Getting outdoors when it’s cold and snowy, or rainy and windy, is not easy. But staying indoors all winter is not an option, we would go stir crazy. Plus, playing in the snow and rain is tons of fun! So how can we help our kids, and ourselves, get over the initial hurdle of getting out the door. I’ve discovered that if my kids are dressed correctly for winter play they last longer outside, there’s less complaining and we can all enjoy ourselves more. And, I’ve discovered a few tricks that will help keep kiddos warm, and the play going all day, once you get out there.
The key to dressing kids for winter is simple - layering. Below I’ll go through an easy 5 part system you can use to make sure kids are comfortable playing outside in the stormiest weather.
1st - Base Layer
When dressing your child for winter play, a good base layer is essential. Merino wool base layers are perfect for all conditions. They are super soft, warm, breathable, odor-resistant, hypoallergenic and machine washable. Cotton as a base layer isn’t ideal because it can get wet, cold and heavy. Fleece and polyester layers will keep them warm, but they don’t breathe well. Kids often play hard, overheat and sweat. When they slow down, the moisture makes the poly layers wet, which leads to cold kids and shorter play sessions.
2nd - Mid Layer
Next comes the mid layer. This layer is optional based on the temperature, expected activity and how long you’ll be outside. Seek out mid-weight wool or fleece since these materials insulate well. For the shirt, a classic half-zip pullover is a great option since it can be unzipped easily if your kiddo starts to overheat. I also like a hoodie for the mid layer since the hood can be pulled up over a hat on extra cold days. For pants, a jogger style pant with elastic at the ankles or a pant that tapers is ideal as there is less bulk to fold into boots. Of course, if it is really cold, you can always add more mid layers or bring an extra in the pack.
3rd - Outerwear
Which outerwear you choose will depend on the weather, is it cold and clear or warmer and wet? The best outerwear has a light lining and a waterproof exterior as this gives you the most options. The level of insulation can be varied using different weights of mid layers. For example, on a very cold day, I can add an extra jacket underneath while on a warmer day, we can go with a lightweight mid layer or no mid layer.
Essential features on outerwear include:
- elastics or velcro around the wrists and ankles
- zipper fronts with a fabric flap, to keep out snow and rain.
A full body suit is great, just zip up once and go. I prefer these for toddlers and little kids. In my experience, the full body suit allows kids to really engage with their environment (hello mud kitchen!). However, the full body set-up can make potty breaks or diaper changes a hassle. If you go with a jacket and pants, I recommend bib pants for the most protection and a hooded jacket.
4th - Hats, Gloves and Gaiters
For heads, I recommend wool for greatest warmth & wicking features. Make sure the hats cover their ears but stay out of their eyes. Neck gaiters are essential and lightweight wool is the best option here. These can be pulled up over little noses on extra cold days. For hands, I recommend mittens as they keep hands warm better than gloves. There are some great mitten options for rainy days too. Wet hands are a bummer and can make kiddos cold quick.
5th - Socks and Boots
Don’t forget about those feet! Wool socks are a must and keep kids feet warm even when they get wet. I recommend insulated rain boots for Southeast Alaskan winters since the temperatures are generally between 20-40 F. In colder climates, get your kid some insulated snow boots with elastic at the top and velcro for ankle support.
Here are some tips from the Wildhaven Wools Community to keeping kids warm outside and playing longer:
- Always have a spare pair of socks. Same goes for mittens and hats. The extra pair has saved the day countless times!
- Bring a thermos full of hot cocoa or tea. A warm drink makes all the difference. It will warm your core and lift your spirits.
- If you start to get cold, move! Keep the blood pumping to stay warm all day.
- Make sure to pack water and lots of snacks. Encourage kids to eat small amounts frequently and drink water. When it is cold, we don’t get thirsty as easily as on a hot day, but we are still moving and need to stay hydrated to feel our best.
- Keep a hand warmer in your pocket for a quick warm up and always have a couple in your pack for emergencies. If you aren’t moving much and start to get cold, place a hand warmer between the mid and outer layer at the base of your neck. The heat from the hand warmer at the top of the spine really helps to warm up your core.