Best Clothing for Winter Outdoor Play
Yes, we send our oldest to a Waldorf school. The appeal is that he gets to run around outside on a 30-acre property for much of the day. I just cannot, cannot imagine my boys sitting at a desk for long periods of time (but next year we’re switching to our neighborhood public school, so we’ll see how that goes!). At any rate, because he plays outside at school, even in single-digits temps, we know how to dress him for comfort in cold weather.
Keep reading for tips to dress kids for snow and cold temps…
If the projected high is in no warmer than the low 30s, I start with a base layer when I dress kids for snow and cold temps.
We’ve had a few pairs of long johns for the boys over the last couple years, but many of them shrunk way too quickly and didn’t hold up to multiple washings. This year we decided to just get the good stuff and purchased Patagonia Boys’ Capilene Bottoms. My sons wear size 3 and size 5 toddler boys’ pants, and the XS Capilene bottoms work fine on both of them. (My youngest is a very sturdy 3 year-old, while my oldest is long and lean.)(The bottoms are a little loose, but nothing terrible, and at $35 a pop, I’m wanting them to last another winter.)
I haven’t purchased any special winter tops for them, but we typically have a couple Carters/OskKosh waffle/thermal tops that I use.
Socks are a little tricky…too thick and the boys complain, too thin and I worry about cold feet. Their boots fit fine with normal socks, but I worry that thicker socks could be a comfort/space problem. These SmartWool hikers have served us well.
Up Next…a Mid Layer for Outside Play/an Outer Layer for Indoor Play
If it is projected to be in the low 30s and below, this is the next step to dress kids for snow and cold temps. If it is in the upper 30s, I’ll often skip the base layer and start here. (Although I always put a soft short-sleeved or long-sleeved tee on under the button-up flannels.)
I just choose a pair of sturdy, heavyweight pants. If a boy has on a the Capilene pants, I’ll choose a pair of baggier pants to put over them.
I love flannel plaid shirts over a waffle/thermal top. (Is this left over from the days of Nirvana or Angela / My So Called Life?!) I love the Carters and OshKosh tops, and they’ve held up really well over many, many washings. I always size up…my 4 year-old son (who is long and lean) is wearing size 5 and size 6.
If it’s really cold out, I’ll finish off with a fleece before I put on the actual outdoor gear. We have acquired several of them, and my favorite is a soft, heavier-weight Eddie Bauer fleece. (Or, if it’s not brutally cold, sometimes I’ll skip the button-up flannel and just go with the thermal top/fleece combo.)
We’ve purchased several winter coats from Carters or OshKosh outlets over the years. These coats were so stiff and hard, especially on a baby or young toddler, and I never loved them. (If I were to do it again, I would look for a used Patagonia number like this one or this one for a baby/young toddler.)
So when my mom sent a real down coat for my oldest to wear this winter, I was happy. It was so soft and pliable and seemed so comfortable, especially compared to past coats. But it didn’t last. Playing outside all day, climbing on trees, and playing in forts made out of Christmas trees created multiple tears in the surface of the coat, and feathers started to fall out. Even if we duct-taped one hole, a new hole appeared somewhere else. (Final take away: I think a down/puffy coat is great for younger, less active kiddos. But once they are running around and climbing on things…no more until they are older!)
The down coat was replaced with a Columbia brand Lightning Lift Jacket, and so far it’s held up really well. (He’s a 5T in tops, and we have an XXS.)
If there’s snow or if it’s super cold, we use Carters/OshKosh snow pants (like this pair of snow pants). So far we’ve never had any durability issues, and our oldest is tough on them! (Tip: be sure to cover up boots with the inner elastic band, especially if your child is in Bogs boots. This covers up the holes on the side of the boots that can let in moisture.)
Or Rain Pants
If it’s wet or damp out, but with little snow and not too cold, we dress our oldest in these rain pants. (They are also great for morning dew during warmer months.) We’ve owned these pants for over a year, and they’ve proven to be durable and reliable.
This wool balaclava is the very best. I love it. My oldest loves it. It keeps him warm. We’ve also had this for over a year, and it is one of the best outdoor purchases we’ve made for our son. Worth every penny. My son has a larger head, and is wearing the size 9-12 years.
We swear by SnowStoppers Kids Waterproof Stay On Winter Mittens.We’ve gone through several pairs and they aren’t cheap, but they are warm and the boys wear them without any fuss. We pull the “snowstopper” sleeve over the wrist area of their coat to prevent snow/cold air from getting to them.
Best Boots for Kids
This is the final, but possibly most important step, when you dress kids for snow and cold temps! Boots are a big deal! We love Bogs. The boys can pull them on by themselves, which is huge. (When they were in random pairs of baby boots, getting them on was such a struggle and an exercise of grit and patience.) Bogs are easy! They are warm. Our oldest’s have lasted us two winters. (Our youngest grew enough that his only lasted one winter.)
You’ve Got the Winter Gear…Now What?
Forget acquiring the gear…getting winter clothing on kids is the real hard part. Here are some ideas for how to actually physically dress kids for snow and cold temps
- I swear by Bogs boots. They are easy for me or the boys to put on their feet. (I just want to reiterate that the side holes should be covered up by the inner-lining of snow pants.)
- Choose mittens over gloves. They’re so much easier. While we like those little stretchy gloves that are one-size-fits-all because they stay on little fingers, they aren’t warm and they’re hard to get on (and can be impossible to put on grumpy toddlers!). Again, we love SnowStoppers mittens. (Another bonus about this style of mitten is that it extends to elbows, which means grumpy toddlers have a harder time pulling them off!)
- Balaclavas are great because they are warmer and harder for kids to take off by themselves.
- Try different fabrics. My boys hate wearing thick wool socks with their boots or sneakers. So I opt for thinner wool hiking socks. Some kids may prefer soft fleece to a cotton sweater, etc. Experiment.
- When you go shopping, let your child pick out some of the layers or gear. Let them choose the winter coat or the winter hat.
- Lots of layers means lots of tags. Try taking them off mittens, hats, and other layers.
- Sing songs as you get them dressed. Make up silly songs about snow or gear. I know this can be super hard when you’re at your wit’s end, but it can really work!
- Allow for lots of time. I swear it takes me and the boys at least 30 minutes to geared up for playing outside in the snow…and sometimes that is as long as we last out there!
- Once they’re dressed…get them outside ASAP!