Friday, December 02, 2011

Help, my toddler hates winter

My husband and I passionately love winter!!  We want to be out playing in the snow every weekend.  As soon as I put my x-country skis on for the first time of the season I'm practically shaking to get out every day.  We are nothing if not enthusiastic about it and are trying our hardest to set an example for our son that winter is something to be enjoyed and embraced with excitement. 

Safe, happy and warm in the chariot last winter.  Sound asleep and blissfully content.

My son was ok with winter last year too.  He happily rode along in his chariot on our ski trips, got back into the chariot after it tipped over and trusted us to continue pulling him.  He loved riding around the skating rink and though we only tried it once, he was ok with sledding.  He liked to walk in the snow and he rarely complained about the clothing he had to wear in order to stay warm.  We have photos of him sound asleep in his chariot while skiing, not concerned with the cold temperatures in the slightest.  We thought we had a happy snow baby on our hands. 

Things started out well this year with our first winter hike back in October.  Our son was enthusiastic about walking through Sundance Canyon in the new snow.  We did some other hikes too and he didn't complain about the wind, cooler temperatures, or his clothing for the most part.  Mittens were a bit of a battle but otherwise, it was clear sailing.  I wasn't even sure our son would remember his first skate of the season because he was blissfully sleeping for most of it.

True winter hit us in November with temperatures down to -20 C in the mountains and our last two outings have shown us that although our son liked the shoulder season from October to November, he might not be as terribly fond of winter itself.

In particular, there are several things our son hates about winter:

The beloved monkey hat

Bulky Clothing

Our son Noah likes his fleece bunting suit that amazingly enough still fits him, his light puffy North Face jacket, his red baby mittens that barely fit him anymore and his monkey toque.

Noah does not like his one piece insulated snow suit, any other hats or mittens (and we've tried many!!),  his balaclava, his scarf, and his winter boots. He will however wear his hiking boots that are so small and tight on him I can't imagine them being comfortable.  It's all about habit though with our son and he does not like new things.

The scarf wasn't so bad last winter nor was the Toaster suit

Walking in snow

Noah was delighted with the snow we had on earlier hikes this season and enjoyed walking through it.   Last weekend we went snowshoeing and we thought Noah would have a great time playing at the lake when we stopped for lunch.  It was a very short hike to the lake and Noah still loves to be carried in his backpack so it seemed like a no-brainer for a fun day.  

Noah had no interest though in playing in the snow.  He wouldn't walk or stand in it, and all he wanted was to get back in his carrier and in the car again as fast as possible.  We are fairly hardcore with our sports and if Noah doesn't want to play but would rather just come along for a ride while we ski or snowshoe, I won't complain.  I do think it's important though that Noah learn to like snow.  We want to get him his own x-country skis for Christmas and we want to go sledding.  We even thought about getting him toddler snow shoes.

Cross-country skiing last winter with Daddy

Walking on ice or slippery surfaces

Getting Noah to walk across a parking lot that may have slippery sections means guaranteed whining and crying.  I'm not sure if he's terrified of falling or if he just doesn't like the sensation of sliding.  We hope he learns that controlled ice is fun though because I love skating and already have skates wrapped up for him for Christmas along with two books about winter.  I am looking forward to holding his hand and pulling him around the lagoon near our house.  If I were a kid I know I'd love to be pulled around a frozen lake while holding onto Mommy and Daddy's hands.

Last winter's introduction to sledding

Wind and Snow in general

Every time I open the garage door after a fresh dump of snow Noah starts crying.  His favorite saying these days is "all done!"  He especially dislikes wind and blowing snow.  Most kids are at least happy in their ski sled or chariot with the cover over them on windy days (of which Calgary gets a lot!) but not Noah.  He hasn't let us cover him in his chariot since he was a baby.  He wants to sit up and look around which causes the cover to rest on his face.  If he's sleeping we can sneak the cover over him but that would be the only time.  We hope that he'll like his new ski sled better and let us cover him in it because the cover is more transparent. 

Sleigh ride on Christmas Day last year

Doing anything with mittens on

Noah seems to think his hands are broken when he is wearing mittens.  He won't hold a snack, a juice bottle, a shovel, a toy, or even play at the playground.  He will ask for his mittens when his hands get cold so we have slight victory there but he won't do anything with them on.  This is problematic when we are outside hiking, skiing or skating.  

The five minutes our son was happy snowshoeing last weekend (notice the absence of his mittens)

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to deal with some of the frustrations we are having.  We can't be faulted with not trying to set a good example for our son or of not being enthusiastic enough about winter in front of him.  I all but sing and dance when I'm out getting groceries to cheer him up about the snow.  Actually, I do sing.  The only thing I don't do is dance.  Maybe that's what's missing.  A Zumba routine to the tune of Frosty the Snowman?

Want to read about our success teaching our son to embrace winter?


  1. All of our kids, between the ages of about 2-4 or 2-5 were the same as Noah. Kids are small and their winter gear is bulky. They can't move around easily and they really can't use their hands is frustrating for them! Toddlers want unrestricted movement of their arms, legs and hands, and we have always found that when they need to sit on a car ride to get to the mountains, and then sit in a chariot/backpack/sled/pulk while in the mountains, and then sit to drive back home, it's not a super fun experience for a toddler! And those winter winds blow coldly in the mountains. It really is harsher on them than us (extreme heat as well as cold are harsher on small children!) I would like to know the tricks of people who live way up near the artic! For us, we have become very particular about which days (temp and wind combination) are worth the trip to the mountains in the winter, with kids between 2 and 5 years old. Like you, I became worried at several points that my kids wouldn't like winter, or even the outdoors, but I am relieved now that the oldest two are 8 and 6 (and even last year at 7 and 5) that they love it! They can use their hands in bulky mittens, they can run around in bulky snowsuits and they can handle the wind and cold better. So don't panic that is is a forever thing, though it may require some compromise on your part for a couple of years, especially on colder days. Or, take a trip to Iqaluit to see how they do it...and then let me know! By the way, I do think getting Noah a pair of skiis is worthwhile. Our toddlers have all enjoyed skiing, but still, in the cold, be prepared that they might only be willing and able to ski for a matter of minutes at the age of 2or 3(yes...minutes!) Take your pulk and his skiis, and let him ski intermittenly, as he is able.

  2. Thanks Deanna for the encouragement. Glad I'm not alone. We are heading out today and we'll see how it goes. It's a short drive for us to Banff and we'll be there all day because we're staying for the Santa Claus Parade. Noah should get tons of time to run around and play before getting in the car again to come home.

  3. I agree, all our kids were the same at that age. From his perspective he went from running, walking, jumping, grabbing, experiencing... to falling everytime he moves cause of ice, not being able to move cause of clothes and not being able to touch and grab cause of mittens. I might be frustrated too!
    I would keep the duration of outdoor adventures shorter possibly- cause he might not nap in the sled any more. And I guess my philosophy is- there is no shame in bribery. A pocket full of treats gets our kids smiling again everytime.

  4. Great to hear our son isn't alone Alyssa. Fortunately Noah will nap in this pulk or chariot. When he gets tired it doesn't matter where he is. And yesterday he let us ski for almost 3 hours with a break in the middle so there's hope. I like bribery. Nothing cookies can't fix.

  5. HI Tanya, I realize this is an old post and see that your son is loving the winter now! I wonder if you did find any tricks? My son is 14 months, he is put off by even walking in winter boots, let along the big snow suit etc. We have a great hiking back pack but after 30 mins or so he isn't content in there either... Singing, dancing, and feeding him food sometimes work, sometimes not... My happy place is outside! Winter or summer (I live in Calgary as well) so any tips you have that could make it happen for us would be appreciated!!

    1. Hi Jessica. I'm afraid that the only that really worked in the long run was exposure. The more we got out the easier it got. But oh it was hard for the first while.
      I'd suggest joining the Calgary Outdoor Playgroup Community on Facebook. It's a group of 1000+ families who all have young kids, many of whom struggle exactly as you do. It's a very supportive group.
      The link is below: