Displays Adult surgical mask with thread, scissors, pattern, and altered kids mask

How to Make a Surgical Mask Fit Your Child (Free Pattern)

Have you ever tried to adjust an adult surgical mask smaller so it will fit better on a child? Or maybe you are a size petite and none of the standard surgical fits you. After all, surgical mask materials are still superior compared to any type of cloth mask you can make for blocking out virus particles.

According to one study[1], cloth masks only filter out about 3% of virus particles compared to surgical masks (53%) and N-95 respirator (99.9%).

Now that surgical masks are more readily available in the United States (Costco, Walgreens, CVS, etc) I often find myself trying to adjust the surgical mask smaller to fit my toddler. There are online tutorials that show you how to fold and tie the mask. However, I never seem to get good results with this method. Somehow at the end of the day (in 15-20 minutes) there are always huge gaps on the side of his face because…well he’s an active toddler and moves around so much!

Shows toddler wearing ill fitted adult surgical mask. Red arrows point to side of mask in front of ear loop with text "gaping holes"

How do you Make a Surgical Face Mask for Kids?

Finally one day I decided to do something about these ill-fitted face masks, and today I will show you how to adjust the adult mask smaller to become a MUCH better fitting toddler mask. The process consists of 5 easy steps:

  1. Cut the mask apart at the sides (so you can unfold the pleats), and cut off the ear loops.
  2. Cut off the top of the mask where the nose piece is
  3. Unfold the pleats. Fold mask in half lengthwise and trace Child Size Mask Pattern
  4. Sew midline of Child mask. Then sew ear loops on.
  5. Sew nose bridge wire on

I also found that my toddler tends to keep his mask on longer when it fit better. I don’t think he liked the excess mask material that stuck out when the adult mask was folded and tied at the sides. This is a double plus because believe me it’s HARD to keep a mask on a toddler! Need tips to help a child keep their face mask on? Here are some ideas.

What are the Size and Measurement of the Child Face Mask?

There are two patterns for the Child Face Mask, available in my free resource library. Sizing and measurement as as follows:

  • Toddler Face Mask (Ages 2-5)
    • Measures ~ 4.5″ x 6″ (11.4cm  x 15.2 cm)
  • Child Face Mask (Ages 5-12 years, and petite adults)
    • Measures ~ 5″ x 7″ (13cm x 12.7cm)
Image shows adult surgical mask, scissors, face mask pattern, a spool of white thread, and 6 finished toddler sized surgical mask

Need More Face Mask Pattern and Tutorials? Check out the following:

Want to sew a reusable cloth mask instead? check out FACE MASK PATTERN FOR ADULT AND CHILDREN.
Don’t Sew? Check out DIY No Sew Face Mask from a T-shirt |Free Pattern for Adults and Kids



How to Cut and Sew Face Mask:

Take a surgical mask and cut off the sides, earloops, and nose bridge on top.

Open up the mask pleats and fold in half lengthwise. Pin Kid’s Face Mask Pattern, matching at fold and cut out pattern.

Shows toddler surgical mask pinned at the midline with red dotted lines showing where to sew at the midline

Remove pattern, pin mask while keeping it folded and stitch at 1/4″ (0.6cm) from folded edge (red dotted line)

How to Sew Ear Loops:

Shows hand holding pen marking ear loops with ruler to determine where to sew ear loops onto surgical mask

Mark in about 1/4″ (0.6cm) from edge of elastic loops. Generally you want your ear loops to be about 5.5″ (14cm) after they have been sewn in.

Shows side of toddler surgical mask with ear loops pinned in

Pin earloops to top and bottom sides of facemask at the marked lines.

Shows side of toddler sized surgical mask with ear loops attached and borders zig zagged stitched

Stitch all around toddler mask with zig zag stitch.

How to Sew Nose Piece:

Cut off 1/2″ (1.2 cm) from sides of nose piece, then fold the sides in so that the fold is at the edge of the wire. Match center of nose wire with center of mask and pin onto inside of mask.

Shows how to sew nose wire piece to toddler size surgical mask

Stitch nose piece to mask with straight stitch, about 1/8″ (3mm) from edge of nose piece. Note: it’s much easier to stitch with inside of mask facing up so you can see where edges of nose piece is.

Finished front and back view of toddler sized face mask.

Toddler wearing his new fitted surgical face mask

Yay! A much better fitted toddler face mask. No more gaping holes on the side.

Help! My Child won’t Keep their Mask on!

Don’t worry, mine didn’t either. However, using some of the following tactics have greatly helped his mask compliance. It takes time, but hey! the adults needed time getting used to wearing masks too. Keep at it and you will see improvement!

1. Explain and Keep it Simple:

Explain what is going on in the world today about the benefits for (and others) that they wear a mask. Even for young toddlers who may not fully understand, just use simple words. We always tell our toddler “There are many people sick outside, so we need to wear a mask.” It’s been so ingrained in him that when we go out he automatically says “need wear mask!”.

2. Lead by example

Kids love copying what adults do. Use this to your advantage when going out. Show and tell them “Look! Mommy is going to put on a mask. Let’s put a mask on you too so you can be just like mommy.” I’ve also pointed out to my toddler all the other adults and kids who are also wearing masks. This makes him not want to feel left out because he wasn’t wearing one.

3. Take a selfie

My toddler always enjoys looking at himself, so we’ve put on a mask together in the car, taken a selfie so he gets to see what he looks like in a mask. Seeing himself in a mask reminds him that he looks like everyone else who is also wearing a mask.

4. Put a mask on a Lovey

For kids who have a lovey or stuffed toy they love, allowing the child to put a mask on their favorite toy may help them be more compliant about wearing one. You can also practice this at home by playing a pretend “go out” game. Tell your child that “we are all going out now! What do we have to do?” Let your child put masks on all his/her furry friends and let him put one on as well. Then let all the furry friends and the child march out to the pretend store or library or museum.

5. Practice! Practice! Practice!

For our toddler, this technique worked the best. First we had him wear the mask at home while we also wore masks. Next, we had him practice over video chat with his grandparents where they also wore masks. Finally, we took him to the store with both parents to see how long he would keep his mask on. As soon as he ripped off the mask and refused to put it back on, one parent would escort him outside. The first time we did this he kept it on for less than 10 minutes. However, as we did this more frequently he was able to keep it on longer and longer. Practice does make perfect!

6. Keep him Distracted

I noticed that if my toddler was occupied with a toy or looking at other kids outside he would forget he was wearing a mask. As a result, he was able to keep one on for a long time! This tactic may not always work as you may not always have something to entertain him/her. However, we kept a few “grocery store only toys” that stayed in the car and he could only play when we went out. Since we weren’t going out very often, these toys were almost like a novelty every time he got to play with them. Definitely helped him forget about his mask!

I hope these tips were helpful. Let me know in the comments below if you have other tips for helping a child keep their mask on, and also how your child likes their new fitted surgical mask 🙂

Grab it here: Child and Toddler Face Mask Pattern (available in my free resource library)

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