My nephew would like to not freeze this winter, thank you.
November 7, 2013 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Asking for my sister, mother of a 1.5 year old boy: "Please share your opinions about winter outerwear for a toddler. He already has a good winter coat (thank you friends from Canada), but what about the rest of it? Gloves v. mittens? Bibs v. snow pants? What's worth a significant investment, and where can you save some pennies? Your advice and recommendations, please." Additional relevant info: he is rather tall for his age, and this winter he wears a 3T. He lives in New England, so winter is for real.
posted by ocherdraco to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by steinwald at 6:35 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I very much prefer bibs for toddlers, and definitely mittens. The waterproof kind. And a good warm hat and some boots. That should do it.

Personally, I spend a little money on coats and bibs -- I usually buy them from Lands End or LL Bean, on end of season sales for the next winter -- because I have two kids and I hand them down. Boots I just buy from Costco or Target or wherever because I never know whether the little one will be the right size for them the next year. I've never had a problem with boots not lasting (the one pair I ever wore out completely went through both my kids and two before), but I haven't had good luck with thrift store coats. YMMV of course.
posted by gerstle at 6:35 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Snow pants are critical. And my kids wore a snow suit -- sort of a big puffy one-piece deal -- on the colder winter days.

Most kids that age wear mittens, not gloves. He will also want a nice warm hat -- the hood of his coat will not keep his head and ears warm enough.

I, too, used to live in New England, and I, too, used to think winter there was for real, before I moved to Wisconsin.
posted by escabeche at 6:38 PM on November 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

Layers, and keep things as light as possible. 1.5 is small enough to have serious scaling issues with materials-- the padding and fabric of standard-issue outerwear end up being almost immoveably stiff and bulky when used in baby-size garments. Mine had nice warm Lands' End snow gear, but when the snow came, she couldn't actually do anything in it beyond collapsing into a drift and flailing weakly. If I had it to do over again, I'd go with one of these light buntings, plus some UnderArmour or silk long underwear, plus fleece tops/pants underneath the bunting.
posted by Bardolph at 6:45 PM on November 7, 2013

Bibs are better than snow pants, because then snow doesn't end up down your pants, and they're easier than a one-piece snowsuit. Plus you can wear a separate jacket alone with regular pants.

Mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves.

We always had great luck at children's resale stores--better than thrift shops for whatever reason. When we lived in California, we'd visit our family in Minnesota and pick up their gear for skiing at resales stores there, cheap.

Boots with removable liners are easier to get in and out of. Also, get Smartwool socks (Target actually has an own-brand version that's not bad). You can get them a little big and they'll last a few years, they're worth the premium versus plain cotton baby socks.

I recommend multiple sets of mittens and multiple hats (fleece lined hats are warmer than plain knit ones, wool is better than acrylic because it resists water). I recommend non-knitted mittens, which will just get soggy if you play in the snow.

I suggest that your sister make friends with other parents who have slightly older and slightly younger kids, being able to pass this sort of thing back and forth is really great. We have a neighbor who's a couple years older than my girls and we just buy her last year's snow gear every fall, and then depending on the condition and who needs it, we can resell, pass on, or donate to the kids' school for whoever needs warm winter gear.
posted by padraigin at 6:46 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: children's resale stores

I'm not familiar with this term--is it the same as a consignment shop?
posted by ocherdraco at 6:50 PM on November 7, 2013

Bibs are also better than snow pants because they last at least a couple of seasons. Just keep letting out the shoulder straps as the kid gets taller.

My experience with kids outerwear was that they would get INSANELY picky about their mittens and I would buy many cheap pairs until they would latch on to the one they liked. And then I would buy multiples of that one, since if it got lost they would not accept substitutes. I got decent cheap ones at Walmart and Kmart. For some reason Target never had waterproof ones.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:19 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding consignment, resale, or thrift stores. Baby and toddler clothes get so little wear because they grow out of them so quickly, that you can usually find beautiful, like-new stuff for cheap. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and smaller consignments shops are great!
posted by primate moon at 7:23 PM on November 7, 2013

Fleece is your friend. It is warm, light, flexible, and easily washed. Balaclava-style hats are great for everyone. I used to crochet them for my kids, with a long collar that tucked into their jackets.
posted by mareli at 7:29 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are we sure the 1.5yo in question is actually going to get into snow? Ignore me if he has a long bus commute in his usual routine. But if this is just an idea that he needs it because he'll be playing in the snow, it's not unheard of for toddlers to hate it. And you're not supposed to use a thick coat in a car seat, so going out in a car already involves warming up the car and taking a well-layered kid... "Playing" in snow here at that age was just tears. We had a lovely one-piece from LL Bean and it was only useful for stuff like watching Christmas parades. A good coat plus quality long johns would've sufficed. Daughter was still coatless often at 1.5; she was still in an Ergo lots, where she wore a wool balaclava and got zipped up under my own parka.

Worth investing in: stuff that is easy to get on and off. (Definitely mittens.) Stuff made from good materials that are warm without being too thick. Quality zippers.

Not worth it, at 1.5: top-notch boots; they just don't walk very much. Used is fine. One solid pair of waterproof mittens for play is good, but semi-disposable cheapie knit mittens, bought in identical multiples so a loss is not a tragedy, work for most toddler situations

We sometimes do volunteer work mending and washing winter wear with the local snowsuits-for-broke-families racket and:

* snowpants that are too long are not a good 'he'll grow into it' savings because the hems just get trashed (but, perhaps not a consideration for a young toddler who won't put heavy wear on anything)

* Columbia has the worst reputation for quality compared to price, Velcro fuzzes easily and eventually wears out, buying from a manufacturer with a solid guarantee (Lands' End and LL Bean are the two that jump to mind) is a good idea because of zipper issues

* never buy any kids' anything made with a palpably thin outer fabric no matter how well insulated it seems, and puffy (often seen with thin nylon outers) is not a plus for little kids (ease of movement)

* if there's trim on the hood that won't wash well it should be able to be removable, dark standard colours are the most economical (easy to match random black parka to random black bibs; pretty pink stuff is often garbage because the stains won't budge, especially from knees)

* kids' winter wear with ratty knees or a broken zipper is not too hard to find free or dirt cheap (I have had luck with asking thrifts and consignments to set aside the stuff with issues that won't sell, but might have better luck than average because I'm asking on behalf of a charity), and lots of nice older ladies are able to open snowpant seams, patch the knees, and re-sew them into new-looking pants and flawlessly install new zips, often for reasonable prices

Finally: 'no name' discount store kids' outerwear holds very little of its value, but if you buy an excellent condition used snowsuit with a respectable brand name and take good care of it you are pretty much renting for a pittance as re-sale for a good garment is easy. Here in Canada, MEC is one brand that really holds its value. If you can spend over $100 on a kids' thing from [company], it's a safe bet that you can re-sell their X for a respectable % of what you paid.
posted by kmennie at 7:38 PM on November 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

children's resale stores

I'm not familiar with this term--is it the same as a consignment shop?

Some are consignment based, some are straight up "you sell us your thing, we give you $X cash or $Y credit". I would assume that any big city will have at least one kid-specific store of this nature.
posted by padraigin at 7:47 PM on November 7, 2013

I had my three starting when they were 1,2, and 3 (at the same time!) between Chicago and the Adirondacks. Playing on a frozen windswept lake is mighty cold. Often around -10f WITHOUT the windchill factored in.

I would put my money into a jacket, mittens, hat and warm socks. I would get some sort of snow pants or bib and cheaper boots as they will be grown out of quickly. I do remember the biggest mistake we made the first year or two was that if we bundled them up in a not convenient way, changing a diaper was a real pain. Take it all off, put it all back on. Feh.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:22 PM on November 7, 2013

Neck Gaiter!

Way better than a scarf. You can pull it up over the hat in back and over the nose and mouth in front.

It was a little below zero F here this morning. I sent my kids to school in
--snow pants (bibs are easy)
--neck gaiter
--mittens (mostly waterproof)

That's pretty much the routine. Mittens are much better than gloves, for everyone, when it's cold.

We've got snow suits, but I don't usually break those out until either (1) they're going to be out in the cold for a while, especially not moving, or (2) it's really cold (when it starts getting below say -20, say). Otherwise they get too hot.

For 1 1/2 he's probably not going to be out so much, but you still want everything except the snowsuit.

The thin knit gloves are worse than useless in the snow; they just get soaked.

Boots with removable liners are good but not critical, but you do want snow boots.

Get at least 2 hats, neck gaiters, and pairs of mittens, if you can, for when you're trying to get out of the house and can't find one set...
posted by leahwrenn at 8:29 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Grew up in New England. Mittens for sure. Wool hat or better. Scarf for the face. You want clothes that will stay warm when wet (ie, while the kid is sledding and digging in slushy snow). None of this stuff has to be expensive.
posted by zippy at 9:24 PM on November 7, 2013

What's worth a significant investment, and where can you save some pennies?

Well, just as a practical matter, you can save on all of it - I mean, it's not like car seats or cot mattresses where there is real thought to be done on new vs 2nd hand. Ebay has LL Bean 3T snow bibs for $12. In terms of ease of getting reluctant toddlers into hot clothing, I would go with snow bib, mittens and snow boots that have velcro closures. (The only thing worse than trying to get sock-covered toddler feet into boots is trying to get toddler hands into gloves.)
posted by DarlingBri at 9:30 PM on November 7, 2013

The best mittens are ones with long cuffs that can be tucked into the sleeve of the coat. The coat should have a tight cuff (sometimes an inner one) that when combined with the mittens will keep the snow out. Bib should have the same for the boots. Nothing will end play sooner than snow up the sleeve or in the boot.
posted by 101cats at 10:39 PM on November 7, 2013

I'm at a loss as to everyone voting for mittens, considering they're full of holes... Either they've got the finest mittens, dipped in amazing AntiColdium, or I've just had bad luck. Gloves with inner linings if you're serious.... just my vote.
posted by Yowser at 12:12 AM on November 8, 2013

I'm at a loss as to everyone voting for mittens, considering they're full of holes.

Are you assuming "mittens" = "woollen mittens"? Mittens are a style of glove without individual fingers, they can be made of anything (e.g.), and are good for keeping hands warm as regular gloves have a larger surface area and so lose heat faster.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:13 AM on November 8, 2013

I raised all 3 little Kinetics in the Boston area and they lived outside for several months a year so here's my perspective:

* to ensure sanity, buy a few sets of hats, socks and mittens. Trust me; these will all get lost.

* for littler kids to avoid the dreaded "rolled in the snow and now it's down my pants and I'm COLD!!" emergency, go the snowsuit route. In fact, stick with snowsuits until they start school. I always received hand me downs or otherwise bought at Goodwill or consignment shops.

* Polarfleece mittens with some waterproof covering that are clipped to the snowsuit or jacket (yes, get those clips; you'll thank me someday). Mittens will be lost otherwise. And I always bought like 10 pairs of black polarfleece mittens every season despite the clips. Sure, gloves may be better but by the time to get 10 little fingers jammed into them, you're exhausted and crying from the effort.

* Really good polarfleece socks and good velcro-strapped boots. You want the $$ socks; it makes a HUGE difference with, "Mom, my feet are cold and I want to come in!!" I usually got their boots at Target or a place like that; ordered the socks from Amazon.

**IF you don't want to buy the snowsuit because he has a coat, then go for the bib. But snowsuits, at this age, are SO much better.

* Polarfleece neck gaiter if the kid will wear it; some kids hate them, and a few polarfleece hats or headbands that cover the ears. These will all get lost on a weekly basis. As will the mittens. Have the backups ready and don't stress. It's just some hole in the universe.

My kids were forced to play outside and rolled in the snow and built forts and I just got all this stuff at Target or from Amazon. You don't have to spend a lot. But buy in quantity.
posted by kinetic at 3:11 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yowser, I think people are suggesting mittens like these.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:54 AM on November 8, 2013

At 1.5, my son was wearing a poofy winter coat (we did not own a car at the time, so this wasn't a problem---see my carseat info. below), a hat, and mittens. He did walk some, so we had boots, but on the snowiest of days, he was still in the backpack carrier, so boots were more to keep his feet warm.

My daughter was pretty much the same.

We have snowpants for playing in the snow. If we are just walking around town or we are going from one place or another and are not playing in the snow, we do not put them in snowpants.

And be really careful of carseat situations with coats. Do not put kids in coats in carseats. Put them in a sweater or warm up the car or any of the tips in this link.

We live in New England, too.
posted by zizzle at 4:58 AM on November 8, 2013

Adding on to all the mitten recommendations: get mittens with "strings" so they don't get lost.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:52 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mittens with strings were the standard when I was little but, 1) they're usually only available in knit wool, which can lead to wet hands (I like knit mittens fine for myself but I don't stick my hands in slushy snow or anything) and 2) there is a risk of strangling. A small risk, but still.

My niece was 1-1.5 last winter and we went hiking and snowshoeing with her in the backpack a lot (this is in the White Mountains in New Hampshire). She would wear regular cotton knit baby clothes (like stretch pants and a long-sleeve t over a onesie), a fleece footie pajama suit, and a snowsuit over that. The snowsuit has a hood. She wore a hat under the snowsuit hood, and sometimes a neck gaiter as well (over or under, however it fit). The snowsuit also has integrated mittens (no thumbs, just hand coverings, which is actually how a lot of baby/toddler mittens work - most of them don't have the dexterity to user their hands in regular mittens regardless) and she would usually have mittens or socks-as-mittens under the snowsuit and over the snowsuit. If she seemed cold we would sometimes stick adult mittens over her hands and/or feet, or put one of our adult extra layers over the snow suit. She always seemed comfortable, and these hikes sometimes extended 3-4 hours with temps in the teens and twenties.

If she were going out in the stroller or something, we'd pack her in with a lot of blankets. In the car, regular clothes with a blanket tucked around her. She did not play in the snow much. She seemed to like it all right, but by the time she was in the snowsuit and boots, she could barely move (and she was a very competent walker for her age).

(This year someone gave her an underarmor base layer for her second birthday, which she immediately and spontaneously identified as a "hiking shirt" because she's smart and observant and adorable and the best niece in the world.)
posted by mskyle at 6:18 AM on November 8, 2013

Not worth it, at 1.5: top-notch boots; they just don't walk very much.

That really depends on the kid. My not-quite-18 month old runs. She also just moved to a toddler classroom at daycare, where -- unlike the baby classroom she came from -- they play outside for an hour twice a day. Oh, they have regulations about temperature, and they don't go out if it's raining, but they go out. I think state licensing regs require it.

So, yeah, we just bought a lot of winter gear.

* Buy multiple hats and mittens. 1) they will get lost. 2) sometimes they will be wet. 3) your nephew will start exhibiting preferences now, and may insist on the green one, or the duck one, or whatever. Also, asking "do you want the duck hat or the bear hat?" gives them a sense of control, and helps get the hat on a lot easier.

• You need two kinds of mittens: serious ones for when there's snow, and less serious ones for fall weather like now (30's-low 50's). I just bought serious ones at LL Bean, and they look great. I bought cheepies at Old Navy, as well as these off Amazon: both are well-sized. Carter's sells super-cheepies, like 2 pairs for $5 -- I wouldn't trust them beyond fall weather, but you can't beat that price, especially given that they'll get lost.

* more than one coat, for the same reasons, plus one can be more hardcore than the other. It sounds like your nephew has a hardcore coat already. Less serious ones, good for the fall and spring, can be had at Old Navy, Target, etc. for about $25. Oh -- cool fact -- LL Bean and some other exensive brands have cuffs that let out, for growth. Like you just rip out some stitching, and voila -- an extra inch of sleeve.

* Boots -- we just bought some Bogs on the recommendation of a friend. Her toddler wore them all last winter, and she just bought a new pair for this year. I can't personally vouch for their warmth -- and it sure looks like deep snow will get inside -- but they ARE easy on/off, and MACHINE WASHABLE. Did I mention that they are MACHINE WASHABLE??
posted by kestrel251 at 6:36 AM on November 8, 2013

You want one of these.
posted by three blind mice at 7:00 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry. When I clicked that link again I saw that it was just a banner on the website.

What you want is something called the "Halifax Kid's Coverall". You'll have to click through the site. There isn't a URL associated with it.

Built-in gaiters, stirrups for holding the pants down under the boots, waterproof, tough, and extremely warm and cosy. Every little toddler in Sweden wears one of these things - they are outside all day long - and the winters here are as tough as they come. One-piece with plenty of zippers so it's easy to get on and off. Also it's got wide reflective strips on it which is nice when it's dark. Both of my kids use one of these and they've never complained of being cold even when it's -25C outside.
posted by three blind mice at 7:17 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

My son often went out in the bib version of snowpants over a fleece pullover, with hat and mittens, of course. Active kids stay warm. Ease of getting the kid into the stuff is paramount. Kids lose mittens - buy multiple copies of the same mittens, and buy mittens that don't have a left/right, esp. for a toddler. Attach mittens to a long shoelace run through the sleeves. It's not just to keep from losing the mittens, it's to help them stay on. Strings are a hazard for toddlers, so supervision is necessary. The reflective strip or patch is a great addition, cold places get dark early. For car rides, add a fleece throw instead of wrestling a toddler into full cold weather gear, depending on how cold it is, and how fast the back seat warms up. Fleece hats with a strap under the chin, and a velcro fastener are warm and soft and a little less likely to get lost.

I live in Maine, we were able to find LL Bean gear at thrift and resale shops, and I'd even buy new, knowing my nephew would make use of it. KMart often had pretty good kids' clothes and winter gear, although it would have horrid decorations that I would remove.
posted by theora55 at 7:40 AM on November 8, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all these suggestions! I have passed them on to my sister.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:28 AM on November 8, 2013

Lands End is currently 30% off everything with code FRIENDLY and pin 3055, LL Bean is 10% off with code NOV10, and Eddie Bauer is having a veteran's day sale this weekend up to 50% off.
I know it doesn't directly answer your question but I thought I would pass it on if you're going to be investing in some outerwear.
posted by rubster at 3:59 PM on November 8, 2013

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