How to dress children for cold weather and how to gear up for next winter
First thing to do when planning to venture outside with the kids is to check the weather and wind chill, to have an correct idea of how to dress them accordingly. I still take the kids outside if it’s minus thirty to forty, but minus fifty, well that’s just crazy, even for me.
Next thing to think about is what the level of physical activity your children will be doing. Will they be sitting, running and climbing around or both? I like to gather all the layers and things I need in advance to be as efficient as possible while dressing them once I begin. And of course always make them go pee before you begin, no matter how much they say they don’t need to. Make sure their gear is at room temperature, cold boots from the porch won’t make for warm feet. Kids bodies themselves should also be warm before dressing. Layers are very important, the characteristics of the type of the fabric themselves keep children warm but also it’s the air between the layers that insulate their warmth. Have you ever seen the layers or foam in a cooler or thermos, it’s spongy for spaces of air to insulate, like house insulation. Therefore if you are planning a walk on a sled, you want to make sure you put a blanket or cushion under a child, since there is no air between their bum and the cold surface, the heat from their bodies will be conducted out without extra insulation.
A long-sleeved shirt and long johns, preferably polyester or mid weight thermal. All the experts say to stay away from cotton because it gets cold when wet, but if you have an infant or young toddler it’s fine because they usually aren’t working up a sweat outside. You know your child best, just use your own judgement with cotton. For a child who is very active outside I often skip the long johns unless its minus forty.
I’m a huge fan of WOOL , it’s by far the warmest ! Second best is fleece. I can’t even wear my wool sweater if I’m going to do a physical task like shovelling outside, for it is much too warm. Fleece pants are easy to come by and are on sale in the spring. Gearing up for winter can be expensive so thrift store shopping is a great place to find knitted wool sweaters grandmothers have painstakingly knitted that were never worn and given away. Look for wool socks or even pants while you are there too.
This is their jacket and snow pants. Buy from a reputable winter gear brand, no Wal-Mart specials. Snow suit are fantastic not only are they warmer than two pieces but easier for children to crawl into by themselves since it’s one piece and the zipper stays together at the bottom. Less effort earlier on your part. Also great for kids going into kindergarten who are going to have to dress themselves. When getting snow pants, get the bibbed ones . The jacket you buy should have a high collar and a hood, I buy two sizes bigger than the shirt they wear to allow for layers and they usually wear them for two years.I buy most of my kids gear at Mountain Equipment Co-op, I like it because it’s a one stop shop for every possible outdoor need, a quality product with a great warranty. They cater well to transitioning from infancy to child,youth and adult sizes, the store and online site is well organised and offers non-gender specific colours that are great for hand me downs for sibling and cousins. They also retain their value well and are often sold on kijiji. There are many other quality brands to choose from, this one just happens to be the one I’m familiar with.
Warm and dry, cold rated socks are a must, wool or wool blends are the best. I make sure each
child has two pairs per year, and use them just for outdoor venturing. A real winter boot
is essential, like a Sorrel, Baffin or Storm. I also buy two sizes too big to allow for socks
and growth. Even then many children still need a heat pack (hot shots) in their boot
for a long duration of time outside. Hot shots are available at best value by the box at
Costco in the fall but sell out before Christmas. Always remove insoles and dry them out
from after use, kids perspire a lot from their feet, moisture trapped in boots conducts
warmth out of very quickly.
Warm thick mitts, not gloves that goes 2-4 inch above the wrist. Depending on weather and
child, hot shots may be needed for a long duration of time outside. I put mitts on before
coat, that way the mitt length is tucked under the cuffs.
How I cover a child head really depend on the temperature and wind. The most useful hat is lined and ties under the chin. Some sort of dickie , turtle neck, gator anything covers the neck is very useful. Balaclavas and goggles are great for really windy days. A hood over the hat plus a scarf make sure there are no cracks for heat to escape and they are ready for the cold. The best scarves are of course wool. After your child comes in from outside, always immediately check their feet, hands and other part of the body’s temperature with your hand or cheek to see if they are too hot or too cold, this gives you lots information that will help you become intuitive about how to dress your child appropriately for different types of weather conditions.
If they are too hot and sweaty you know they can handle the temperature and may need to
lessen the layers a bit next time in similar circumstances. If they are cold you know
where and can think about a solution for next time.
Jasmine Nault is an educator and a mother who is living in Thomspson, Manitoba