Peter Limbrick writes: Having worked with many babies and infants and been able to watch them intently watching me, I have no doubt that masks are an impediment
Here are two views:
Face Masks: What Happens When Baby Can’t See Faces?
Face masks, whatever you think of them, are a fact of life, thanks to the coronavirus epidemic. Aside from turning a trip to the grocery store into something more nearly resembling a horror movie, what does it mean for our children to be surrounded by people in face masks? Some experts say that not being able to see facial expressions may slow baby’s speech and social development, so it’s important that at least at home, where masks are unnecessary, parents spend more time reading to and talking with baby. Other experts are not so concerned, since babies are most often in situations where the adults who care for them are not wearing masks.
Infants and toddlers watch our faces for important clues about language and social situations. That is why it is so important that they can see our faces without anything getting in the way, for instance, a face mask that covers mouth and nose. But what happens when babies can’t see half our faces—our mouths, cheeks, and noses—in everyday situations?
Erin Vollmer of TherapyWorks says that babies learn through watching and modeling—they copy what the adults around them do. When they can’t see our faces, it’s hard for babies to learn. “Focusing on facial expressions and facial movement is highly important when developing mirror neurons and ultimately speech and language skills. That’s why it is important that an infant see the face of their communicative partner when developing early speech sounds,” says Vollmer....
Do Masks Delay Speech and Language Development?
During a child's first few years of life, they are rapidly developing communication skills. Whether by smiling, cooing and babbling, pointing and gesturing, or saying their first words, children express themselves from birth. But a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic and no solid end in sight, some families wonder whether continuous use of face masks by daycare providers, preschool teachers, and other adults may negatively affect their child's speech and language development.
While this is a natural concern, there is no known evidence that use of face masks interferes with speech and language development or social communication. Plus, children can still get plenty of face time at home with mask-free family members...
And consider this: visually impaired children develop speech and language skills at the same rate as their peers. In fact, when one sense is taken away, the others may be heightened. Young children will use other clues provided to them to understand and learn language. They will watch gestures, hear changes in tone of voice, see eyes convey emotions, and listen to words...