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Parent concerns about masking and child development

  • 1.  Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-08-2021 07:12 AM
    I'm interested in knowing how you all are mediating any possible negative effects of children wearing masks at childcare centers. Our teachers have been masked for quite a while now however we are just now asking children to wear masks when indoors, not eating or sleeping. We have a few parents who are considering taking their child out of our care.

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    Deborah Erickson-Irons
    Owner, Business Manager
    Sweet Pea Childcare
    Eliot ME
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  • 2.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-09-2021 09:11 AM
    I would suggest explaining to them why you are making the changes, maybe provide some education as to why you have made the change and then it will have to be their choice to stay or leave. Keep it consistent and don't feel as if you have to defend your policy. We have found that a straight forward explanation without adding emotion or extensive research has worked out the best for us this past 2 years. We have had the opposite situation on our end since we do not require our 3 and 4 yr olds to wear masks, only the adults. I politely state that this was the decision we made as a school and that their child may wear a mask, but if they don't feel comfortable with the other students not masking this may not be the program for them. Sounds harsh, but if we make changes based on every parent's personal belief and opinion you would be changing policies daily.

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    Amanda Anders
    Administrator
    Racine Cooperative Preschool
    Mt Pleasant WI
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  • 3.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-09-2021 11:08 AM
    When we had to be masked, I noticed my littles had a hard time understanding letter sounds.  I use See the sound and that helped BUT  I would make sure I was 6 ft away and pulled my mask down to say letter sounds with the movement.  If I had a hard time understanding a child, I did the same thing and had THEM pull down their masks.  The masks were the least of my worry.  We had to pull dress up clothes, puppets, and baby things that were cloth.  Unfortunately, health comes first.  If your health department says that masks are necessary, then our children and staff's health comes first.   I think an in person discussion or carefully crafted letter with bullet points as to why masks are needed and what you are doing to insure your child is still learning would help.   For example, we will continue to wash often (before and after eating and art/sensory play and after toileting)  Children have individual tubs for sensory/art/math tools/pencils-crayons-markers. Our teachers are aware of language issues caused by masking and are taking extra care in assuring they are understanding students and students can understand the teacher.

    I don't know what else they don't like about masks (other than the runny nose-sneezing)  I also suggest they wash masks often and send an extra mask just in case.


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    Lynn Shoberg
    Preschool Teacher
    IA
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  • 4.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-14-2021 02:23 PM
    Deborah
    We were masked since January of last year and this year, with the exception of this summer, when transmission levels were low. All staff are masked and children in 3 year old and 4 year old classrooms are masked as well. They are not masked eating, napping or outside play. Everyone who enter the building needs to be masked for drop off and pick up. Our toddlers 13 months- 3 are not masked. The children do not have any issues with the masks, though they are used to them by now. We prompt them, but they are responsible for taking off and putting on their own masks. Parents were asked to make sure their child's mask fit well and to provide extra masks. Parents knew before the beginning of our school year what our policy would be, so there was an opportunity for them to choose to leave if they were uncomfortable with masking. We considered it our responsibility to protect the health of all of the children and this, along with other mitigation methods has worked well for us. Most of last yeat we hardly had a cold, but this year because more families are out in public, we have seen some colds and flu sneak back in.

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    Janet Bauer
    Director
    Windy Hill School
    Colby-Sawyer College
    New London, NH
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  • 5.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-14-2021 04:41 PM
    Hi Deborah,

    My centers are in Texas.  We have 2 primary locations serving Infants to After-School age children and 4 offsite after-school locations that are on elementary campuses in our local school district.  Students and staff have not been required to wear mask since late August either at our centers or in our public school programs.  Public school students and teachers are not required to wear masks in the public schools.  Our County reports a very high vaccination rate among the residents of our County and so the new covid case numbers in our area have been low and primarily related to people who are unvaccinated.  Over the last 3 months we have had no new cases of Covid amongst our staff, parents or students.  We started letting parents back in the building about 6 weeks ago.

    What we have noticed is that we are seeing a big increase in behavioral issues amongst all age groups except infants and toddlers.  We have 3 1/2 year olds and 4 year olds coming to enroll that are not potty trained and still in diapers.  We are seeing an increase in speech and language delays in our  2 1/2 to 4 year old groups as well.  Many of these children were kept home during the pandemic with parents or other family members and simply did not have the exposure or support they needed to stay on track with parents trying to work from home and take care of their children.

    In our after-school programs we are seeing more students that are unable to regulate their emotions and are having a hard time following a structured routine and developing peer relationships.  That lack of socialization and the consistency of a daily routine or schedule over the past year and half appears to be the main reasons for the increase negative behaviors.

    Although we do not require masks, we do have some staff that choose to wear a mask during the day, but we have not had any parents request that their child wear a mask during the day, or threaten to leave because we are not requiring masks.  Most new families that are coming in for tours, are also showing up without masks.

    Hope this information was helpful.

    Tim Kaminski

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    Tim Kaminski
    Director/Owner
    Gingerbread Kids Academy
    Richmond TX
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  • 6.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-14-2021 06:24 PM
    Thank you for your responses. Very helpful. We are also finding that children are comfortable with wearing masks and since it's been the norm, they need very little prompting to keep them on. The majority of our families have also been cooperative.

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    Deborah Erickson-Irons
    Owner, Business Manager
    Sweet Pea Childcare
    Eliot ME
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  • 7.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-18-2021 11:27 PM
    Great topic you have raised Deborah. This has been a hot button topic for the past year or so, and has gained more traction recently. I was in the camp that our young children wearing masks had to be causing some sort of development issues. It just seemed to make sense that they would suffer from not being able to see what the teachers are saying, nor be able to see the facial expressions of their teachers and peers. I didn't have enough experience or education to weigh in on that very deep, but there is a new study out now from Brown University regarding how masks are harming the intellectual and language development of our children during the pandemic. The report found that "there was a 23 per cent drop in scores measuring kids' intelligence quotients since the start of the pandemic". The study also found "similar dips in the same span in regards to developing children's ability to communicate, both verbally and through subtle facial cues". Just curious if anyone else has seen this report and what your thoughts are. Thanks.

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    Vince Halcomb
    Substitute
    Washington County Head Start
    Funkstown MD
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  • 8.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-20-2021 09:13 AM
    Vince: Thank you for directing us to the Brown study.  I'll look it up.

    I wonder if the topic is more complex than just mask-wearing. Could a drop in scores measuring intelligence and cognitive development, and perhaps even language development, also be connected to the stress due to the pandemic itself?  We already know that stress has a tremendous impact on development and that children are affected by the stress levels in the adults around them.  The past two years have been enormously stressful for most, due to many factors related to the pandemic as well as heightened awareness. of and depictions of racial violence and climate disasters. If it affects adults then it also affects the children we care for.

    I don't doubt the study, which I haven't had a chance to read yet, but wonder if more factors may be in play than just masks.  Children spend a lot of time in child care settings, and also a lot of time in home settings where they and the adults who care for them aren't wearing masks. I also see that 3-5 year olds have become very good at "reading" the emotions and meaning in voices, non-verbal communication, and eye-gaze.  It's interesting to think about and observe.  And of course I so wish that we didn't have to.

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    Aren Stone
    she/her/hers
    Child Development Specialist
    The Early Years Project
    Cambridge, MA
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  • 9.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-20-2021 09:22 AM
    Vince, very interesting. I will try and read the study. I will say that in our pre-k rooms, we aren't seeing anything like a 23% drop in cognitive or language development. In fact, the only children in speech therapy this year, were already in speech therapy early in the pandemic, so that was a developmental delay that was happening anyway. We have been open all but 6 weeks through the pandemic and our staff have masked the entire time. We've found that children can tell our responses from our eyes and upper cheeks just fine, especially if our response is accompanied by a laugh, a hug, thumbs up, or any other positive response. They are filling in the blanks, just like our minds do, by using the other cues available to them. As some of the others mentioned, our teachers will pull their mask down from a distance to clearly enunciate a word or letter when they feel it's necessary. I would think to that if others have concerns about masking and teaching alphabet sounds, that perhaps technology could help. Maybe find an appropriate video or even record yourself pronouncing words and letters without a mask and then play it back for the kids? We've had to think outside of the box during this pandemic, but I think if we continue to do so, we can mitigate any potential problems that might come from masking and still keep all our kids and staff safe.

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    Amy Gottschamer
    Executive Director
    Googols of Learning Child Development Center
    Lawrence KS
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  • 10.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-20-2021 12:19 PM
    Vince, Do you have a link to share?

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    Deborah Erickson-Irons
    Owner, Business Manager
    Sweet Pea Childcare
    Eliot ME
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  • 11.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-20-2021 01:55 PM
    Deborah,

    Please see a link below that covers this Brown University study. Let me know your take on things based on this link. I will have to admit that comments from other posts have caused me to read the study under a new light. It does seem there could be multiple reasons for the decline in cognitive and language development and it's also is safe to say that this problem isn't necessarily affecting all kids (as Amy said previously). I still believe that it is definitely having some sort of impact in a general sense, even if it's a minor impact, but I look forward to seeing more people weigh in with their thoughts. I want to learn about this as much as possible, as it is as intriguing as it is concerning. Thanks.

    https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.08.10.21261846v1.full

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    Vince Halcomb
    Substitute
    Washington County Head Start
    Funkstown MD
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  • 12.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-20-2021 03:45 PM
    I applaud you for keeping your staff, the children in your care, and your community safe. If the concern is that children have trouble understanding and being understood, there are masks that are clear that help with seeing mouth movement. Pretty easy to find with a quick Google search. I found this article with some suggestions for examples. I agree with Amanada Anders' statement that if you changed policies based on individual preference, you would have to change policies daily. A straightforward conversation with parents about why the decision was made (the way the virus spreads, the rate of infection in your area, to protect immunocompromised individuals, etc.) and how long the policy will be in place (until rates are below a certain criteria, when herd immunity is reached, etc.). I'd also remind parents that this is a safety issue and children tend to follow the example their parents set. So it's important that they demonstrate calm, kindness, and respect. Best of luck to you.


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    Florina Ruvio
    Family Education Specialist
    Idaho Public Television
    Boise ID
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  • 13.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-21-2021 11:54 AM

    Thanks for all the perspectives on the masking/development issue. In addition to the parent concerns, the thread has been a good forum for us to share our professional concerns.

    The discussion has prompted me to wonder why aren't we looking at studies on children with visual impairment and blindness? What is their language development and cognition process? I realize the situations are not identical, but we may be missing out on resources and the opportunity to learn from those with relevant experiences.

    I appreciate Amy Gottschamer pointing out how many of us have amped up our facial expressions and body gestures, with good results. I wonder if this is also helping children who have difficulty "reading" subtle social cues. Is there perhaps more we can learn from ASL (American Sign Language,) which integrates pronounced gesture and facial expression into the language itself?



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    Karen Lefkovitz
    Independent Consultant
    Philadelphia PA
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  • 14.  RE: Parent concerns about masking and child development

    Posted 12-21-2021 12:08 PM
    Karen, I have read that visually impaired children develop language at the same rate as others who are not visually impaired. I'm sorry that I didn't keep the article and therefore can't site it. However, the article didn't address social and empathic skills. Deb

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    Deborah Erickson-Irons
    Owner, Business Manager
    Sweet Pea Childcare
    Eliot ME
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