nature play | parenting

Dressing for The Weather: Play Outside, Every Day

September 27, 2021

Now that are fully settled in Maine, I am going to share what has been the toughest part. I know my answer sounds like an old lady, but it has been the weather! Seriously, we arrived in June and experienced many wet/cold summer days. I was very surprised. For some reason, I was expecting moderate 70-80 degrees through at least August. Fall is here now, we are having cool to cold mornings, lovely afternoons and lower evening temperatures. Before we know it winter will be here.

I NEED outside. I start to crumble a bit if I do not get out. Fresh air, sunshine, the breeze– all of it restores and grounds me. I will NOT be able to hibernate for months. I only a Floridian for 6 years, and sometimes the lack of seasons was a bit discombobulating, but we only had days of cooler weather, not seasons. We rarely needed anything more than closed-toed shoes, socks, and a hoodie to stay comfortable.

Luckily, early in my motherhood journey I heard my Scandinavian-born family say “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. Now that I am prepping our wardrobe for the coming seasons; I thought I would share a little bit about how we will continue our days outside following that Scandinavian wisdom I learned many years ago.

Temperature Regulation

The younger kids are the ones I am focusing on in this post. As adults we have more awareness of what our bodies are doing. We know if we run hot or cold. Younger children are still developing their inner temperature gauge. Remember when you brought your newborn baby home and was told to dress them a layer warmer than you would yourself? This still matters well into younger childhood. They lack the awareness of their temperature and dressing appropriately allows them to play without exerting energy toward temperature regulation.

If you are the type that is hesitant to opt-outside in cooler weather, have no fear. It is pretty easy following a general guideline for layering and staying dry!

Must-Haves:

  • Base Layer: Long-johns, or long underwear. This is the layer that sits next to the skin, so it needs to be breathable, soft, and moisture-wicking. I prefer natural fibers, although there are some higher-quality synthetics that serve this purpose. I like wool, or wool-silk blends. Many people think of wool as itchy or uncomfortable. It is the kind of wool you choose and wool is wonderful because it is naturally antimicrobial, it regulates temperature, is moisture-wicking and super soft next to sensitive skin. One of my favorite brands is Engel, which is a German-made product that is virgin, organic wool and hasn’t been dyed with synthetics. My kids LOVE them. I will link some other brands/shops at the end of this post.
  • Mid Layer: This is your regular, every-day clothing. Pants, long-sleeved tees, short-sleeved tees, dresses, leggings, socks, etc. Again, I prefer soft, comfortable, natural fabrics like cotton, bamboo, hemp, wool, etc. I find my kids have less sensory-type issues when dressed in comfortable, natural fabrics. I still have a memory of being uncomfortable in church and school wearing synthetic tights and I think I have vowed to keep my kids from ever experiencing that level of discomfort, lol.
  • Extra Layer: This is a layer to wear on top of your regular clothing, but is still thin enough to wear under a heavier coat/outerwear. When dressing the younger kids, think about less bulk for less restricted movement. For this layer you’ll need a light coat, vest, sweater, or fleece. Wool is great for not adding bulk, however there are some good quality fleece extra layers on the market. We are looking again for moisture-wicking, breathability so the kids do not sweat and cause them to chill. Other staples are thick wool socks (we want to avoid layering socks), hat that covers ears, mittens, a scarf or something that covers their neck. Hoods are great as are balaclavas made of wool or wool/silk blends.
  • Outer Layer : (rain/wet/mud) The gear necessary for this type of weather are waterproof boots/wellies, rain pants or bibs, a raincoat with a hood, or you can purchase full one-piece rain suits. Oaki, Kite, and Polarn O. Pyret all sell these types of waterproof suits. For hands, wool mittens and waterproof mittens are necessary. Wool mittens keep hands warm, even while damp.
  • (waterproof/snow) Winter weather requires a bit more. For this season, waterproof snow boots, snow bibs, an insulated, waterproof coat with a hood and waterproof mittens will do the trick. There are so many options and price points for winter gear. My personal preferences are Gore-Tex and high-loft down fill.

Layer, layer, layer

Now, I am going to share a general guideline for layering based on temperature. All kids are different, some run warmer than others. My daughter tends to run on the colder side, and my boys are typically a little warmer so I see them shed layers much faster. The key really is to layer and make sure the layers are easy to shed for the littles as they play and move through the day. A good rule of thumb for checking a child’s temperature is to feel their neck first, then their backs and lastly their hands.

Above 60 degrees—- mid/main layer

60-50 degrees—- base + mid or mid+extra

50-40 degrees—- base + mid + extra

40-25 degrees—- base + mid + outer

below 25 degrees—- base + mid + extra + outer

A Note on Costs

It is easy to find great quality, gently used kids gear online or in your town. I recommend higher quality brands but RARELY do I ever buy new or pay full-price. I also work in a gently-used children’s store on the weekends so I have the perk of finding these items. Kids grow so quickly and barely have time to really do damage to their seasonal wear. If you have multiple children, these items can easily be passed down through several children with normal wear and tear.

Links

Nova Natural— wool baselayers

Patagonia— down filled outerwear, synthetic base layers

LL Bean— down, Gore-tex

Bogs— winter boots and rain boots

Polarn O Pyret— a mix of all winter gear

Kidizen— online source for used children’s clothing

Mercari— another site for used children’s clothing

Patagonia Worn Wear— Patagonia’s resell site

and again your local children’s consignment store, used gear store, or even thrift stores are wonderful resources to outfit your children with all of their seasonal layers!

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  1. Awesome post on winter must-haves! growing up in the south, I experienced my first taste of truly cold weather when I went to Berlin. I had to learn the hard way the importance of dressing in layers. Definitely different from FL, or anywhere in the south, when we can just make do with a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of flipflops — year round!

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