New backpack? Check. Number two pencils, composition books, and scientific calculator? Got it. Supply of face masks because the delta variant has brought back mask mandates and parents are terrified? Oops.

It seems like just weeks ago that we were tossing our masks and running free and vaccinated in the streets. (Because it was, literally, last week.) But mask mandates are back in many states and the CDC “recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.”

Whatever your current situation, you probably need to add masks to your back-to-school shopping list because, as the delta variant surges, school districts are rapidly updating their policies.

When it comes to masking up kids, says Michael Sinensky, CEO of PPE company WeShield, “washable cloth masks are the way to go.” They are softer on kids’ delicate skin than disposables, more fashionable, and you don’t have to keep restocking them.

But, if you want to ensure kids’ safety in what might be a scary environment, with kids being mostly unvaccinated, says Sinensky, “you should purchase a kid’s version of a KN95.” Unfortunately, though not surprisingly this far into a global pandemic, there is a lot of counterfeiting going on when it comes to these medical-grade masks. So be careful to buy directly from a reputable manufacturer or buy a mask with an authentication system in place such as those implemented by 3M or Aegle.

If your child has glasses and hates the fogged lenses that come with wearing a mask, Sinensky suggests a simple hack to prevent that. “Layer a clean tissue inside the mask where the nose wire is,” he says. “This will act as an absorbent layer for breath moisture. It’s important though that the tissue is changed often for good hygiene.”

Another trick is to spray the glasses with an anti-fog spray, such as Fog Gone, which is often used for swimming goggles, too. Just spray the glasses and wipe with a soft cloth and it will keep you fog-free all day.

I went shopping and asked readers what their favorite masks were to track down the top masks for kids going back to school to make this easy for you. If it’s time to update your kids’ mask collection, here are seven terrific options.

Kids love Happy Masks

“My kids are huge fans of Happy Masks,” Alana Stahl Wodniki told us on Facebook. These masks were created by a Taiwanese scientist and have an unusual “parrot beak” shape that allows kids to talk and laugh while wearing them. They are also made with a powerful nanofiber membrane that keeps kids safe while they do it. They come in a wide range of cute colors and patterns for $24 each.

These INEX GEAR masks with an embedded nanofiber filter

“Both my kids and I love these masks from INEX GEAR,” says Elissa Love Goodkin. “They wash and wear very well.” These soft masks are designed to fit kids’ faces, have a soft cotton exterior, and have a nanofiber filter built into the entire face portion of the mask to block airborne contaminants without having to change out filters. The inner liner — the part the touches your child’s face — is an antimicrobial, soft-on-skin polyester. These masks have a moldable nose bridge, come in three sizes, and have adjustable ear elastics. Choose from several muted, wearable colors for $22.95 each.

Halo Life Mask


HALOmasks are made in Bali by an entrepreneurial company that started ramping up mask production when Mt. Agung erupted in 2017 and doused Bali in toxic silica ash. And the company has found a new purpose since the start of the pandemic. These masks are made from a super-breathable poly-blend outer material and a soft, moisture-wicking Bamboo lining. They come with a replaceable HALO nanofilter for extra protection and are available in four sizes – with adjustable earloops – for a perfect fit. There are lots of colors and patterns available at HALOLIFE (for $25 to $29) and Amazon.

Masks from The Gap are fun and fashionable

You can pick up a fashionable collection of masks in the same place you get your school uniform if you just want something cotton to offer some protection and satisfy the mask mandates. The Gap sells three packs of cute, polyester and spandex masks, for $15 to $18. Some even have a contour shape, adjustable ear strap, and pocket for a filter, at this price. They have so many cute patterns and colors there is sure to be something that will get your kids on board for wearing a mask.

Old Navy’s masks are still cute and even cheaper

The kid’s face masks at Old Navy are even cheaper than the ones at The Gap and they come in a wide range of super cute patterns that let kids play dress-up while they mask up. A three-pack of triple-layer critter face masks that put a bear, cat, pig, shark, or another animal face on your kids are just $9.50 and they come with a laundry bag.

Athleta masks for your sporty spice

Athleta makes everything from neck gaiters to five packs of non-medical masks that look as sporty and wear as comfy as all of Athleta’s sportswear for women and girls. They are lightweight, made from a breathable performance fabric, and designed to fit your daughter’s face with a contour shape and adjustable ear tabs. There are lots of colors to choose from and a two-pack is just $14.99.

A clear mask for speeches and language classes

Sometimes, the teacher or the rest of the class needs to see your child’s face. If you don’t want to risk infection for these instances, throw a clear mask into your cart so your child is prepared to mask up differently for speeches. This six-pack of clear masks ($11.99) is designed to fit kids’ faces and has a fun planets-and-stars border at the top. It offers full-face protection for kids six to 12 years old. These are also great for younger children who won’t wear a mask, those with sensory issues, for speech therapy. or for kids who complain they can’t breathe in a standard mask.