Friday, November 23, 2012

Baby, It's Cold Outside

**Guest Post
Today I welcome Jennifer Aist, author of Babes in the Woods, Hiking, Camping,  and Boating with Babes and Young Children.  I wrote a review of Jennifer's book back in October and one lucky reader won a copy for her own family.  Many great questions were left for Jennifer in the comments following the review and I knew we needed to have her back here with more advice for parents on how to get those young kids outside all year long.  Winter is here in the Canadian Rockies and Jennifer knows a thing or two about raising winter-loving children in her native Alaska.  Please take some time to read through the amazing advice and suggestions she provides below on making the most of winter.  Spring won't be here for many more months and we can't hibernate till then. 

Baby, It's Cold Outside

The temperatures are dropping fast, but that doesn’t need to keep you or your wee one inside. With just a little know how, you and your baby can stay warm and active all winter long. 

Photo:  J. Aist

Lesson #1:  Parents need to be warm too!  

We parents do such a great job taking care of our children. We spend hours researching and buying the best gear we can find to keep our kids warm and dry in the elements. But we often fall short at taking the same care for ourselves. I hear lots of moms tell me they don’t enjoy spending time outside because they are always cold. Well ladies, make this the winter to be warm! Here is a must have list for my winter city brethren:
  1. Ice grippers for your shoes. Don’t get yourself hurt slipping around on icy sidewalks and driveways. Ice grippers are the best (and likely cheapest) safety investment you will ever make. Some running stores will even stud your shoes for a nominal fee.
  2. Wool socks. There are many great brands out there. Cotton socks make for miserable toes, so go wool.
  3. Hand/Foot warmers. Another great, inexpensive, indispensable item to always have with you. You can buy the disposable type (often available at Costco) or for shorter outings, heat up a pouch of rice to stick in your mittens.
  4. Snow skirts. This is my favorite piece of outerwear. Snow skirts are insulated skirts of varying lengths that are easy to pull over any pants and add an amazing amount of warmth. I know, I live in Alaska and wear mine religiously. These skirts are well made and well worth the investment. Some companies even make some kid sizes.
  5. Warm hat. This may seem obvious, but I’m always surprised how many folks forget this all-important layer. Make sure the hat will cover your ears.
  6. Mittens. Yes, I said mittens, not gloves. Mittens will always keep your hands warmer than gloves will. Buy a few pairs; if you are like the rest of us, you will leave a trail of mitts wherever you go.
  7. A toasty coat. I prefer down for the weight and superior insulating value, but any cold weather coat will do. A hood is an added bonus as is parka length to cover your back end.

Photo:  J. Aist

Lesson #2:  Bundle thy baby! 

1.      When layering yourself or your child, think in 3’s. The first is the base layer—wool, silk or polypro. No cotton. Layer #2 is your insulating layer—fleece works great and is readily available, not to mention cheap. Top it all off with a shell to keep all the warmth inside.
2.      You can save a bunch of money outfitting little ones with a little creativity. Adult wool socks with the toes cut off, become leg and arm warmers. An old adult size down coat becomes a cozy bunting bag for a baby in a stroller or front pack. Learn more tips about layering in Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping and Boating with Babies and Young Children.
3.      Little hands and feet can be hard to keep warm, especially when they are in a stroller. Consider using hand warmers—just make sure you don’t put them right next to your baby’s skin. I like to drop one in the legs of snowsuits to generate some nice heat. You need good circulation to stay warm, so watch out for anything that might be too tight like socks or booties with a drawstring. I always bring a few extra pairs of mittens and socks just in case some get wet.
4.      Duct tape is your best friend. Use it to secure mittens and boots to toddler snowsuits.  This will eliminate the red, frost-nipped ring around ankles and wrists that develops when snow gets in, not to mention eliminating the battle of “keep your mittens on”.
5.      If your kids’ feet continue to stay cold despite good layers, consider adding a vapor barrier like a plastic bag. Just slip it over the socks and into the boots. Caution: be really careful that you take the bag away after outside time.

Photo:  J. Aist

Properly outfitted, you’ll want to spend even more time outside having fun with your kids. Play on!


For more information on Jennifer's book Babes in the Woods, Hiking, Camping,  and Boating with Babes and Young Children, please visit her website, Wilderness for Kids.  To read the review I wrote for the book in October, follow this link to the book review.  Jennifer's book is full of practical advice, lists, suggestions, and even no-fail camping recipes with  the goal of  De-mystifying the whole subject of family outdoor adventure and play.  Jennifer also teaches classes on Babes in the Woods, Babes in the Snow, and Babes on the Water in her native Alaska.


  1. I'm pretty new reader but already found this blog a nice info- and inspiration giver :) THANK YOU!

    The climate in Canada and here in southern Finland are similar, though we don't usually have long spells of severely cold weather.

    Loved these ideas on how to dress for cold weather!
    I've never thought of using duct tape to tape kids' boots/gloves. Ingenious! And the plastic bag tip sounds worth trying as well. MIght also try that on hikes on very wet days. It would be nicer to wear hiking boots instead of rubber boots, but hiking boots despite all TEXes leak now and then.

    For the parents I strongly suggest down pants! Oh man those are comfy!! Snow skirts just got on my Christmas wish list. Can you suggest any brands or models that work well? For some reason snow skirts are not commonly used around here.

    1. Where does one get down pants?? I think I'd like something like that. And what do you use them for, presuming they can't get wet?

      I'll ask Jen about the snow skirts. I think it's a great idea too.

    2. I know Jen is going to respond here Hanna but in the meantime, here's one link a friend recommended. And they have down skirts! Now I want one!

    3. Hanna, here is Jen's response: Lots of companies make snow skirts now including Athleta, Columbia and Cordillera but my favorite is the Skoop. (link above) They come in down or synthetic and in a few different lengths. They even make a rain skirt for spring/summer. I have a long one I wear driving, to work or out to dinner and a short one for running/skiing/biking. You wouldn't think the short one would do much as a hiny heater, but it really does make a big difference. Tell someone who loves you to buy you one for Christmas.

      Another tip for winter dressing: teach your kids as young as possible to put on their own gear themselves. They may need some help. For example you can start the zipper for a toddler and have them finish pulling it up. Children as young as 15 months can learn to put on the majority of their own gear. When dressing out kids isn't as much of a chore, you'll be happier to do it everyday :)

    4. Thanks Tanya and Jen.

      I'll have to consider getting a skirt! I sounds more versatile than down pants (which are super hot if your moving at all, but with kiddies the going is sometimes so slow that extra wamth is needed). My hiney really gets cold easily and this could help. SO far I've just worn woolly "bicycle" pants underneath.

      My down pants are Marmot.

      We're outside twice daily - in every weather. It's a lot of dressing and undressing though my 3-year-old can get almost everything on himself. I've found that the biggest trouble is getting sooo hot inside while getting our gear on.

      You guys already have so much snow! We're expecting our first snow this year for tomorrow and the rest of this week <3

  2. Nice frog feet in the trailer! Hey, if it keeps them warm then all is good. And great tip on the duct tape. It's such a struggle to keep the kids mittens/gloves on while they are playing in the snow.

    1. Thanks for your comment Andy. I've resorted to putting mittens on my feet too - usually in the car on the way home when they were freezing. I liked the duct tape idea too.

  3. Very useful tips for how to stay warm during winter outdoor activities. I have one more question that I haven't found the answer: Do my 16-month-old need a pair of ice grippers? I do have pretty good ice gripper for myself but I can't find smaller ones for my little one. Will snow boots be good enough for her? Thanks.

    1. You won't find ice grippers for babies. The smallest pair I've found fit my 4 year old (approx. size 11 toddler boots).
      Most babies aren't walking around much on ice so I'd suggest just stick to grippy snow or bare sidewalks. If you have good ice grippers for yourself, you'll be able to help your child too just by holding his/her hand.

    2. It finally snows here in St. John's and I had a chance to observe how my little one deal with the ice. At the beginning she didn't want me to hold her hands but after she experienced how slippery the ice can be, she didn't want to let go my hands any more -- the problem solved. However, I have encountered another problem: she refuses to put on her winter clothing, especially her mitts. She struggled and screamed and it took me almost an hour to finally dress her up and both of us were frustrated.... She hates her mitts without thumb because she can't pick up sticks and pine cones. I bought her a new pair of mitts with thumb but it was so hard to put her thumb in the hole, not to mention she was fighting not to put her mitts on..... I really want her to enjoy the great outdoors and have been trying not to involve tears but it seems to be impossible. Am I asking too much? I googled about this problem and a lot of parents suggest just do natural consequences but my 18-month-old didn't seem to "get it". It's not a big deal now but it will be very cold soon and I wish I can find a "tearless" way to put the mitts on! Have you ever had similar problem? Any suggestions? Thanks.

    3. I know many families who have had this problem. I don't know an easy solution unfortunately. Sometimes peer pressure can work well. Go out with other families and the kids see what the other kids are wearing. (though at 18 months this might be too young for that.) And I presume you don't want to send her out in whatever she wants to wear, hoping she'll finally agree to the good stuff when she's cold? I do know how frustrating it is though. My son was very challenging the last two winters.

      One thing that did work was choices. I'd pull out two hats (that I was fine with him wearing) and give him the choice. I didn't care which he wore, but this way he was in control, had a say in what he was wearing, and chose one. I did the same with jackets, snow suits, and gloves. Yes, it means you need lots of clothes but if he wanted his rain suit over his snow suit, I'd just layer him more. If he wanted warmer weather mittens, I'd just throw a pair of mine over top after we were out a bit and his hands were cold. And for the most part, I always offered two options that would work for the temperature.

    4. Two thoughts though I will admit to you that the 18 month age range is most difficult for this problem, in my opinion. Our battle was goggles and helmets for skiing...The good news? You won't fight this battle forever! On to a few things I noticed: 1. The type of mitt is important. The warmer they are, the thicker the insulation, right? But also the harder to get on, get thumbs in the right place, and pick up things (for the kid). Sometimes picking a "thinner" mitt helps. Two I love: Stonz Wear mitt and Ducksday mittens. Even though these are "elbow mitts", coming up high on the arm, I've actually had an easier time getting them on my kids for whatever reason.
      #2: (Might not apply in the extreme cold of Canada.) But I bought simple fleece mittens (Patagonia has nice thick ones with a liner). These are much easier to get on their hands because they are simply fleece. Then I tossed them in the wash with some Nikwax Fleece waterproofing to make them shed any water. They've worked great for my toddlers because usually they aren't out as long playing with their hand as the older kids, and are easier to manage on the "getting on" side of things. Nikwax info:

    5. Houstonclimber, I feel your pain. My guy is 18 months old and stubborn as can be. He's #3 and my older two have all gone through this to varying degrees as well so I think it's pretty normal. One thing that works for us is to make it a game/race/play. It usually works as an effective way to trick them into getting dressed. With our little guy right now, it took a little bit of natural consequences. Yep, sent him out in the snow without shoes or mittens on (no I wasn't abusing him, he lasted about 2 minutes). The whole time, the rest of us were out there saying how warm our hands and feet were because we had boots and mittens on. Now, every time he sees snow, he says "cold" and runs to get his hat, mittens and boots regardless of whether or not we are headed outside. As far as mittens, we only use L-Bows when our kids are this little because the thumb holes are huge and work for both hands and they stay on really well and don't let snow in. Let me know if you have more ?'s since ours are the same ages

    6. Something else a friend recommended:
      A story focused on being house bound with a toddler who won't wear her winter clothing.
      There's many good comments on the story for you to check out.
      Good luck!