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2020 Winter Gear Guide

by Meghan Fitzgerald

Spending time outside is essential for our overall well being—even when the temperature dips way down. That is why we are thrilled to share this Winter Gear Guide—wisdom we've gathered from thousands of Tinkergarten Leaders over 21 seasons. Scroll on down or hop through the links below to learn from how our team gears up to #PlayOutdoorsall4!

Winter Gear Guide Contents:

WHY GET OUTDOORS IN WINTER?

Health professionals agree that getting outside in winter is not only safe, but highly recommended for emotional and physical health. Today's kids get 50 percent less time outdoors than children in the 1970s—and many of the health conditions that afflict kids now, like asthma, obesity, Vitamin D deficiency, ADD, and more, track with that trend. Think of being outside year-round as your apple-a-day for wellness, offering sunlight, fresh air, physical activity, and just the right activation of all of our senses.

Also, navigating some cold-induced discomfort builds resilience and grit to help kids handle the snowballs life will throw their way. 

Still worry that bringing kids outdoors in the blustery chill can be dangerous? On most days it's truly not—and you can use tools like this chart to see what experts deem “safe.” Most of the time, as long as you are dressed well, time learning and playing outdoors is only good for all.

Winter is also an ideal time for natural discovery. Whether you crack ice puddles and marvel at the brave cardinal who sticks it out, or you welcome a cool breeze and new birds who visit your area to escape the cold, winter helps us discover how living things thrive. And, we can all end our outdoor sessions healthy-cheeked, refreshed and ready for tea time (a favorite Winter Tinkergarten tradition!).

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TIPS FOR GEARING UP

Dressing the Part

Dressing kids and ourselves well for winter outdoors is also essential—often making the difference between joy and misery. It's not always easy to figure out what to wear, though. How bundled is enough, and how do you keep from spending, well, a bundle? That's where, after 21 seasons of outdoor play across the country, we can help!

We've talked to Tinkergarten Leaders in all 50 states and compiled our collective wisdom on what to wear and how/where to find it. We’ve got videos, gear lists and gear sourcing tips—with versions depending on the climate you explore—from sunny but chilly Southern California, to frozen-over Minnesota, to damp and cool Seattle. 

Got the gear, but getting it on is the problem!

As for actually getting your kids in the clothes once you have 'em? Here are a handful of expert tips:

  • Leave enough time so you’re not getting dressed under duress—kids can shut down when we have to rush! 
  • Ask kids to help you dress and do it together. Pretend to forget what comes next and put them in the helper position.
  • Sing a song that narrates what to put on next, like “Putting on our cozy socks, cozy socks, cozy socks…” (Need a tune? Use something familiar like Twinkle Twinkle or Happy Birthday)
  • Give kids choices. “Should we put a boot on this foot first, or that foot?” “Red hat or blue hat today?”
  • Flex your patience muscle—it is one of your parent superpowers, and it gets stronger every day!  
  • Come to Tinkergarten—We have warm tea, shelters and even extra “paws” (a.k.a. warm socks) on hand at winter classes—even mitten-resisters are happy to slide on some paws!

NOTE: For You Too!

In our regional gear videos below, Tinkergarten leaders layer-up with their kiddos. That’s because grown-ups need proper layers too—it’s easy to get so caught up in getting our littles snug that we forget ourselves. We need self-care, too! All of the info below applies to you as well; the comfier you are, the happier your outings will be. 

We've Got You Covered

Once you have the right gear, sign up for a Tinkergarten class near you to join up with a class of families committed to not only playing but learning outdoors all winter! We’ll make sure that winter becomes your favorite season and kids thrive all season long! 

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WHERE TO BUY: FAVORITE GEAR BRANDS + DISCOUNTS

Keep an eye out for these—our Tinkergarten team favorite brands—especially, if you can find them in swaps or on sale. Many are an investment, but they last, work like a charm and really deliver on quality. See below for current discounts and remember to ask friends and family for gear gifts, too!

Socks and Base Layers

  • Ella’s Wool—Amazingly soft and warm merino wool clothing and base layers. Receive 10% off anytime when you enter the code tinker
  • LL Bean's "Wicked Warm" and Land's End's base layers are a bit more affordable and do a great job too.
  • Smartwool or Darn Tough—Great quality socks and base layers.

Outerwear

  • Oaki—High quality snowsuits, puffy jackets, boots and more from a marvelous, mission-aligned brand. Plus, you can use the discount code Tinkergarten, to get 20% off ANYTIME! See the site for Black Friday/Cyber week deals, too,
  • Polarn O. Pyret—High quality, Scandinavia-tested outerwear. Participate in Tinkergarten? List us as your outdoor school when you complete the application to receive 20% off POP outerwear! 
  • WinterKids.com—A good select at decent prices, with regular sales.
  • Backcountry—High quality outdoor gear, often on sale. Check out their Cybersale discounts--still going.
  • Patagonia—Not a bargain, but the best quality around, with great eco-cred—these are the ultimate hand-me-downs. And, you can find some deals on their worn wear site. Or, check Patagonia Web Specials for deals.
  • REI—Another high quality gear source who is committed to making the world a better place with great gear and the #Optoact and #Optoutside movements. REI has a used gear section, too. Check out their Cyber Week deals, good through Dec 8.
  • L.L. Bean—We love their quality, colorful puffy coats and classic duck boots, and they truly guarantee each and every purchase.  
  • Lands End—Solid quality gear, and often a sale or discount, including significant Cyber week deals.
  • Northface also has super gear for kids and some seasonal sales, too!

Accessories

  • Gloves
    • SnowStoppers—simply the best way to keep small hands warm and dry in the snow.
  • Hats
    • Zutano—We have a sweet spot for these super cute hats.
    • Leaders report any wool, fleece-lined hat does the trick. Just don't shrink it in the dryer!
  • Face- and neck-warmers
    • Turtle Fur—Funny name, fantastically warm and soft fleece—on Amazon.com.
  • Boots
    • Bogs—Easy on and off, waterproof and ready for anything.
    • Kamik, L.L. Bean or Tundra—Warm and waterproof on the bottom for growing feet.
    • Oakiwear boots are favorites for the rain.
    • Sorel and Bogs for adults, too!

HOW TO KEEP GEAR AFFORDABLE

Depending on how much you need, gear can be spendy—especially once multiplied by multiple siblings. Our favorite places for affordable, quality gear:

  • Instead of more toys, ask friends and family for gear as holiday gifts! (There are Tinkergarten gift cards, too!)
  • Check local Facebook marketplaces and search for Facebook Groups focused on parenting or free swapping.
  • Local clothing swaps and groups—if your school or parenting group doesn't have one, organize one so everyone you can size up! (Here in Northampton, for example, we have a smallish Western Mass Conscious Mama group and a larger 413 Buy + Sell + Trade group. You can also look for a local Buy Nothing or Freecycle group.
  • Carter's—Good quality for lower prices (especially if you hit one of their many sales).
  • EBay—You'll need to sift, but deals on used and new clothes abound.
  • If you’re crafty, patch snow pants and get another season/hand them on down. Here’s how.

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HOW TO GEAR UP—VIDEOS and LISTS BY REGION

Deep Freeze in Minnesotastarring Meghan and Brady

Gear List for Deep Freeze Regions:

Base Layer

  • Undershirt (tight to skin, wool)
  • Leggings (tight to skin, wool)

2nd Layer

  • Sweater or fleece
  • Fleece pants

Outer Layer

  • Snow pants (overalls)
  • Snow coat

Footwear

  • Snow boots

Accessories

  • Winter hat
  • Mittens 
  • Neck warmer/face protector (We love Turtle Fur)
  • Thick lotion for face to prevent cold-chapping (optional)
  • Hand warmers (optional)

Essentials: Sense of wonder + a sense of humor

Mild and Wild in Orange County, CAstarring Laura and Evie 

Gear List for Mild Regions:

Base Layer

  • Short sleeves
  • Leggings, if it’s chilly (tip: pajama bottoms)

2nd Layer

  • Pants
  • Long sleeves or fleece, if it’s chilly

Outer Layer

  • Rain coat (We love Oaki)

Footwear

  • Sneakers/hikers (We love Keen)
  • Rain boots (We love Bogs)

Accessories + Essentials

Wet and Chilly in Seattlestarring Ali, Rustin and Mutsy 

Gear List for Wet and Chilly Regions:

Base Layer

  • Long sleeved undershirt 
  • Leggings or long underwear pants (tip: pajama bottoms)
  • Wool or other warm/dry socks (We love Smartwool + Darn Tough)

2nd Layer

  • Fleece jacket or wool sweater (if cold)
  • Fleece pants (if cold)

Outer Layer

  • Waterproof jacket and pants or single suit (We love Oaki rain suits)

Footwear

  • Rain or snow boots (We love Bogs)

Accessories

Essentials: Sense of Wonder and a Sense of Humor

Chilly to Cold in Texas, starring Erika and Maya

Gear List for Chilly to Cold Regions:

Base Layer

  • Long sleeved shirt
  • Leggings or sweatpants (tip: pajama bottoms)
  • Wool or other warm/dry socks (We love Smartwool + Darn Tough)

2nd Layer

  • Fleece jacket or sweatshirt

Outer Layer

  • Wind or waterproof winter jacket (when it gets cold)

Footwear

  • Rain or hiking boots (We love Bogs and Oaki boots)

Accessories

  • Warm winter hat
  • Light mittens

Essentials: Sense of Wonder and a Sense of Humor

Mountain Cold in Appalachia, starring Sarah and Court

Gear List for Mountain Cold Regions:

Base Layer

  • Undershirt or leotard (tight to skin)
  • Leggings or pajama bottoms

2nd Layer

  • Sweater or fleece vest
  • Sweatpants or fleece plants

Outer Layer

  • Snow pants (overalls!)
  • Snow coat

Footwear

  • Snow boots

Accessories

  • Winter hat
  • Mittens 
  • Neck warmer/face protector (We love Turtle Fur)

Essentials: Sense of wonder + a sense of humor. "Word up, Tinkergarten!"

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