It’s only the second week of September here in Banff, but we’ve been treated to early winter conditions. When over 20 centimetres of snow fell over the course of a few days – and stayed – I was left scrambling, trying to put together a warm and waterproof outfit for my daughter (now 17 months old). Once I finally got her ready, we went into a white, fluffy world and had a magical time catching snowflakes on our tongues and playing in the snow for the first time.
Dressing babies and toddlers for the cold isn’t easy. Finding items is one thing; stuffing the kid into various layers is another! Make it easy on yourself and look for items that let you layer easily and get out the door before you all break out into a sweat. It’s also nice to have the kit we need on hand before the colder seasons arrive, so I recommend you start looking for items early. Hand-me-down items are often the best approach since at this age our kids are growing so fast, but you can also find what you need at outdoor retailers.
My top picks for keeping babies and toddlers warm in winter:
A Quick Note: Many similar products are on the market than the ones I recommend here. None of these companies have paid to be featured – they are simply my top picks! You should be able to find comparable products in your price-range and at retail stores near you.
One-Piece Suits – Avoid endless layering with a quick-zip system. There are lots on the market, but my personal go-to is the MEC Ursus Bunting Suit. The cuffs can be folded over hands and feet, which means you can avoid putting mitts and boots on your baby. I purchased the 12-month suit, and it still fits my almost 1 1/2-year old (with the cuffs folded back). This suit is perfect for layering, wearing on its own, or camping in cooler temperatures in summertime.
All-Weather Rain Suit – These suits are great for toddlers, and can be layered over a fleece one-piece suit for added warmth. Generally, I didn’t use a rain suit when my daughter was just a baby, as she wasn’t walking and running around outdoors during inclement weather. But on a cold, rainy day, a suit like the Molehill 2.5 All-Weather Rain Suit was perfect. Having a long zipper up the suit made it easy to put on (and much easier than putting on separate splash pants and jacket).
Baby Carrier/Cover System – During the colder months, a lifesaver for parents and newborns is a baby carrier insulated inside a cover or jacket. It is definitely a good alternative to carrying a baby around in a heavy car seat covered in sheep’s wool: it keeps you hands-free and keeps your baby warm and protected. You have a few options for insulating a baby in a baby carrier: a fleece cover like the Kowalli, a one-sided bag like the 7 a.m. Pookie Poncho, or a Make My Belly Fit Panel, which can be zipped into your jacket. Be cautious not to overdress your baby when using a system like this.
Bunting Bag/Thermal Blanket – Unless temperatures were dipping to minus 30°C, in the stroller or Chariot I would just use a fleece one-piece suit (cuffs rolled over the hands and feet), a hat, and a thermal blanket like the BLANKET 212evolution from 7 a.m. The great thing about this bag is that a clever zipper system allows it to grow with your child, so I’ll be able to use it for a second winter. This bag is compatible with a car seat or stroller, and also converts into a large blanket. We also used it in our sled, which we pulled when we were skating or walking around town on really snowy days.
Bunting Suit – This winter I have a toddler who wants to walk and move around, so the bunting bag will only be used when she’s actually in the stroller. I need to have something that is warm, easy to put on, and easy to move around in. There are a lot of bunting suits on the market, and each has its own features. I prefer a suit like the Molehill, which has cuffs that roll over the hands and feet for when my toddler doesn’t need to use them. You want warmth, but not too much extra bulk.
Hats, Mitts and Boots – There are plenty of options out there for gear that covers your baby or toddler’s extremities, but I do have a few tips. For headwear, try to find something that secures under your baby’s chin; otherwise the hat will slide off every time your kid moves his or her head inside the stroller or carrier. For mitts it is nice to have an “idiot string” looped through the arms of the jacket so that you don’t lose them if they come off your kid’s hands. A pair that comes high on the child’s wrist and cinches or zips also makes them easier to put on. And boots: until they are walking babies don’t need a waterproof pair! Save your money and get a pair of fleece or down booties. Depending on conditions, toddlers can also wear a pair of down booties (look for ones with some waterproofing and cushioning on the sole) or a toasty pair of insulated and waterproof boots.
It’s always better when we can learn from our community. Here are some our of readers’ tips for dressing your little ones in winter:
-Sara says: Remember to remove bulky jackets or snowsuits before buckling kids into car seats – no matter how cold it is its not safe to wear as they can compress in an accident and straps won’t hold the kids!
-Merrett says: Have multiple pairs of mittens and socks. They can go from being damp to drenched in such a short amount of time.
-Tricia says: Buy snowsuits as big as possible without being ridiculous. We got 2 years per kid (2 kids so 4 years) out of a 18 month size snowsuit from MEC and our second snowsuit from MEC which is a size 3 was worn for 2.5 years by my eldest and I’m hopeful to get another two with my son. Also, Stonz mitts and booties. Seriously the best mittens out there for snow play, and we loved their booties with the liners.
–@Linz_Graham says: Wool socks! We have the little smart wool ones that we got as a gift. When our baby was really young we also used them as mittens
–Suzi says: For toddlers moving, we found that getting a good base layer (synthetic or wool – not cotton) and well fitting layers worked wonders in keeping them warm yet mobile.
-Check out this cool infographic on How to Dress a Baby in Cold Weather.