Masks are blocking more than just germs, and it could cause delayed development in children

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – As daycare centers and schools prepare to reopen, many are enforcing staff to wear masks.
But some pediatricians say, covering faces can hinder learning progress.

Facial expressions are important. They can show whether you’re happy, sad, angry or confused.

And now, they’re hidden behind masks. The CDC has strongly recommended wearing masks, but facial expressions and mouth movement play an important role when it comes to childhood development.

“When an adult’s mouth is covered up, or most of their face is covered, it may be more challenging for an infant or young child to appreciate what the adult is trying to demonstrate,” said Mayo Clinic Health System Consultant Pediatrician, Charles Peters.

Right off the bat, infants learn that eyes are above the nose, and the nose is above the mouth… Eventually they recognize the features as a whole and associate them with familiar faces, like their parents or care givers. And as babies grow to be 4-to-8 months they shift their focus to primarily the mouth. And between 6-to-9 months, they begin to understand the meaning of familiar words.

“We realize that particularly in say, daycare settings, or places where they may be spending time the home, they may be encountering an adult who is wearing a mask,” said Peters.

Peters said, at home this should be not problem, because parents can go without wearing a mask, which would expose the child to facial expressions and their mouth to watch.

But when it comes to daycare and schools.

“There are some things that obviously that are part of our new normal, if you will, that we need to be mindful of in terms of how that affects children,” said Peters.

That leads to the thought of integrating masks with a clear panel that exposes the mouth, so children aren’t missing out on those important developmental formations. Peters said, even if facial coverings that do not show facial expressions become the norm at schools, parents should still speak, read, sing and play face to face with their children to develop those skills.