Outdoor Play

How to Dress your Toddler for Outdoor Fun in the Winter

An Alaskan Mom’s Essential Gear List for Serious Cold

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

—German Proverb

So many (!) parents tell me they don’t let their children play outside much in the winter. But it is so important for preventing illness, getting that energy out and preserving mental health! Plus, it’s fun! If you have the right clothing, you can play outside in any weather.
 
Quality, warm winter gear is not cheap, but it is worth the investment. It pays to be able to get outside every day and not worry about your kids being cold. Some of the things you’ll need you can find in thrift stores, on eBay, or on local Buy/Sell/Trade FB groups if price is an issue. Also be sure to check the used section on Amazon!

When it’s very cold (below 10 degrees Fahrenheit), the key is layering. My toddler and I both wear a wool base layer, followed by our regular clothes, followed by fleece, followed by a snowsuit (for her) or a parka and snow pants (for me). When it’s warmer, we skip the wool and fleece.
 
Here is what my 2-year-old, Emmeline, is currently wearing. I recommend all these pieces! I love product research and looked far and wide to find the best of the best in every category.

Click on any picture or product name below to go directly to the retailer. Note- some of this content uses Amazon referral links. See my disclosure page for more info.

1. Mittens

We bought so many styles of mittens before we finally did our research and landed on Hestra.

We tried:

  • Patagonia fleece (not warm enough)
  • Stonz (warm but no thumbhole = toddler hates them because she can’t use her hands)
  • Jan and Jul (impossible to get a 2 year old’s thumb in the hole, and not as warm as expected).

We ended up returning the Jan and Jul, holding onto the fleece for warmer days, and keeping the Stonz for stroller rides and other activities where she wouldn’t need her hands.

Talking with other Alaskan moms led me to Hestra. We were lucky enough to be gifted these beauties by grandma and grandpa. They are amazing! They’re super easy to get on, have some good grip to them and are very secure, waterproof and warm! They were pricey but we should be able to get at least 2 winters out of them.

Hestra Mittens for Baby: Kids Zip Long Mitten with Primaloft Insulation, Cerise, 5

2. Balaclava or Gaiter

When it’s below 20 degrees or if it’s windy we use a balaclava. I couldn’t find one in an actual toddler size but I love the Turtle Fur brand, so I bought the smallest kid’s size. It fits fine, is great quality and we will get many years of use out of it.

Turtle Fur Kids Shellaclava

3. Boots

We do not own these but will be buying them soon. We currently own a pair of Columbia (hard to put on) and a pair of Bogs (not tall enough). Alaskans love the Sorel brand, both for kids and adults. These ones in particular are great because they are warm and easy to get on. They can be turned almost completely inside out for drying.

Sorel Snow Commander Winter Boot

4. Fleece Jacket

We wear fleece jackets under snowsuits for extra warmth. They’re also nice for keeping comfortable on car rides. Plus, we love the North Face styles! We bought a 6-12 month size over a year ago that Emmy is still wearing at 25 months.

The North Face Infant Glacier Full Zip Hoodie – Purdy Pink Fox Floral Print – 18M

5. Wool Socks

Wool socks are fantastic for keeping your feet warm because they hold their insulating properties even while wet (unlike cotton) and wick the sweat away from your skin. It’s not completely necessary to buy the expensive SmartWool brand socks, but look for some that are made with Merino. It’s softer and less scratchy that cheaper types of wool.

Smartwool Toddler Sock Sampler (Nostalgia Rose Heather) 24M

6. Wool Base Layer

For the same reason as for the socks, a Merino wool base layer will keep your toddler warmer longer. These aren’t completely necessary unless you’re going to be out for quite a while, away from the house (winter camping or skiing, for example), or if it’s below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Size up with these. We bought size 2 last year and they fit our then-1-year-old perfectly. They’re a bit snug this winter. Look for sales. We bought ours for half off. 🙂

Wee Woollies Base Layer Set

7. Snow Suit

It took me forever to choose a snow suit this year! I wanted one that was water resistant, made of durable fabric, easy to get on and off, not ridiculously expensive, and most importantly, warm.

Most of the suits I looked at (North Face, Patagonia, Activ8) were priced around $150. This one from L.L.Bean was almost half the price at $80, and I was able to use a 20% off coupon!

I’m so glad we chose this one. The quality is fantastic, it has great features like knee reinforcement, gaiters and zip vents, an elasticized hood, and hidden grow cuffs. It can be machine washed and dried, and is definitely warm. We went out last night for 2 hours (at 10 degrees Fahrenheit) and Emmy stayed nice and toasty.

I would say it is near true-to-size, just a little on the big side. (Which is good!)

L.L. Bean Cold Buster Snowsuit

That’s it!

Of course, you’ll need a hat too, but I’ve found that choice to be less important than the rest. If it’s fairly cold, with a balaclava and insulated hood, you can wear whatever hat you like. We have a variety and it’s fun for Emmy to choose the one she’d like to use each day.

What tried and true winter gear would you recommend?

👧 Toddler mom. 🌈 Reggio and Waldorf Inspired Childcare🌲 Forest School 🏔 Dillingham, Alaska

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