How to Dress Babies and Kids for the Cold

©. K Martinko

If it's snowing outside, you have all the more reason to get out there and enjoy it! Just be sure to dress properly.

When a snowstorm hit our town last weekend, my boys couldn’t get outside fast enough. There is something irresistible about snow and the versatility it provides for outdoor play – sledding, digging, throwing, building, even eating. They spent an hour out there, laughing and playing until their cheeks were bright red and their clothes were wet, then they came inside just long enough for everything to dry before heading out again.

The key to enjoying winter weather is to dress properly. As long as kids are kept warm and dry, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be outside for extended periods of time each day. Even babies should get fresh air and sunshine on a daily basis, whether going for a walk or napping in a stroller. One study found that some Finnish babies sleep comfortably outdoors for extended periods of time at -16 F (-27 C).

Raising my family in the snowy Canadian climate has taught me a lot about dressing little ones for the weather. Primarily, you don’t have to break the bank purchasing fancy ‘engineered’ or ‘lab-tested’ winter clothing, even though the options available these days are endless. Keep it simple, with high quality items that are durable and can be layered, easily cleaned, and handed down for years to come.

Kids don’t need as much outdoor clothing as you may think because they’re so active and require mobility. Babies, on the other hand, are stationary and do need plenty of warmth. The following items are indispensable in my household.


Undergarments really make a difference! In winter, I insist that my kids put on undershirts, snug against their torso, because it provides that extra layer that can make a real difference. If it’s really cold out, you can use tights (even leotards for girls) or long johns under a baggier pair of pants. Blogger Rain or Shine Mama recommends these very nice wool and silk undergarments for kids made by Hocosa, but be warned that they're not cheap! I usually stick with plain cotton.

High-quality jackets:

A warm jacket can make the difference between begging to go outside and begging to stay in. Down jackets are wonderfully warm and light at the same time, perfect for small, active children. Down tends to be expensive, though, and some of the thinner coverings tear easily, so choose carefully. A synthetic-filled coat does just as good a job. Make sure the zippers are durable (metal is best) and the hood pulls far enough over the head to provide protection if needed.

Waterproof mittens:

The mittens are key! If kids’ hands get wet as soon as they go outside, they’ll be back in a matter of minutes, complaining. Opt for the more expensive waterproof (or at least water-resistant) variety – no fleece or knitted mittens for kids, who need to pack snowballs and splash in slushy puddles. Remember that mittens keep little hands warmer than gloves.

Good boots:

Boots are an investment, but they last forever. Buy the best you can afford; I like Sorels, with removable felt liners that can be dried over a heating vent each night. The only problem is that they can be hard for littler kids to put on, which is why I’ve recently discovered Bogs. While not quite as warm as the felt-lined boots, they are easy for my four-year-old to put on and take off independently. Make sure all boots have waterproof sealant along the seams.


Bunting bag:

Often used in infant car seats, a bunting bag is a sort of miniature sleeping bag into which a baby fits comfortably. I’ve used a bunting bag in a stroller and sled, since it provides a nice base layer together with a top layer. You can also get a wool liner to go in the stroller, although wrapping a baby in a wool blanket can also do the trick. My parents used to wrap me in a child-sized sleeping bag whenever they went skating on the lake at night.


Depending on the temperature, I use a fleece bear suit from L.L. Bean or a basic hooded snowsuit from H&M.; The important additions are a hat that covers the ears and fastens securely under the chin, a scarf over the lower face, and fleece thumbless mittens. I have a miniature pair of Sorels, handed down from a cousin, but I’ve heard great reviews of Stonz booties and MEC Toaster booties that fit over slippers or socks. Wrap the baby in an adult-sized raincoat if you need extra protection from dampness or wind.