While many people dread the winter due to its cold weather and wet conditions, those who love winter sports and activities absolutely thrive. Whether you enjoy skiing, snowmobiling, or simply taking a hike through the winter wonderland, seeing a forecast with some snow accumulation certainly has a way of bringing a smile to our faces. If you want to enjoy the snow with your children, keeping them safe and warm is a top priority. But how do you keep your children warm and dry in the snow? Below, we put together the best approach to keeping your children warm in the snow so they can enjoy winter activities while staying safe and comfortable.
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Dress Children in Multiple Layers
When it comes to winter fun in the snow, the biggest challenge is staying warm and dry without overheating. Being too hot can cause you or your child to sweat, which leads to moisture, which can make you even colder. The best trick to be able to manage this challenge is to dress children in layers. Not only do layers of clothing help build insulation and trap warm air, but the layers give you options to scale your children’s clothing, depending on changing weather conditions.
- Base Layer — The base layer is the layer that will be next to the skin, which is why it is important to find a layer that will be light and breathable while still providing warmth. If your child is participating in a sport or activity, make sure this layer fits well against the skin and doesn’t add too much bulk. Not only will too much bulk be uncomfortable, but it won’t do a good job trapping necessary heat to keep your child warm. Synthetic materials and very light wool will be your best option for a child’s base layer.
- Middle Layer — If your child gets cold easily, don’t skip the middle layer. A great option for a middle layer might be a quarter-zip fleece. This layer should fit easily over the base layer and be easy to remove in the event your child does become overheated. The middle layer should be a bit heavier and thicker than the base layer, but by no means an outer coat or jacket. Try to use a thicker wool or synthetic materials, like fleece, for your middle layer.
- Outer Layer — The outer layer is going to be what protects your child the most from the wind, snow, rain, and cold. Find an outer layer coat or jacket that will check the box on protection. Remember that your child already has two very insulated and warm layers, so there is no need to go overboard with an outer layer coat. Try to find a coat that is durable and waterproof, and remember the activity could bring your child near rocks, branches, and trees that can tear and puncture lightweight outer layer materials. Further, avoid too much bulk in the outer layer. Kids will need to be free to bend, move, and twist for many sports and winter activities, and thick jackets and coats can hinder movement.
Boots and Socks
There is an old saying about hiking in the winter weather: if your feet are happy, then you are happy. The same can be said for boots and socks for your children. Don’t skimp away from quality footwear. Make sure that socks are comfortable, warm, and most importantly, dry. Try to utilize wool socks as much as possible; not only are wool socks warm, but the wool fibers have a natural ability to wick away water, meaning that if your child’s feet get wet from either snow or sweat, the water is moved away from the feet. This can help keep your child warm, dry, and can even prevent frost bite in severely cold weather conditions.
Boots should also be a priority. If you plan on hiking and moving through the outdoor terrain, then quality boots are a necessity. The feet should fit well inside the boot without sliding around. If the foot slides too much to the front or back of the boot, painful blisters can develop, abruptly ending a day of outdoor fun. Keep boots laced tightly enough to prevent movement, but loose enough to still keep them comfortable. Make sure boots are also waterproof to keep the feet dry and also have plenty of tread and traction for possible icy conditions.
Scarf, Hat and Gloves
While it is commonly believed that it is possible to lose half your body heat through your head, recent studies have determined most people can lose about 10 percent. Still, when you are in cold in wet winter conditions, 10 percent is quite significant, especially for children. Keeping their head warm is important, and a quality hat can help. Choose a hat that fits well and covers the ears. If your child is wearing a snowmobile helmet, ski helmet, or snowboard helmet for their sport or activity, either choose an insulated helmet, or find a hat thin enough to fit under the helmet. For skiing and snowboarding, avoid winter hats with tassels and strings that could easily become caught or tangled in equipment.
Gloves should fit well and be made of waterproof materials. Your child’s fingers should not only comfortably fit to the end of each finger in the glove, but the glove should come up past the wrist enough to prevent snow, water, and ice from spilling inside the glove. If possible, look for gloves with an elastic or Velcro option to keep them tight around the wrist. Gloves are able to provide more dexterity for children, but mittens will keep hands warmer in the winter. Ultimately, depending on the sport or activity, the difference between gloves and mittens is preference based.
Scarfs are an excellent way to help keep the neck and face warm; however, be cautious of sports and activities where a scarf can become a danger. Skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling could become very dangerous if your child wears a scarf. Loose and flapping material can easily become intertwined and caught in passing trees or equipment. Instead, opt for a ski mask or neck gaiter, as these options will keep the face and neck warm while still being safe for your child to wear.
Prioritize Wool and Synthetics
The phrase commonly used around skiing circles is, “cotton kills”. If possible, avoid cotton materials for winter sports at all costs. Not only does cotton do a poor job of keeping children warm compared to alternative materials, but cotton will get wet and stay wet. Having wet fabric pressed against the body can make for a miserable, and potentially dangerous day.
Wool is the best substance to use when buying clothing for outdoor use, as it is a natural fiber that has the ability to pull moisture away from the body. If wool does get wet, it is extremely quick drying. Not only can wool help eliminate moisture caused from snow and ice, wool can help eliminate natural moisture that builds up from sweat. Additionally, wool has the ability to allow the body to self regulate temperature. It will neither get too hot or too cold and allow the body to maintain a comfortable temperature, even in the coldest conditions. Not all wool is big and bulky like Grandma’s hand-made sweaters.
Find Waterproof Outerwear
The key to finding functional and practical outerwear is to find something waterproof. Let’s face it: winter is full of water; whether it is in a snow, ice, or rain format depends on the temperature. In order to have fun in the winter, you must stay dry. For a child, this is magnified significantly. Luckily, modern-day technology has several options for waterproof outerwear.
It is important to note the difference between waterproof and water-resistant. Water-resistant materials perform exactly how the name implies: they will resist moisture, but not necessarily block moisture from penetrating the fabric. In prolonged exposure to water, or in heavy rains and snows, water-resistant fabrics do not hold up as well as waterproof fabrics. It is important when finding children’s winter clothing and outerwear to always opt for waterproof materials.
Dress Children in Bright Colors with Reflective Strips
As tempting as it might be to find traditional, basic colors for kid’s clothing, it is very important to select outerwear that is bright and bold. In a winter landscape that is often white and dreary, gray, white, and black fabric can become lost in the landscape. Opt for bright colors like reds, oranges, or pinks, as these colors will make it easier to find your kids when playing an outdoor sport or activity.
For safety, it is also important to either purchase clothing with reflective strips already attached, or to add reflective strips later. As light fades quicker in the winter, it can become difficult to see. Couple this with possible rain and snow in flat lighting and visibility is drastically reduced. Reflective strips can make it easier to find your kids as well as for other people to see them too.
If you have already purchased clothing in a gray, white, or black color, add other clothing in bright colors to still help your kids stand out. Simply adding a bright orange winter hat, or even red gloves and boots can help your child become more visible to you and other people. Solid colors are often easier to see in low winter lighting than patterns.
Keep Dry Clothes On Hand During Longer Excursions
For long days on the ski slopes, or for extended hiking and snowmobiling adventures, it isn’t a bad idea to keep additional spare clothing on hand to change into. If there is a snow shower or ice storm, chances are even the best waterproof materials will become cold, damp, and wet. Have some additional dry clothing to change into as a backup plan. The base layer will be the most important option, as this is the layer that sits next to the body. Additionally, having a fresh pair of warm and dry socks to change into as well as a ski boot and snowboard boot dryer are important items to have too.
Of course, transporting dry clothing on your excursion also needs to be considered. Be sure to bring a backpack or bag that can withstand the elements, making sure the material is also waterproof, including waterproof tight pockets and zippers. Pack dry clothing and socks in a plastic, sealed bag inside your backpack to ensure your change of clothing stays warm and dry throughout the day, no matter what Mother Nature will throw at you.
Winter doesn’t have to be spent indoors under a warm blanket. There are plenty of fun activities and sports to do in the winter months that will keep you and your family active, alert, and outdoors. Skiing, snowmobiling, and hiking through the snow are great opportunities for families to spend time with one another. The key to keeping the entire family happy during activities, kids included, is having warm and dry clothing. By following the above recommendations, such as layering and opting for wool or synthetic material, it is possible to keep children warm and safe during the winter months.