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Skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, snowmen…winter adventures are great! Unlike the warmer months, winter outside activities with kids take a lot more gear, clothing, and planning to get outside successfully. Getting kids dressed to go outside in the cold can be exhausting if you don’t have a system in place.
One thing that I do know for certain is that few things can make an outdoor adventure with kids in winter go bad as quickly as a cold kid. Cold kids are almost always unhappy, whine more and get tired more easily. Obviously, kids get colder easier than adults do because they don’t have the same amount of muscle and fat mass to keep them warm. Thankfully, the the same principles that apply to keeping adults warm in the winter can easily be transferred down to keep your kids warm in winter as well (yes, even babies).
Avoid COTTON for kids winter clothes!
Before we get into the specifics of layering kids for winter adventures, I want to be 100% clear that we advise you to avoid COTTON layers for kids in the winter. When cotton gets wet, it stays wet and cold and will make kids SO COLD, so try and totally avoid it with kids winter clothes for the outdoors.
How To Layer Kids Winter Clothing
Layers allow pockets of air between clothing layers to help trap heat and keep kids warm. Of course, layering also allows kids to remove a jacket or fleece when they are too warm to avoid sweating.
1. Baselayers to keep kids warm in winter
Choosing a good quality base layer is the most important step when getting winter clothing for kids to stay warm. If you choose a low quality base layer, you might as well give up before you even start. A base layer is a layer that not only insulates kids, but also wicks sweat away from them so that they don’t get wet and clammy when they start to sweat. The best choices for kids base layers are made of merino wool, or a synthetic material like polypropylene, or microfleece. Wool is usually the most expensive (though longest lasting) with synthetic kids base layers costing less. Check out our full review of the best kids base layers to see all the top kids base layers compared side by side (spoiler, this is our favorite).
2. Mid Layers To Insulate Kids In the Cold
Midlayers are your main insulating layer for keeping kids warm in winter. The easiest and cheapest mid layer clothing for kids is fleece. Choose a fleece that is warm enough to really keep you toasty on a chilly day, but also that isn’t too bulky to wear under a coat. A good rule of thumb with fleece is thicker = warmer. That being said, my kids prefer a microfleece material since they’re thinner and allow them to stay warm without over heating when they’re playing hard. For babies and toddlers, get a one piece warm suit for winter. For bigger kids, get a top AND pants to insulate them when it’s cold outside. Do. Not. Forget. Warm. Pants.
Check out our favorite kids fleece, pictured above that our kids wear year round (use code BTK25 for 25% off).
3. Outerwear To Keep Kids Dry
Kids outerwear is your first line of defense against the elements of mother nature, so make it a good one. We always recommend getting waterproof coats and snow pants for kids so that they stay warmer and dryer. Also, if the water stays out, their mid layer and base layer can do the job of keeping kids warm so much better! We learned the hard way that good kids outerwear is worth spending money on. Skip the discount coats and get a high quality waterproof coat for kids, and good waterproof kids snow pants. For babies, and toddlers, a one piece suit with a hood is your best bet.
For older kids, a combination of coat and snow pants is the best option. In a coat, I always look for one with a large hood, a waterproof rating of 10,000mm or higher, and good wrist cuffs to keep snow out. For pants, I’m a huge fan of bib-style snow pants since they do a much better job of keeping the snow out, especially for younger kids. These are our favorite kids snow pants, and we love that they can be worn as just a snow pant or as a bib (use code BTK25 for 25% off)!
READ: Best Kids Coats
Best Kids Ski Coats
Best Kids Snow Pants
4. Warm Socks For Kids Feet
The best way to keep kids feet warm is with a good pair of wool socks. We love that the keep feet warm, and even work well to insulate when wet. Don’t ever put kids in cotton socks in the winter, especially for outdoor adventures. These are our go to winter socks for kids (they’re tall so perfect for snow play and skiing too), and they seem to last forever without holes! Check out these merino wool socks for babies too.
READ: Best Winter Socks For Kids
5. Choose The Best Winter Boots For Kids
Boots are another game changer for kids. We have a few brands that we absolutely love and that keep performing well year after year. Find a boot that’s really waterproof (for younger kids, get a boot with a rubberized bottom half to really keep them dry). We also recommend getting a kids’ snow boot that’s easy for kids to put on and off by themselves (avoid laces for younger kids).
READ: Best Winter Boots For Kids or if you have mild winters, the Best Kids Hiking Shoes and Boots
6. Hats To Insulate and Prevent Heat Loss
Buy a good thick hat. Fleece and wool are the most widely available options so just choose your kids favorite hat as long as it’s not cotton. Again, thicker usually means warmer. One of the biggest things to look for in a hat is one that fits well and covers their ears. If you have a toddler or baby who likes to pull them off, get one that you can tie or velcro around the neck.
7. Waterproof Gloves or Mittens
Hands are one of the fastest things on kids to get cold in the winter, so make sure to keep them covered with gloves or mittens especially in the snow. Make sure that your kids gloves are waterproof, cover the wrist well, and that they are easy to get on and off. We’ve found that most kids have a preference on gloves or mittens, so talk to your kids about what they want so they’ll be more likely to wear them. I recommend mittens for younger kids or if you have a child that gets cold easily, mittens are always warmer than gloves for kids.
READ: Best Waterproof Gloves and Mittens For Kids
8. How to Keep Kids Faces Warm
When it’s windy or cold outside, keep your kids faces protected. We’re big fans of fleece neck gators and balaclavas. These are simple to put on and adjust and can go a long way to keeping kids warmer in the snow. If it’s really cold, I recommend having kids wear ski goggles to really insulate their faces.
READ: Best Kids Face Masks for Winter
How To Dress Babies To Go Outside In The Winter
Babies absolutely can go outside in the winter, even when it’s cold outside, as long as they’re dressed well. In general, we recommend having babies wear one layer more than an adult or older child would be wearing.
Remember that babies aren’t moving around a lot and generating their own heat, so they need to be dressed warmer. If your baby is in a carrier, stroller, or buggy, make sure to check on them often to ensure that they’re staying warm enough and also not over heating. A sleeping baby in a carrier (especially a backpack carrier where you don’t see them the whole time), can be at a big risk of getting too cold in the winter. Especially make sure to check their hands and feet for warmth.
Avoid winter clothes for baby that are too big. Having winter clothing that is too big makes it harder for kids to move and limits the body’s ability to generate heat and warm up.
Babies always need to have their hands, feet and head covered when outside in the winter, and merino wool is hands down the best material for those areas right next to the skin. We love these merino wool baby socks, this merino wool base layer set for babies. Merino wool keeps babies warm and helps to prevent sweating, so it’s perfect for little ones.
How To Dress Toddlers In The Winter
For the most part, you can dress toddlers just like you would older kids. If you are going to be doing an activity where they will be holding still a lot, put one more layer of clothing on them (like pulling them long distances in a sled, or carrying them in a hiking backpack). Make sure to ask your toddler if they’re staying warm often, and check in to see that they’re enjoying things. If you notice any signs of cold feet, hands or face (whining, shivering), make sure to provide them with extra warmth right away.
One of the most important pieces of gear for toddlers is a good pair of mittens. Toddlers are prone to taking their mittens off often, so finding a pair that fits well, has good coverage, and keeps their hands dry is incredibly important. We love these toddler mittens and also these thumbless toddler mittens.
123 thoughts on “Dressing Kids For Winter Adventures: 11 Secrets To Staying Warm in Winter”
My favorite piece of outdoor clothing is my Mountain Hardwear Victorio jacket – waterproof and very breathable. However, I am super excited, I just a merino wool hat and mitten set for my son.
My most used item for winter is gloves. I hate to have cold hands.
Our little guy is 7 months old, we’re just learning how to dress him for the cold, but so far the most used piece of cold weather gear is his fleece suit.
My favorite piece of outdoor gear is my coat…actually, I love my husbands coat more! I love his because it is too big but nice and warm so I feel like I am wrapped in a blanket when I wear it.
My faves are my sorel boots – never have cold feet in even -20 degrees!
My favorite piece of outdoor gear is my Patagonia Nano Puff. Super light, super compact, SUPER warm.
Our fav. piece of outdoor clothing is the light puffy jacket, as warm as down, but oh so much less bulky. My son has the Northface Perito Jacket and my husband and I have ones from MEC.
How big do those get? Up to 2T? Count me in if they do! My favorite outdoor gear is a good, lightweight but superwarm down coat. So it’s insulating but not too hot in warmer places. It’s knee-length too! Not too long to prevent free leg motion, but long enough to keep most of my legs good and warm out and about.
Favorite? Fleece. Summer, fall, winter, spring. We use it always!
P.S. We could use that suit cuz IT”S A BOY!
My Skhoop skirt. Sledding, skiing, shopping… anywhere!
We probably use our fleece zip-down jackets the most – indoors, too. In the dark of winter, our merino wool socks become like hot chocolate – pure comfort on a cold day.
I got an Ambler hat last year, and it is awesome. It’s good material, looks really nice, and most importantly it’s warm, I mean really warm. Any kid who got one would love it.
My hat is my favorite. I’m not a big jacket person so on days that are a little cold I just put on my hat and am good to go.
we LOVE our Patagonia PUff Ball jackets…and our DucKsday! I LOVE that canuck hat sooo much (and want to give the DucKsday suit to a friend who really needs it…) Thanks for the great chance!
I absolutely required my REI rainsuit for my baby daughter last year.. but she just grew out of it and I need a replacement! She always gets frustrated when she gets wet while playing outside. I definitely need to get a all-weather waterproof layer like the Ducksday soon!
While I love most all of my gear I bought a balaclava from walmart last year that has won me over it is fleece under $10 and has kept me so nice and warm on so many campouts
Wool socks. My feet get cold really easily. I didn’t realize how bad cotton was, because my feet would stay warm… then sweat… then get cold again! With wool, my feet stay warm and dry. I wear wool socks every day in the winter.
I have a fur lined cap that I love!
My old brown Northern Reflections jacket that I bought on ebay used about 8 years ago.
Such a great product. We live in cold wet Washington and would use the rain suit so often to go out and play!
I’m with you on the mittens for adults! I found a pair on clearance a few years ago that are the warmest thing I own. I wish I could convince my 5-year-old that mittens were “cool.” He just won’t believe me.
That would be my thick winter jacket and gloves is a must.
aemgeg4 (@) yahoo (dot) com
I have a favorite vest that I wear hiking every time.
Shoes. We use shoes the most 🙂
What a great list of information! I remember when I first learned that cotton is not a good baselayer. Wow… what a shocker!
Also, your baby jimmy is THE CUTEST EVER. I want our boys to play together!
I have a favorite pair of hiking socks! I need to get more of them!
Our nine month old will be staying warm in style.
Love my wool Teko Socks they have lasted a long time not like other wool socks on the market.
My favorite winter clothes is my skiing gloves and my snow boots!!
Love beanie hats
My jacket is the most used item
I love my The North Face jacket. It’s probably similar their Redpoint Jacket.
my earwarmer beanie hat
I have a used army field coat that has been my winter staple for almost 22 years now!
I am pretty partial to scarves..and for my daughter – hats are a must! She’s 9 months old and barely a hair upon her sweet head..
I love my leather gloves with cashmere lining and long cuffs. They keep my hands nice and warm.
i wish i would have had this kind of gear as a kid!
favorite outdoor clothing item would be my cashmere scarf
My favorite would be my fleece jacket.
My beanie! I always get cold ears if I don’t wear it in the cold.
Most used is My babies hat and gloves ,,,cuz im always putting them back on her cuz shes always taking them off
My hunter style hat. Keeps my ears super warm!
My big wool hat, keeps my head super warm! thanks for the chance!
Hiking boots! Don’t leave home without them!
Any and all scarves!
My warm gloves, I love them!!!!
Gloves that work with my ipod
Hmm, favorite for my baby would have to be her little bear jumpsuit
would have to be my gloves. My hands get really cold.
My nice big coat that keeps me SO warm!
a warm child is a happy child. and they look so dang cute looking like a puffer in those outfits!
Gloves, definitely gloves.
snow boots! nothing like dealing with freezing cold wet feet 🙁
probably my hat i like my ears to be warm
a thick pair of winter gloves
I love gloves to keep my fingers warm.
Raincoat! We live in Oregon!
I make hats, so my favorite piece of winter clothing just depends on what we are all wearing — we have hats to fit every occasion!
fleece jacket and glove/ mittens
My leather jacket!!
-Ashley Marie Morrissey
Fleece one piece for my daughter!
I have a wool lined, ear flap hat from L.L. Bean, that is NOT cute- but super warm!
Definitely winter gloves
My most used winter item is my jacket.
My favorite outdoor clothing item is my hiking shoes.
My winter jacket and a pair of gloves!
i would say my winter jacket, but I LOVE warm, cozy winter socks! i like collecting fun patterns and knits to mix it up
Winter time I can’t go out without my hat
I LOVE a good pair of gloves. I don’t like cold fingers.
SmartWool socks are a MUST at our house!
my snow boots!!!
My snow boots and carhart coat when i sled with my kids!
I love my telemark boots. My skis have been known to sleep with me in bed. A good pair of running shoes is pretty hard to beat.
my keen boots. they are amazing.
Ice Bugs! it is snow covered and icy for 6 months and they help me get outside and retain my sanity.
My son’s rainboots! 🙂
my Jcrew wool coat!
A scarf that a friend knitted for me is my favorite:)
I had these awesome wool mittens that were super warmed, lined, and so cozy… until I washed them. They were the best.
I love my baby snow suit : )
We use the hats all the time!
my boots are toasty warm!
I have a pair of gloves that I practically never leave the house without! They are so silky soft and warm and cute!
In the winter my north face shell.
i love my worn in leather boots
I love my warm wooly gloves.
Definitely my Tilley Hat!
My warm hat
Great warm gloves are the best because I can stay outdoors a lot longer when my hands and feet are warm
I have a couple of different hoodies that i always wear.
My 10 year old Lands End wool lined jacket!
I love the winter headband I got in Alaska 🙂
My homemade, fleece lined wool hat has been around for 10 years.
Layers! Patagonia long johns for our toddler have worked great and I love one piece snowsuits.
Definitely my waterproof jacket. But as a side note, thank you so much for this review! I had commented on another page that I could use some advice about finding warm gloves for kids… So I’m definitely going to check out the gloves you recommended in this post. Thank you!
Our winter hats I made them. I’m not a fan of winter so I tend to stay away from winter clothes.
My gloves..definitely. I am not one for hats or scarves but I must have gloves.
Coat & gloves!
My hiking boots are my favorite piece of gear. Hundreds of miles in them! They were the first “real” gear that my husband and I bought together. Both of us need to replace our pairs, but can’t find it in our hearts (or budget) to do it.
my boots are my favorite
My favorite are my boots.
our son wears his beanie more than anything else. but for hubby and i, we wear hoodies
I know it’s not really clothing but since we ride our bikes EVERYWHERE, we use our helmets everyday.
My favorite winter item is definitely my winter jacket from REI
We are not uber outdoorsy – but i always have on my sunglasses 🙂
I think I attribute most of my warmth to my giant circle scarf!