Dressing kids and ourselves well for extended outdoor play in winter is essential—often making the difference between joy and misery. Having the right cold-weather gear means longer lasting time outside. This winter especially, getting outdoors is one of the most important things we can do for our kids. It helps with mental and physical health, focus, resilience—and provides the wellness combo of play and nature, which can’t be beat.
But while we all know that layering is the key to staying warm, actually getting all that gear on, especially for kids who are sensitive about how clothing feels on their skin, can try everyone’s patience.
Here’s how to do it:
- Leave enough time so you’re not getting dressed under duress—kids can shut down when we have to rush.
- Gather all that you need before you start so you are not rushing or you don’t risk breaking your momentum once you have kids on a roll.
- Put items on in the same order each time. Once kids learn the routine, it’s easier for them to follow along and become independent! You can even make a chart with pictures of the layers and the order in which to put them on and display it near the door. Kids can follow along and see what goes on next.
- 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 a tune from a song your child loves or 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?” When kids have choice, they feel more in control and independent—something our young kiddos crave!
- Stay silly. Pretend to put your gloves on your head or your hat on your foot and ask: “Is this right? It’s not?! Can you show me where you put your hat?”
- Get help from favorite toys. Stop to wonder what their favorite toys might need to get ready for a chilly outdoor adventure and help them get ready, too! BONUS: Once bundled, consider taking a beloved toy on a REAL outdoor adventure!
- Save some layers for outside. To avoid kids getting overheated and uncomfortable during the dressing process, have them put some clothes on inside (snowpants, boots, gloves, hat) and then step outside to put the final layer on (coat).
- Flex your patience muscle—If you feel yourself growing impatient, reframe that as a sign that you are getting a patience workout! it is one of your parent superpowers, and it gets stronger every day.
- Channel creature powers. Pretend to be favorite winter animal friends putting on your “fur” (coat) or “paws” (a.k.a. mittens). Even mitten-resisters are happy to rock some paws!
- Don’t forget yourself! 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! The comfier you are, the happier your outings will be.
Need recommendations for which winter gear will work for your child and family? Check out our Winter Gear Guide. Or, join & ask in our #OutdoorsAll4 Facebook Group — a perfect place to connect with thousands of caregivers, educators, and Tinkergarten Leaders all working to build purposeful outdoor play into their routine!
Once you're geared up, we wish you the best of adventures outdoors this winter! Make sure you’re signed up to receive our monthly calendars—free monthly guides full of timely ways to add more joyful outdoor play to your every day. Or, participate in Winter Tinkergarten with a curriculum designed to fill your weeks with outdoor play and build kids’ Problem Solving skills this season. Find classes near you or try out our on-demand Tinkergarten Anywhere format.