Parents have been blindsided by the news that face masks will be compulsory for some secondary school pupils, after the UK government made a dramatic U-turn on Tuesday night.
DISCOVER: Fun face masks for kids - shop the best styles
Wearing face coverings in school corridors and common areas in local lockdown areas of England will be mandatory following guidance from the World Health Organization.
Luckily we've got you covered with our ultimate guide to the best face masks for children to wear when they go back to school next week!
However, many parents will be left questioning how to get their kids to wear masks, what kind they should be buying and how to wash them safely.
HELLO! turned to Antony Arulanandam, Microbiologist and Founder of MasksRUs.uk, for expert advice. Here he answers five of the most common questions about children's face masks…
Discover top tips to help kids wear masks
How can parents help make children over the age of 11 feel more comfortable and confident wearing a mask?
"The pandemic has been a confusing and stressful time for many children and the idea of wearing a mask may upset some early on. Some of their apprehension is likely to be around what their friends are doing.
"You could make calls to their friends’ parents to find out what colours or designs they are wearing so one child doesn’t feel out of place.
"Once they see their friends are wearing masks too, and they can see it is commonplace, the experience will likely feel a lot less stressful.
"Carefully explaining why people are wearing masks and their benefits will ease some of their worries too. You can even compare them to wearing a pair of glasses — they will quickly adjust to them."
SEE MORE: GMB's Dr Hilary weighs in on children wearing face masks
What features should parents look out for when buying a child's face mask?
"They must be a good fit and made of the right materials. Good face masks will be constructed of at least two layers, and will never be 100% cotton as it is too widely woven to create an effective barrier.
"The optimum design is for an outer layer made of a tightly woven polyester, mixed with a little elastane, Lycra or Spandex, which will give some movement but provide effective protection against airborne particles.
"The inner layer should be a blended cotton mixed with the same elasticated fibres for comfort."
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What is the best fit for a child's mask — and how can I find the best size when ordering one online?
"Finding a correctly fitting mask is crucial as one size does not fit all. It’s very important that the mask is comfortable to wear and fits snugly. When a mask fits poorly, people are far more likely to take it off when speaking to others or after longer periods.
"We recommend using measuring tape to measure their face, from their nose to chin and across their face from ear to ear, and then comparing with mask size charts to work out the correct one to buy."
Children in some parts of the UK will have to wear face masks
How many masks will children need each day once they return to school?
"Pack at least two, in case one gets lost or dropped on the floor, or if one is used for an extended amount of time."
MUST HAVES: M&S's face masks for children and adults are back in stock
What is the best way to wash a child's mask?
"For the best protection, wash the mask for five minutes in a bowl of boiling water, as normal washing machine temperatures will not kill the virus, before leaving it to dry. Also, washing a mask in a washing machine has the potential to infect the rest of the wash.
"Do not spray chemicals on the mask to clean them, including sanitising liquids or alcohol, as they can cause damage to the lungs if inhaled."
Not sure where to start? We love these M&S masks for kids. They've expanded the range of face coverings for adults and kids in a variety of colours and prints – and at £9.50 for a pack of five, they're great value for money.
5 pack adjustable and reusable kids' face masks, £9.50, Marks & Spencer
Made with soft, lightweight cotton so your littles are covered comfortably, you can also shop Gap's three-pack of masks in a number of patterns and prints.
Kids unisex face mask three-pack, £12.95, Gap
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