expressed needs while seemingly unable to feel satisfied.
  • conflict and aggression or themes like illness or death during play.

Older children and adolescents…

may show signs of distress with symptoms such as:

  • changes in mood that are not usual for your child, such as ongoing irritability, feelings of hopelessness or rage, and frequent conflicts with friends and family.
  • changes in behavior, such as stepping back from personal relationships. If your ordinarily outgoing teen shows little interest in spending time with, texting or video chatting with their friends, for example, this might be cause for concern.
  • a loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed. Did your music-loving child suddenly stop wanting to practice guitar, for example? Did your aspiring chef lose all interest in cooking and baking?
  • a hard time falling or staying asleep, or starting to sleep all the time.
  • changes in appetite, weight or eating patterns, such as never being hungry or eating all the time.
  • problems with memory, thinking, or concentration.
  • less interest in schoolwork and drop in academic effort.
  • changes in appearance, such as lack of basic personal hygiene (within reason, since many are doing slightly less grooming during this time at home).
  • an increase in risky or reckless behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol.
  • thoughts about death or suicide, or talking about it (see “A word about suicide risk,” below).

How your pediatrician can help

Staying in touch with your pediatrician is more important than ever during this pandemic. If you have any concerns, ask your pediatrician’s office about checking on your child’s social and emotional health. This can be especially important for children facing higher rates of illness or risk from COVID-19, such as children of color, those living in poverty, special health care needs or developmental differences​. Children who are refugees and those involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems may also be more at risk.

Pediatricians can screen for depression and ask about other concerns like anxiety or trouble coping with stress. The doctor may also ask about these symptoms in other family members, as this can impact your child’s health, and whether they know anyone who has become sick with COVID-19. It’s important to offer your teen some time to talk one-on-one with the pediatrician during the visit to ensure they have the chance to speak as openly as possible. Many pediatricians are also offering telehealth visits during the pandemic.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one to COVID-19

Children, adolescents, and families who experienced the loss of a loved family member or friend to COVID-19 are at increased risk for mental health challenges and may need special attention and professional counseling to manage their loss and grief.

Supporting your child

Your pediatrician can give you guidance on ways to best support your child and help them build resilience. Some children or adolescents may need more time and space to express their feelings. Some may do better with gradual conversations and other activities besides talking, such as painting or drawing to express themselves and manage stress. Others might be more comfortable with direct conversations or activities. They may need to talk to a trusted adult about how to keep up social connections safely, or their feelings of boredom, loss, and even guilt.

A word about suicide risk

Rates of suicide for both adolescents and adults increase during times of high stress. In addition to screening for depression, your pediatrician can screen for suicide risk.

Remember, not everyone who considers suicide will talk about it, and not everyone who talks about suicide will act on their words. However, any talk about suicide should be taken seriously. If you are worried about your child, it is critical to make your home safe by removing weapons and ammunition from the house and securing medications in a locked cabinet.

Seek help immediately by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or texting the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘TALK’ to 741741. Reserve 911 for situations where self-harming actions are happening or are about to happen. In a non-crisis situation, talk with your pediatrician about any concerns you have about your child’s mental health.

Self-care and setting the tone

Parents set the tone in the household. Expressing extreme doom or fear can affect your children. It can be challenging to stay positive, especially if you’re struggling with your own stress. But try to stay positive and relay consistent messages that a brighter future lies ahead. It helps to set aside time to take care of yourself when possible, and seek the support you may need for your own mental health. Practicing mindfulness, focusing on the present moment, yoga or stretching can help the entire family build coping skills. Build in down time for the whole family to connect and relax, enjoying a nap, movie time or simply spending time together.


Keep lines of communication open between you and your child, and don’t hesitate to talk with your pediatrician about ways to help maintain your family’s mental health during this difficult time.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2021). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Do Masks Delay Speech and Language Development?

During a child’s first few years of life, they are rapidly developing communication skills. Whether by smiling, cooing and babbling, pointing and gesturing, or saying their first words, children express themselves from birth. But a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic and no solid end in sight, some families wonder whether continuous use of face masks by daycare providers, preschool teachers, and other adults may negatively affect their child’s speech and language development.

While this is a natural concern, there is no known evidence that use of face masks interferes with speech and language development or social communication. Plus, children can still get plenty of face time at home with mask-free family members.

​How do babies learn to communicate?

Babies are hard-wired to communicate. From day 1, they are watching their loved ones’ faces and mouth movements. They are listening to them talk (for families that use spoken language), and making attempts to interact with their parents and caregivers. Each milestone builds on another.

Parents and other family members encourage this development by talking, singing, playing peek-a-boo, reading, and engaging their baby in numerous other ways every day. The more language a child is exposed to—and the more undivided attention a parent can give to their child as they feed them, bathe them, change their diaper, practice tummy time with them, push them in a stroller, and play outside with them—the better the child’s communication skills will likely be.

Can mask use cause delays in speech and language development?

A key part of learning to communicate for a child is watching the faces, mouths, and expressions of the people closest to them. Babies and young children study faces intently, so the concern about solid masks covering the face is understandable. However, there are no known studies that use of a face mask negatively impacts a child’s speech and language development.

And consider this: visually impaired children develop speech and language skills at the same rate as their peers. In fact, when one sense is taken away, the others may be heightened. Young children will use other clues provided to them to understand and learn language. They will watch gestures, hear changes in tone of voice, see eyes convey emotions, and listen to words.

Tips to better communicate with children while wearing a face mask

Here are some ways that people who wear face masks can help when they interact with your child:

  • get the child’s attention before talking
  • face the child directly and make sure nothing is blocking the child’s view
  • speak slowly and slightly louder (without shouting)
  • ensure a child is using hearing aids or using other hearing devices, if they have been prescribed
  • use eyes, hands, body language, and changes in tone of voice to add information to speech
  • ask the child if they understood; repeat words and sentences when necessary
  • reduce noise and reduce distractions

You can share these tips with your child’s day care provider, preschool, and others who regularly interact with your child while wearing masks.

How to boost your child’s communication skills as use of face masks continues

Remember, babies and toddlers learn the most from their family! Families can help with speech and language development and social communication through face time at home with family members who aren’t wearing masks. By providing dedicated time to converse with your child without screens or other interruptions—for example, at bath time and dinner time—children should reach their expected milestones.

Regardless of mask use, some children will take longer to reach speech and language milestones—and some may need help meeting them. Speech and language delays and disorders are common in young children, but these are highly treatable with help from a certified speech-language pathologist. If you have concerns about your child’s skills, don’t delay—seek an evaluation as early as possible. Children can be evaluated for free through their local early intervention program (no referral is necessary). After the evaluation, your child can receive free or low-cost treatment if needed. Children quality for these services based on the degree of their delay (each state has different requirements), not family income.

How are speech and language services provided with masks?

Some children were already receiving early intervention services, or were seeing a private speech-language pathologist, before the pandemic. Many families continued these services, but others took a break for various reasons and are now looking to start again. Still other parents and caregivers may have developed concern for the first time over the past year and a half. Regardless, families should know that speech/language therapy services are still occurring—and children are still making significant progress—at this time, even if an speech-language pathologist is wearing a mask.

Some speech-language pathologists have been providing services virtually (called telehealth). While young children may have a difficult time sitting in front of a computer, early intervention is often focused on parent coaching—giving caregivers techniques to boost their child’s communication skills. Speech-language pathologists are also still working directly with children, both through telehealth and in-person. In person, some providers use clear masks so their faces are still visible or masks with face shields to provide additional protection—or work with children outside when possible.


When it comes to use of face masks, the bottom line is safety first! Masks reduce transmission of COVID-19 and can make in-person schooling possible during the pandemic. Luckily, your child’s speech and language skills can continue to grow.

If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s communication skills, your pediatrician can help. They can evaluate your child’s progress and, if needed, provide provide you with contact information for the early intervention program in your area or a private speech-language pathologist. A searchable database of professionals is also available from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association at http://www.asha.org/profind.

Copyright © 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Face Masks for Children During COVID-19

Masks remain a simple but powerful tool to protect against COVID-19, especially for children too young to get the vaccine yet.

Read on for answers to some frequently asked questions about masks and children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why do we still need to wear face masks?

It is possible to have COVID-19 but not have any symptoms. That’s why wearing face masks is still so important, especially for unvaccinated children. Masks reduce the chance of spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

A child or adult is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the final dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Should children wear masks?

Until a child is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, they should continue to wear a face mask and keep a safe physical distance indoors around people they don’t live with or who may have the virus. Anyone unvaccinated should also wear face masks outdoors in large group settings or when physical distancing isn’t possible.

Face masks can be safely worn by all children 2 years of age and older, including most children with special health conditions, with rare exception.

Children should not wear a mask if they are under 2 years old, however, because of suffocation risk. Also, anyone unconscious or unable to remove a face covering on their own should not wear one.

When do children need to wear masks?

Children age 2 and older who are not yet fully vaccinated, with rare exception, should wear masks when they are at school, child care or camp, and while participating in group activities such as most indoor sports and outdoors sports that have close contact. They should also wear masks any time they are unable to stay a safe distance from others, such as the grocery store.

Everyone should also continue to wear them when traveling on a plane, bus, train, or other form of public transportation, and at the airport or station.

If you have a medically fragile child or an at-risk adult in your household, you may want to consider having anyone at home who is not fully vaccinated wear masks at home to help protect them.

How do I help my child get used to wearing a mask?

It is understandable if your child seems afraid of wearing a mask at first. Here are a few ideas that might help make them more comfortable:

  • Look in the mirror with the face mask on and talk about it.
  • Put a mask on a favorite stuffed animal.
  • Decorate them so they’re more personalized and fun.
  • Show your child pictures of other children wearing them.
  • Draw one on their favorite book character.
  • Practice wearing the face mask at home to help your child get used to it.

For children under 3, it’s best to answer their questions simply in language they understand. If they ask about why people are wearing face masks, explain that sometimes people need to wear them to stay healthy.

For children over 3, try focusing on germs. Explain that germs are special to your own body. Some germs and good and some are bad. The bad ones can make you sick. Since we can’t always tell which are good or bad, the face masks help make sure you keep those germs away from your own body.

The good news is, children have gotten used to masks and are less likely to feel singled out or strange about wearing them. It has quickly become the “new normal” for all of us.

What about children with special health care needs?

  • Children with weakened immune systems or who have health conditions that put that at high risk for infections are encouraged to wear an N95 mask for protection.
  • Children with medical conditions that interfere with cognitive or lung function may have a hard time tolerating a face mask. For these children, special precautions may be needed.

Is there a “right way” to wear a mask?

Yes. Place the mask securely over the mouth and nose and stretch it from ear to ear. It should fit snugly along the sides of the face without any gaps. It can be held on with ear loops or ties. Remember to wash hands before and after wearing it and avoid touching it once it’s on. When back home, avoid touching the front of the face mask by taking it off from behind.

Wash and completely dry cloth face masks after each wearing.

Note: Face masks should not be worn when eating or drinking. Also, make sure the mask has no choking or strangulation hazards for young children.

What kind of face mask is best?

Face masks with multiple layers of fabric are fine for most people to wear. Try to find the right size for your child’s face. Adult masks are usually 6×12 inches, and even a child-sized 5×10 inch covering may be too large for small children.

How do I keep my child from touching their face mask?

It may be challenging for very young children not to fidget with their face mask, so expect to give your child plenty of gentle reminders. When mask-wearing is reinforced by adults and peers, they will learn to follow directions. Just like children understand that they must wear bicycle helmets and buckle into their car seats, they will learn to wear masks correctly and routinely when needed.

How do I protect my baby who is too young for a mask?

The best way to protect your baby is to practice physical distancing, and encourage people who are around your baby to wear face masks and take other measures to reduce COVID-19 risk.


Along with physical distancing, hand washing and vaccination as soon as everyone in your family is eligible, mask wearing is key to reducing SARS-CoV-2 infection and spread. If you have any concerns about your child’s health, talk with your pediatrician.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2020). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Ten Tips for Your Child’s Success in School

It should come as no surprise that success — or failure — at school starts at home. Studies have linked poor academic performance to factors such as a lack of sleep, poor nutrition, obesity, and a lack of parental support.

The good news is that those same studies also show higher test scores for students who live in homes where healthy habits, regular routines, and good communication exist.  How can you ensure your child heads off to school this fall with the best possible foundation? Follow these 10 tips and watch your child thrive.

Enforce Healthy Habits

You can’t perform well when you don’t feel good. To help your child have the best chance at doing well in school, make sure she follows healthy habits at home. Choose a bedtime that will give your child plenty of sleep, and provide a healthy breakfast each morning. Encourage exercise, and limit the amount of time she spends watching TV, playing video games, listening to music, or using the computer.

Stick to a Routine

Most kids thrive on structure and will respond well to routines that help them organize their days. In our house, for example, my son gets dressed, makes his bed, and eats breakfast while I make his lunch and pack his school bag with completed homework and forms. When he gets home in the afternoon, I serve him a snack and he does his homework while I prepare dinner. Your routines may differ, but the key is to make it the same every day so your child knows what to expect.

Create a “Launch Pad”

Veteran parents know it’s important to have a single place to put backpacks, jackets, shoes, lunchboxes, and school projects each day. Some call it a “launch pad,” while others call it a “staging area.” Our area is a hook by the back door.

Whatever you call it, find a place where your child can keep the items he needs for school each day and keep him organized. Then you’ll know right where to find everything during the morning rush.

Designate a Space

At school your child has a desk or table where she works. There is plenty of light, lots of supplies, and enough room to work. Why not provide her with the same type of environment for homework? A designated homework space often makes it easier and more fun for children to complete assignments at home. A desk is great, but a basket of supplies and a stretch of kitchen counter work just as well.

Read, Again and Again

It is often said that children spend the first several years learning to read, and the rest of the lives reading to learn. The written word is a gateway to all kinds of learning, and the more you read to your child, the better chance he has of becoming a proficient and eager reader.

Try to sit down with your child to read a little bit every day, give him plenty of opportunities to read out loud to you, as well, and above all have fun. While the importance of reading with your child cannot be stressed enough, it should not be the cause of stress.

Learn Always

Your child may be past the preschool years, but home education is still a critical part of his overall learning experience. “Some of the attitude recently is that it’s up to the schools and teachers to figure it all out, to make sure children are learning and healthy and safe,” says Barbara Frankowski, M.D., MPH, FAAP, and member of the AAP Council on School Health. “There’s only so much teachers can do. Parents have to fill in with good support at home.”

Look for ways to teach your child throughout the day. For example, cooking combines elements of math and science. Use the time when you make dinner as an opportunity to read and follow directions, to discuss fractions, to make hypotheses (“What will happen when I beat the egg whites?”), and to examine results.

Take the Lead

Children learn by example. Let your kids “catch” you reading. Take time to learn a new skill and discuss the experience with them. Sit down and pay bills or do other “homework” while your kids do their schoolwork.

If you display a strong work ethic and continually seek out learning opportunities for yourself, your kids will begin to model that same behavior in their own lives.

Talk Often

Do you know how your child feels about her classroom, her teacher, and her classmates? If not, ask her. Talk with her about what she likes and doesn’t like at school. Give her a chance to express her anxieties, excitements, or disappointments about each day, and continue to support and encourage her by praising her achievements and efforts.

Show Interest

Don’t limit your support to your child; extend it to her teachers as well. Meet the teachers and stay in regular contact by phone or email so that you can discuss any concerns as they arise. Not only will it pave the way for you to ask questions, but it will also make the teachers more comfortable with calling you if they have concerns about your child.

Expect Success

Perhaps the most important way you can support your child’s efforts at school is to expect him to succeed. That doesn’t mean that you demand he be the best student or the best athlete or the best artist. Rather, let him know that you expect him to do “his best” so that he’ll be proud of what he can accomplish.

If you make that expectation clear and provide a home environment that promotes learning, then your child will have a greater chance of becoming the best student he can be.

Source: Healthy Children Magazine, Back to School 2007. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Are You Over-Helping Your College-Bound Teen?

As a parent, it’s difficult to watch your child struggle. At any age, you hurt for them. You want to help―but there comes a point when helping can be harmful.

Removing obstacles from their path may make life easier in the short term, but as they approach college and young adulthood, it could set them up for bigger problems.

So, how can you help your teenager learn to navigate life’s obstacles? Here are some tips.

  • Change your focus. Instead of helping your kids “avoid difficulties,” help them “get through difficulties.” To do this, try to think of difficult circumstances as “teachable moments” for your child.
  • Avoid quick fixes. We’ve all experienced occasions when our children’s stress became our stress, too. It’s hard to hear that your son was picked last for a team in gym class, or that other girls chastised your daughter for her outfit. It sometimes seems tempting to deal with adversity by taking an easier road. Removing the child from that ‘awful’ school. Buying the trendy outfit.
  • Give your child the freedom to fail. This may just be the hardest thing to do; we don’t want to see our kids fail. We may still call the high school teacher about a bad grade or keep track of our 18 year old’s exams and doctors’ appointments. But the biggest gift we can give our children is the freedom to fall, dust themselves off, and get back up again. This does not mean that we never extend a helping hand. It just means that we need to let them learn how to navigate and adapt so they’ll be prepared. Life is bound to throw them some curve balls, and we aren’t always going to be there.
  • Promote independence. Coach your child on how to talk with their teachers about a bad grades rather than doing it yourself. Encourage your college-bound kids to make their own appointments and remember their own schedules. They may miss appointments or oversleep for school, but that creates a learning opportunity. We know that in real life, if we miss an important meeting at work, there are usually consequences. Learning about this as a student is better than learning how to manage life and cope with difficulty as an adult.
  • Make college decisions together. What’s most important to your child when it comes to choosing a college? Yes, I said your child. Not you. Many factors go into selecting one college over another, not just which school has the “superior academic reputation.” What often sways the vote one way, or another are the basics: cost, distance, location, and size. What does your teen want? Is it different than what you want? Have conversations and listen. Learning your child’s preferences at the outset will help all of you to narrow the search and come to a decision that all of you feel comfortable with.
  • Ask about mental health support on campus. The American College Health Association Survey on health showed that over 60% of kids in college have “overwhelming anxiety” at some point; and that the average time to access a counselor is 1 week. If you have a family history of mental health disorders, your child is a greater risk. The Jed Foundation provides a detailed guide for parents and students that includes questions to ask about the services and programs a college provides to help students manage their mental health and thrive in the campus environment.

By Hansa Bhargava, MD, FAAP. Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2019): The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.