The title of this post is a German saying that I love. I live in Canada — it’s cold and 6 months of winter is not unheard of. Proper winter gear can make the difference between creating positive memories and outdoor experiences, or ensuring a child remembers Winter as miserable, cold, and wet.
My gang regularly spends over an hour outside every day in the Winter (sometimes broken up into two sessions), so I wanted to share what styles of winter clothing have worked best and will help your child make the most of their outdoor time this Winter.
Let’s start with the basics. You want a coat that zips up with a heavy-duty, coated zipper, preferably with a “zipper garage” so it doesn’t rub on a child’s chin or neck. You want adjustable wrist bands so that children can put gloves on (or adjust them) without having to remove their coats, and to prevent snow from creeping up their sleeves. Coats need to reach half-way down the bum, or longer.
As for fabric, this is definitely personal preference, but keep in mind that a fleece coat (even just fleece lined) will absorb moisture and stay wet longer. A down coat (puffy jacket) with a water-proof exterior is great for most children, except those with allergies. If you must buy used, try to buy a down coat from someone you know — third-hand smoke in the down could be dangerous to your child’s health. (Also, if used, make sure it is not so worn in that the insulation is completely broken down.)
A hood can also be great, for an extra piece of warmth around the head, but some schools have banned these as safety risks — as long as they have velcro enclosures and can be removed by a zipper, I see no issues… other than another child possibly storing snow inside of it.
Many of the same principles apply to snow pants as to coats — please don’t sacrifice warmth for ease of movement. Snow pants are essential winter wear.
I know that children have an easier time with snow pants without the “bib” or overalls, but these are almost guaranteed to leave your child’s back exposed — if your child is not old enough to figure out the bib/overall style of snow pants, chances are that they are not going to tuck in a longer shirt and will end up exposing their lower back to the freezing temperatures at one point or another.
Mitts and Gloves
Waterproof. Fleece or wool gloves are soaked within minutes. And while those mitts on strings SOUND like a good idea, they are only useful if they are, ahem, waterproof — otherwise, children are stuck wearing wet mitts, as they can’t easily change them out for a dry pair without taking off their coat or pulling a wet mitt through their sleeves.
Kids can still pull off the stringed mitts — a better bet is gloves with snap-hooks on the edge that can attach (and detach) from their coat, if the child is young enough that natural consequences would be inappropriate.
Also, mitts with no finger separators are fine. Children can grip through the mitt. Finger gloves for children who can’t spread out their fingers can take several minutes, and when you’ve got six (or thirty!) bodies overheating and waiting to go outside, spending three minutes helping each child get their fingers into their individual spots is just unnecessary (plus so many children at this age have weak fine motor muscles so they cannot do much with the fingers separated like this).
These need to be semi-snug and reach past your child’s ears. Until they are willing to keep their hats on, a tie-style is preferable (velcro is just too easy to whip off).
We sometimes use headbands, but with children, heat escapes from the head so this style is not ideal and can be tricky to keep in the right place.
Neck warmers and Scarfs
Neck warmers can be tricky to find, but if you find one, snatch it up. Scarfs are fine if your child is at home and you are the one dressing and watching them — but they require adult help (not something all teachers can do), and can be dangerous in school settings. Scarfs are also more bulky and can interfere with zipping the coat all of the way up.
These need to come a couple of inches above the heel, at a minimum. Short boots or shoes almost guarantee snow in footwear, and are often not made for subzero temperatures.
For little ones, I love these Stonz booties that can be layered with slippers, shoes, or boots.
For bigger children, try to buy one size up from their current shoe size to ensure that warm socks can be worn with the boots. Adjusters, like velcro, are great for allowing children to put boots on easily, and then tighten the boots themselves.
The Rest of It
Just because children are wearing “outdoor gear” doesn’t mean that they can go out half-naked underneath (despite how much my daughter might try to convince me otherwise…)
Warm socks, sweaters, pants or leggings, and other winter-appropriate gear are essential. It’s not just about the scheduled outdoor time (although, layers help!) — if I have a fire, I am not going to stop and put six kids into snow gear. They are going out as-is.
Also, if something goes wonky with their boot or coat, it may need to be removed to fix — a child who has a tank top on is not going to appreciate a broken zipper, or trying to remove snow that has somehow entered their coat.
I hope you found these tips on what to look for in winter gear helpful, and if you’re looking for tips on how to make getting ready for outside easier, we’ve got you covered.
What are your best cold winter tips?