I haven’t always loved winter. In fact, I still sometimes feel like my relationship with the season is somewhat precarious, but I’ve learned to embrace the things I can’t change in my life, and calling Vermont my home is one of them.
When our kids were wee babies, my husband and I decided that the only way to stay sane in the winter was to get everyone outside every single day. We did this rain or shine for years and years, and even though our kids are teens now, I still throw them out on a regular basis.
I don’t think we would have had much success if we hadn’t invested in the right cold-weather clothing. There is no such thing as terrible weather, just inappropriate clothing. For our kids to actually enjoy being outside, they had to be warm. We experimented for years until we found the right system. Our babies always had rosy cheeks in the winter, but we knew they were toasty under their layers. As teens, they spend whole days on the ski slopes or in the woods, and they rarely complain about the cold.
What you dress your little one in for a few hours outside depends on a couple of variables. First of all, if you have a baby who isn’t walking yet, will you be putting him or her in a stroller or a carrier? Babies who will be hanging out next to your own body warmth won’t need as many layers as babies in a stroller. The temperature and the wind chill are obviously a huge consideration, as is the distance from your home base. If you are heading away from home, it’s better to be over-prepared. If you’re hanging out in the back yard, you can make adjustments as needed. Here are a few tips for keeping your babies and toddlers snug and warm in the winter.
- Keep their heads covered and their feet warm. Kids will stay out longer if they’re comfortable, and little feet and ears can get cold really fast. Look for warm, wooly socks, and hats that tie or velcro under the chin so they stay put.
- Keep mittens secured with clips or sew long string between the two so that they can be secured to your child’s jacket.
- Instead of scarves that are bulky and can get lost or caught in things, try a fleece neckwarmer. Even though they’re relatively lightweight, they offer plenty of warmth, plus they’re easy to wash and really soft against their skin.
Our Top Picks for Cold-Weather Layers for Babies and Toddlers
For the Base Layer
Patagonia Baby Capilene 3 Midweight Set – Infant/Toddlers’ – A base layer is important, and capilene is warm, soft, and fairly lightweight. This set includes a long-sleeve onesie and a pair of stretchy long-johns with reinforced knees. Meant for littles up to age 2, this set has built-in odor control and flat seams to reduce chaffing. 2 sets should do it for the whole winter – one to wear and one to wash. No matter what goes on top, these are perfect for every day in the winter.
For the Insulation Layer
After the base layer, you’ve got to insulate to the proper outdoor conditions. Many outdoor jackets include an insulating layer and a waterproof layer. This is fine for backyard play, but much less versatile than buying separate layers and mixing and matching them yourself based on the conditions. Here’s what we recommend for an insulating layer for your baby or toddler.
Patagonia Micro D Crew – This mid-weight fleece is versatile enough to keep handy all through the year. It’s not bulky, so it can be worn under a shell, plus it works as a solo top on warm days in the fall and spring.
Patagonia Micro D Bottoms – These fleece bottoms match the fleece crew listed above. The set can double as pajamas. Highly recommended!
Patagonia Reversible Down Sweater Hoody – For colder weather, nothing beats the insulating power of down. You get supreme warmth without the massive bulk. We like the hoody for wind protection, but you can also get a version without the hood. This isn’t waterproof, but it is windproof. On the coldest, snowiest days, this is a great middle layer, paired with capilene underneath and a waterproof shell on top.
For the Outer Shell
For the last layer, it’s a good idea to get a waterproof shell with little or no insulation. This way you can use it as a rain jacket in warm weather. The last thing you want is for your toddlers to be so overdressed that they can’t get out the door, so maximize warmth while minimizing weight. We’ve tried lots of different brands, and I really don’t have a recommendation for a certain product. We’re always happy with Patagonia for the little ones, but as long as it protects them from the wind and the rain, whatever you choose should work.
Patagonia Baby Torrentshell One-Piece – For under twos, I highly recommend this one-piece waterproof shell. Use whatever layers you want underneath — this powerhouse will keep out wind, rain, and mud.
REI Rainwall Rain Pants – These babies are 100% waterproof with no insulation, so you can layer depending on the weather. Our kids could stay out all day in the snow wearing these and then come in dry as can be.
Stretchy wool is the way to go with socks. You want them to stay put and keep them warm. Here are our favorites.
Smartwool Light Hiking Socks – Kids’ – Perfect for cold, but not frigid days, these socks are warm, soft, and durable.
SmartWool Bootie Batch Socks – Merino Wool (For Infants) – Soft wool for itch-free feet, these merino wool socks are made in the USA and come in two sizes for your littlest outdoor lovers.
SmartWool Wintersport Fox Socks – I’m really sad they aren’t making these anymore, but you can still get them on the REI website. These are the best snowsport socks we’ve found. they’re really long and stretchy and they stay up all day, plus they’re warmer than anything else we’ve tried.
Mittens are tough because little ones just don’t seem to want to keep them on. Our kids were very different in their mitten-wearing philosophies. On would happily wear them and the other would either rip them off, or cry and scream if he couldn’t rip them off. We tried the super long-sleeved mittens for both of them, and loved them most of the time. They keep wrists warm and are practically impossible to get off, so if that appeals to you, give them a try. I don’t recommend gloves because they just don’t offer enough warmth for little fingers.
Marmot Split Mittens –These guys are really easy to put on, thanks to the long velcro seem on the back. I do think that you lose a bit of warmth through the seam, but I also think that the easy on/off makes these worth it in some cases. There’s a drawcord closure to keep wrists warm.
REI Timber Mountain Mittens– These mittens are warm and they stay put. I love that they’re black so they never look dirty. We got three pairs of the same mittens to share between two kids. We were never scrambling around for lost mittens.
These layers will help you become an outdoor family no matter how frigid the weather becomes. Many of these pieces were chosen because they could actually be used year-round. Although I have included affiliate links in the post, I was not paid or compensated to review these products. I truly love them! I will receive a small commission if you choose to click on the links above to order.