How to Dress Your Kids for the Snow

For our family, going outside on a snowy day is automatically on the to do list, and a quick look at the thermometer and outside the window is enough for me to mentally assess what we all need to wear. If you aren’t used to taking your kids out into the snow, however, this can be more of a daunting prospect, leading you to wonder whether it’s even worth it. Short answer; it is, but if you can do a little prep in advance, it will make it much easier for you! So here’s a quick guide to how we dress for the snow, and hopefully if you are looking at the forecast and spot a potential snow day in your future, you can start to plan your clothing options to get everyone out the door faster.

1. Layers aka pajamas

Lots of thin layers are the way to go. If you’re going skiing or boarding for the day, a good pair of thermal underwear will set you up. But if you’re just planning an hour or two in the yard, just leave the kids in their PJs. First, it’s one less layer to remove and then add, and everyone will be pleased about that! If your kids are wearing long sleeved, tight fitting pjs, then these are almost the same as thermals and will fit under the next layer perfectly. Otherwise, leggings and a tight fitting long sleeved t-shirt will work fine too.  Depending on the temperature and activity levels of your kids,  you may want to add a thin fleece sweater or hoodie too.

2. Snow pants and Warm Waterproof Jacket

You don’t have to spend a fortune on these if they are just for rolling about in the yard or for a quick occasional sledding trip to a local hill. You can often get them second hand in outdoor consignment stores or on a local B/S/T page, and there are lots of cheaper options in places like Target, Walmart and Amazon. Red has a good quality set of pants and jacket for skiing, when he will be on the mountain all day, and then a cheap set from Target for rolling around outside.
I really like bib snowpants, as it stops snow getting into the waistband if their jacket rides up, plus the bibs provide an extra layer of warmth. We have used full snowsuits in the past (where the jacket and snow pants are an all in one) but Red isn’t a fan, and it makes restroom breaks pretty difficult.  Absolutely not for a kid in the middle of being potty trained!

Because Red must lie on the snow at any opportunity!

Snowpants have two layers at the bottom, an inside layer with an elasticated cuff, and then a thicker top layer.  Be sure both layers come over your kid’s snow boot, and pull the elasticated cuff snug and low around the ankle of their boot.  This should provide a decent seal so snow doesn’t get into their boot even if they are climbing and moving their legs around in crazy directions.

3. Waterproof gloves

This is another extra purchase that, if you don’t go outside in the snow much, might seem unnecessary.  But they’re also something you can pick up cheap or second hand, and they are invaluable if you want to keep the kids out for any length of time.  Wool or fleece will get wet fast, and you know they will be using their hands to throw snowballs, make snowmen, and climb in and out of sleds.

I find that once a glove has come off and a kids hand has become wet with snow (or worse, snow is inside a glove or the sleeve of a jacket), our outside time is limited to another ten minutes max. So I usually get the kids to put their gloves on before their jacket.  It helps create a tight seal at the wrist to minimize the chance of snow getting in, and it also reduces the chance of their gloves falling off accidentally.

4. Hat (and maybe hood)

Unless it’s mid afternoon and sunny, we always add a hat. I try not to put hats on the boys until we are just stepping out the door, as they really add to the sweaty hanging around inside and overheating vibe, which quickly leads to wailing and crying, at least in my house. If it is snowing or very windy, I will often put their hoods up over their hats, although this limits their field of vision, so in general I avoid hoods if I can.

5. Better to get outside and get it wrong!

The only way to really figure out what your kids need is to try it out.  Red can run cold, like me, and likes to have an extra fleece sweater if we’re skiing and sitting around on chair lifts.  If the kids are running around outside, they often need one less layer than I do, which runs counter to what most parenting advice says about dressing your kids for outside weather.  It’s better to get the kids outside and try it out, and to go with one more layer rather than one less.  If you’re dressing them to play in the yard, I would suggest checking on them after ten minutes and bringing them in to take off a layer (or add one) if necessary, so that you can be sure to take off jackets and gloves where it’s dry and then get them dressed and sealed up again correctly!

kid shoveling snow

6. Look for the sun

If it’s sunny then think about sunglasses and even sunscreen.  The white snow can really reflect the sun’s rays back onto the kids faces, and I have burnt my face on a ski vacation before when the day started cloudy but changed quickly to blue skies.

7. Fuel up before and after, not during

I find all of us burn a lot more energy running about in the snow than a regular day outside.  There’s the effort of moving all those extra layers of clothes, and for little people the snow can often be up to their knees, making walking and running in it quite a workout.  And there is something incredibly inviting about falling into and rolling around in the snow when you are dressed up so you don’t get wet.  The kids are forever jumping, lying, getting up, rolling.  As I mentioned in part 3, if a kid takes their gloves off while they’re in the snow, everything gets wet and cold, and you’re on the clock for getting back inside much sooner than you’d planned.  So I make sure to get snacks in them before we leave the house, and then bribe them inside again when we’re done with the promise of hot chocolate with all the trimmings.


8. Prep clothes in advance if you can

Sometimes the snow sneaks up on me, as it does the first fall of every season.  Then you will find the kids in various stages of dress for outside, and me running around looking in closets and storage boxes, trying to find snow pants that fit and figure out why we have 3 of one kind of glove and only one of another.  At least one of us will be crying.  It’s pretty miserable, and it really has an impact on how we feel as we get out into the snow.  I try and be prepared to get the kids dressed once the season is up and running.  If you haven’t already, check out this post I did last month on storing your winter gear.  I use one row for each family member, which means all the essential items other than thermals and any extra fleeces are ready to pick up in one fell swoop.  Red’s gear is on one of the lower rows so that he can reach it himself, although he still needs help putting everything on, particularly checking the seals on snow pants and gloves.

On the basis that not everyone will be immediately excited about leaving the warm, cozy house and getting into the snow, you want the process of getting ready to go to run as smoothly as possible. So I can’t highlight enough the fact that you want to be prepared.  If it means sticking the kids in front of a quick tv show so that I can find everything and put it all in the one place, I will. Because I know that if we have all the right clothes on and are fueled up, we can be outside playing for hours.

Do you take your kids out in the snow, and if so do you have any tips to add? Or if you’re new to it and looking for some advice on what your kids should wear, what is scaring you the most about getting them ready for playing in the white stuff? Let me know in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *