Best Masks for Kids
The 1+10 Cartoon Mouth Cover kids' mask is a cute, washable mask with a filter pocket and ten carbon-activated filters included. This mask comes in a variety of adorable fabrics and consists of a valve on the front to help keep the heat down and increase the flow of air. This mask includes all the form-fitting features to attain a customizable fit, so the mask doesn't ride up, slip down, or gap at the bottom or top. Testers liked the fit and felt it moved well when talking and heavy breathing during play, which resulted in less mask fiddling and removal in our tests. With two cotton layers on the mask and five layers in the filter, this makes totals seven layers of protection.
This mask is on the smaller side, and while it fit our ten-year-old testers well, we suspect kids over 12 will find it too small even with the adjustable ear straps. Also, while it comes in a variety of patterns, all are somewhat childish and might be embarrassing for older kids anyway. This mask is an excellent option with quality features and a customizable fit that makes it an excellent choice for most kids under ten years old.
The adorable Maikoa Cartoon bears kids' mask appeals to most younger testers who were drawn to the cute design, bright colors, and smaller fit. This cute mask has multiple layers, a filter pocket, and comes with one activated carbon filter. We like the chin shelf, adjustable ear straps, and the moldable nose piece that provides a snug, safer fit without air gaps. It was one of the favored masks during testing with more than one tester remarking how comfy it is to wear.
This mask is kind of thick, and it has no valve, which can make it warm to wear continuously with no breaks. We worry little ones might pull the mask down if it gets too hot or hard to breath in while playing. It is also a smaller mask, and while it fit our ten-year-old tester, we don't think it will fit all kids that age and recommend it for those under 10. Overall, it is a cute, higher-quality mask with no flaws and a coveted pocket for a filter, with a budget-friendly price.
The Protection Respirators for Children mask is a multi-layered mask with a filter pocket, activated-carbon filter, and a face valve. This mask has form-fitting features including chin shelf, moldable nose clip, and adjustable ear straps, which help provide a customized fit for most children. Our testers liked the feel of the fabric and that the masks didn't ride up or down when talking or moving their faces.
These kids' masks feel thicker. This thickness potentially offers more protection, but it can get hot, which could result in mask fiddling. Also, they are on the smaller side, and no amount of adjustment will make them suitable for larger faces or older kids. However, if your child is ten or under and you're looking for a form-fitting mask with filter and valve, this mask should be on your shortlist of contenders.
The Meltblown Non-Woven Cloth Masks is a two mask pack with twenty disposable, carbo-activated filers. The cotton masks include a filter pocket for non-woven materials that block more than woven fabrics. With a five-layer filter and two layers of cloth, this mask boasts an impressive seven layers of protection, which recent tests show provides advanced protection against airborne droplets. We like the soft feeling fabric of this mask, and the breathing valve on the from that helps heat escape after filtration. This mask has form-fitting features like a nose clip, adjustable ar straps, and a chin shelf, making it customizable for fit with few if any air gaps.
These masks are on the bigger side but are a possible contender for older children (12+) or those with wider faces. Even if the mask is on the larger side, it is still possible to get a great fit using the adjustable features. The nose clip will prevent riding up into the eyes, and the chin shelf prevents bottom gapping. Overall, we really like these masks, and our testers did too; checking all the boxes of the holy grail of masks, it is hard to go wrong with these masks if your child is big enough.
If your little one hates wearing a mask, you could try something like the Genovega Neck Gaiter. This gaiter style mask is a tube of stretchy fabric that wraps around the face and head. This particular gaiter is form-fitting and preventing most air gaps from forming even when talking or running. This mask has a filter pocket over the mouth area and is machine washable. The fabric is moisture-wicking and stays cool in the hot summer sun, which means better compliance when wearing. We like that it comes in a two-pack, so you have one to wear while the other is washing or you have one for a friend or sibling.
Some testers didn't care for the head wrapped, claustrophobic feeling of this style. Others liked the style, but not the material of this specific gaiter as it felt "strange" (perhaps a result of being polyester). This mask style isn't for everyone, but for some testers, it was a favorite, and no other would do. If your little one messes with their traditional mask or struggles with the ear straps they usually have, we think a gaiter mask is worth a try, and the filter on this option makes it a unique standout in the gaiter market.
The plain Easy @ Home Reusable Cloth Mask might be dull to look at, but it is better quality than some of the competition and well-constructed. It has a moldable nose piece, a chin shelf, and adjustable ear straps, which come together to create a snug-fitting mask with no gaps. This mask is larger than some of the competition, making it an excellent option for older kids or kids who don't want something cutesy on their faces. It is comfortable, has a filter pocket that is easy to access and comes in a pack of two, so you can wash one while you use one.
These masks are larger than much of the competition here but are still small enough for most kids and teens. They are not an adult size but could be too big for little ones younger than seven as the mask might ride up and into their eyes. It is also sort of boring compared tot eh competitors, but this could be a good thing if your child is too "cool" for kid-centric designs. Overall, this mask has a lot going for it, but testers weren't impressed by the boring design. Parents, on the other hand, loved the form-fitting features and the filter pocket for added layers of protection.
If you want a straightforward reusable mask with a hint of cute, the Grifil Reusable with Filter Pocket is a good bet. This soft cotton mask is washable, reusable, and has a small filter pocket for carbon-activated filters. This mask fits younger users well, not shifting when talking or running; it managed very few gaps even without the form-fitting features we prefer.
This mask is only two thin layers without the filter, so we recommend always using a filter, which means a reoccurring cost. However, buying filters is cheaper than buying more masks. While the jury may be out on filter efficacy, it does provide additional layers that have been proven to be more effective. Overall, kids liked this mask for the soft material and the cute kitty face. Parents like it for the filter pocket and relaxed wash-n-wear style.
If quirky humor is your thing, the CIKIShield Face Mask comes with a variety of fun face options that are sure to bring a smile to others' faces. With choices like mustache, bear face, or vampire teeth, most kids can find something to like in this ten pack of washable face masks. Testers thought the mask was soft on their faces, and the ear straps fit most testers well.
This mask lacks any adjustable or form-fitting features like nose clip, chin shelf, or adjustable straps. This means it could result in air gaps or a poor fit. Some testers also disliked the thicker cloth straps compared to the thin elastic straps on the competition. Also, they lack a filter pocket and may not offer as much protection as some of the competition. However, they are very thick, which could be hot but also provides more protection than single or double layer masks. Overall, we think these masks are fun and suitable for some occasions where social distancing is possible for extra protection. Still, they wouldn't be our top choice for close quarters or places where social distancing is unlikely to be inforced.
The WAVE Disposable Face Masks are basic disposable masks you typically find in hospitals or doctor offices. These masks offer three layers of protection, pleated design for some customization, a bendable nose clip, and latex-free elastic ear straps. The box of masks includes 50, making them an economical mask solution you can easily toss when the day is done.
These masks don't offer the best protection with fewer layers, no filter, and more significant air gaps. Also, the ear straps are somewhat long and will likely require knotting for a good fit for younger children. While we don't think these are the best long-term solution for kids to wear on a daily or regular basis, we do think they are good to have on hand to give to guests or friends who may show up for events sans mask. We feel these inexpensive masks are a non-confrontational way of enforcing a mandatory mask policy around your family and home without spending a lot of money or fighting with friends and family.
The Burlway Cotton Mask is a dual-layer cotton mask with plain styling and a generic design. These masks have fabric ear straps and soft face covering with extensive coverage over most of the lower part of the face.
These masks are not the best quality with pulled sticking out of the packaging and an unfinished ear strap that irritated testers. They also lack a filter pocket, and with only two layers of fabric, they don't offer the same level of protection as the competition in this review. They also lack any form-fitting features, which resulted in air gaps under the chin and by the nose. Overall, we think there are better masks to be had no matter what your goal, even if your goal is just comfort.
Why You Should Trust Us
BabyGearLab has been testing products for babies and kids for about 8 years. This team is led by Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz, mother of two who has been with the team since 2014. Wendy's boys contributed to testing by graciously wearing each mask for long periods during play, exercise, car rides, and more. They compared each product for comfort, fit, breathability, and movement when talking or being active. Their feedback helped influence ranking along with Wendy's expert analysis of mask construction, quality, durability, and potential longevity.
Analysis and Test Results
We purchased and tested each mask hands-on compared to the competition. We considered a variety of metrics designed to help parents find a mask their child will willingly wear without a fight.
Fit and Comfort
Fit can impact how effective the mask is at doing its job and whether or not your little one feels comfortable wearing the mask. Three primary things influence the fit and overall comfort of a kids' mask: 1) the ear straps, 2) a moldable nose piece, and 3) what we call a chin shelf. After much testing, we think some of the best masks offer moldable nose parts, a chin shelf, and adjustable ear straps. Some of these include the 1+10 Cartoon Mouth Cover and Maikoa Cartoon bears for younger kids, and the Meltblown Non-Woven Cloth Masks and Easy@Home for older kids (12+).
A moldable nose piece is a component incorporated into the mask, usually some kind of bendable wire, that allows the wearer to form the mask around their nose to prevent gaps that let in air and to provide a somewhat customizable fit. We think nose pieces are great at preventing masks from moving up on the face and into the eyes, a problem we saw with some of the larger masks. Fabric rubbing on the eyes is going to result in much mask fiddling and removal.
A chin shelf, a term we think we coined, is a component where extra fabric is sewn to the bottom of the mask that brings the mask closer to the face and fits under the chin in a more form-fitting way (see photo above). While not necessary, we found the masks that included a chin shelf were deemed more comfortable by our little testers. They also helped prevent gaps for air to get in and stopped some of the upward movement that can happen as kids talk, move, and play. We saw less continuous mask adjustment with the masks that included a chin shelf.
Adjustable ear straps help create a more custom fit that allows the mask to fit more faces than it would with a stationary ear strap. In our tests, users liked the adjustable straps because they were thinner, less noticeable, more comfortable, and allowed for the user to make the mask as tight or loose as desired. This feature also prevented the need for a mask with fabric that covers from ear to ear and instead only covers the area right around the mouth, which can be cooler and less claustrophobic to some kids. Masks with thicker, adjustable, cotton straps were not well received by testers and included those on the Burlway Cotton Masks and the CIKIShield Face Mask.
We recommend you seek out masks that include all three of these components, and consist of comfortable materials that feel good on the skin. While you can still find a great mask without these components, like the Grifil Reusable with Filter Pocket mask with the kitty face, that was well-liked by testers, it is more challenging without a lot of trial and error as our testing shows.
The exception to this rule is the "gaiter" style of mask, which is essentially a tube of fabric that rests around your neck and pulls up over the lower portion of the face going around the back of the head. Traditionally, gaiter style masks were for winter outdoor activities or riding motorcycles, but have seen a rise in popularity as the need for masks has risen. This style of mask is easy and comfortable for kids to wear and come in cooling fabrics that are breathable and comfortable. They can also adjust into a variety of head dressings, which is appealing to some kids. The advantages of the gaiter are fewer gaps for air leakage, they typically are more form-fitting, they fit a wider variety of face shapes and sizes, and some even offer SPF. The downsides are some kids will mess with them a lot. Some children also feel claustrophobic with something around their entire head, and depending on the fabric, they can be hot. All that aside, one of our testers still prefers a gaiter style mask over all of the competition, and the Genovega Neck Gaiter is the only one he didn't repeatedly touch while wearing.
Beyond the features relate to fit and comfort, we think there are a handful of other features to consider before making a purchase. Without getting into a discussion on the efficacy of masks or their level of protection, we do think it is a good idea to look for masks that include the ability to add a filter and potentially have a respirator component for easier breathing.
There are a variety of activated-carbon filters on the market that provide more protection against airborne particles than going sans filter. Whether or not they can protect you from specific viruses is still being tested. Nevertheless, we prefer masks with additional layers of filtration. Most of the masks in this review include a filter pocket, and many came with multiple disposable filters as part of the purchase. At this moment, studies indicate that multiple layers are better, filters are safer (even if only because they offer more layers), and a combination of the two with a good fit is best. Most filters are listed as "PM 2.5," which means it can trap Particulate Matter (PM) that is smaller than 2.5 micrometers. While these filters may not capture specific viruses, the filters are 3-5 layers, which recent studies show increases your protection from the moisture droplets that carry viruses. Some of the pockets were large and easy to use like that on the Easy@Home mask, while others were somewhat harder and took some finagling, like the tiny opening on the Grifil Reusable with Filter Pocket which is akin to a swimsuit top with a removable breast pad.
Several of the kids' masks in this review also come with a round, button style valve component on the front/side of the mask. This little doohickey is supposed to make it easier to breathe by allowing the release of the hot air we exhale. When placed over the filter media, it allows for the intake and exhale of filtered air. In our tests, kids couldn't tell the difference between the buildup of moist breath and heat inside a mask with or without a valve feature. Or at least they weren't able to articulate their experience with this feature. However, when adults used the masks, those with the valve did seem to provide easier breathing and prevent the buildup of hot moist air inside the mask. We liked every option with the valve, but older testers enjoyed the Meltblown Non-Woven Cloth Masks, while younger testers preferred the 1+10 Cartoon Mouth Cover and the Protection Respirators for Children.
Wearing a mask is now a part of daily life for many kids. Whether it is going to pick up groceries or a potential return to school, our tests show that kids prefer masks they can comfortably wear for long periods without disruption in their ability to breathe, talk, or play. Finding a great mask can be the difference between cooperative compliance and continued struggles of "put your mask back on." We hope our hands-on testing can help you find the right mask for your child and your budget.
— Wendy Schmitz