How Cold is Too Cold for Kids?

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I had great plans for today, really I did.  Right about now I should be packing up the kids and heading to the mountains to enjoy some nice, fluffy, Utah powder.  The day was going to be epic.  We were going with family so there would be lots of people to take turns with the baby and skiing with the other kids while I could go out and tear it up with the rest of my family.  Then, yesterday we checked the weather.  At 10:30, it was 2 degrees at the resort.  At 3pm, temperatures had just barely crept into the double digits.  With a similar forecast for today, we were faced with a dilemma:  go and risk cold, crying kids, or just bag the day.  Usually, we are the ones to push the limits.  Today, we let the weather win and are staying inside.  This problem brought up an interesting question for us – how cold is too cold for kids?  Here are some good rules of thumb to follow:

Below 0 degrees:  Too cold to go out and play.  Keep the kids inside and hope it warms up tomorrow!

Single Digits:  Okay to go out and play for short periods of time (less than 30 minutes at a time).  Try to stay dry when possible (resist the urge to smash your face in the snow), and check noses, cheeks, toes and fingers for warmth regularly.  Dress extra warm!

Teens:  Fine to go outside and play for a longer period of time if dressed warm in layers.  Skiing or snowshoeing should not be a problem as long as you take breaks to warm up every 1 o 1.5 hours (with LOTS of hot cocoa).

20’s:  Perfect weather for skiing with kids.  Warmer, but not too warm that the snow is melting and turning slushy/icy.  Bigger kids (4+) can usually be outside for a few hours at a time without much of a problem.

Always remember that it helps to dress in layers so that you can stay warm without overheating and sweating.  Also, a good outerlayer that is water-resistant is crucial for kids since they will inevitably find a way to get wet!  (hint: if your outerwear isn’t waterproof, pick up a can of spray at your local sporting goods store to waterproof it for around $8)

5 Comments

  • Tanya says:

    How about -5F? That was the temperature last time we went away for the weekend here with our kids. We managed to go skating for half an hour, x country skiing for an hour, and to roast marshmallows for half an hour. It was COLD. Not fun. In our Outdoor playgroup we have a cut off of 5F including wind chill. That being said, we don’t typically play for the full two hours if it’s that cold.
    I can’t wait till spring weather. 🙂

    • Jen says:

      Up where I live it is often below 0F for weeks on end. So we keep going out. -10F is about as cold as we like it without wind. I think I get too cold before the kids do! I bike down to -25F and manage to stay pretty toasty though. Further north, the cut off for school recess is -50F. Just depends what you are used to and geared up for. And how desperate you are to get out of the house 🙂

      • Jessica says:

        Jen- Good point! I think that you and Tanya both pointed out that this can be really relative. Here in Colorado, average winter highs are in the 30’s so 0 degrees is a pretty reasonable cut-off. However, when the average temperature is much colder, you HAVE to adjust or lose your mind inside!

  • OT says:

    Yep, drag your kids out to cross country ski at -25 C (-30 with windchill) and you might never live it down when your daughter gets an epic nose bleed from the cold dry air and bleeds all over her gear. Thanks DAD, I thought you said it was just “brisk” out!

    Childhood trauma outside, -20 C is the cutoff for inside recess here for the children of your snowy northern neighbours. You just learn to adapt and live in long underwear for months at a time.

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