I'm Cold, Go Put on a Jacket. And Mittens. And Boots. And a Hat?
November 4, 2020 7:37 PM   Subscribe

I grew up in LA, and while I've lived on the east coast for 20 years, I dont know how to dress my tiny children. Advice?

They are tiny (very tiny) awesome 1 year old boys. We are in the DC area, so definitely not Siberia, but it does sometimes snow and its been in the and 30s and 40s lately. I expect we'll be spending more time outdoors this year bc of Covid. They have jackets. AND snowsuits (bunting w foldable feet/hands. And hats (to take off as soon as you get them on). Do I need to buy snowboots? Mittens? Gloves? They walk badly, but that will rapidly change. I dont think snow boots even come in Twin B's foot size so thats a separate issue.
The question: tell me everything a dumb Californian needs to know about outfitting tiny toddlers for winter in the Mid Atlantic. (As cheaply as possible since its 2 of everything and they'll grow out of it before next year).
posted by atomicstone to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For being cheap, search out your local twin group on Facebook. (Sometimes called MOM of mother’s of multiples groups). Most likely someone with 2 year old twins is trying to offload last years boots. We often offered bags of clothes for free to younger twins.

1? Boots only if they walk reliably. Hats with tie or Velcro under the chin. Mutton’s will get lost, fold over sleeves better. Otherwise, I think you’re good!
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:43 PM on November 4, 2020 [8 favorites]

Also know that you want mittens, not gloves, and you really want the strings! You can buy them pre-strung or get the strings on their own. They go up one sleeve of their winter coats and down the other so they don't get lost. For toddlers, you can get mittens without thumbs, and those take approximately 900 hours off the time it takes to get out of the house each day.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:08 PM on November 4, 2020 [15 favorites]

Seconding DarlingBri: You should know about "Idiot Strings" for mittens. (Picture of happy kid). I am from a cold place and now live in a place that is only rarely cold. Moms in mom-groups thought I was a genius for sewing my kids' mittens onto a piece of elastic and then threading it though their coat sleeves.

Also: You should know that if you shove your hand down the back of their coat, the skin on their upper back will feel warm if they are warm. It shouldn't feel hot/clammy (too hot, remove layers!) or cool (too cold, add layers).

If your kids aren't walking in salted snow too often: I would suggest camp boots like these. Sorry I don't have an American retailer at hand. They are toasty, and extremely hard to remove.
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 8:20 PM on November 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

You should be aware that winter coats can cause car seat fit issues.

They do make kids hats with a chin strap.

Somewhat clothing adjacent, but a stroller/wagon rain cover can help a lot with blocking the wind.
posted by oceano at 9:15 PM on November 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Your 1 year olds will almost certainly not be able to walk in snow unless they are very advanced walkers for their age. It's just too slippery. I'm not buying snow boots for my 1yo this year. If she wants to have fun in the snow she can do it from a stroller.
posted by potrzebie at 10:16 PM on November 4, 2020

The thing I taught my dumb Californian college roommate about dressing for cold weather is layers. I grew up in the DC area and it gets annoyingly cold but you're often going from modes of transportation with heating and indoor spaces and you need flexibility! Often, two thin shirts are warmer than a jacket. You need to make as many chances for air to get trapped between your body and the outside so your body heat warms that air, but the warmth doesn't leach through the outer shell. So a soft sweater with a thin jacket is better than just a thick jacket for warmth, and also you can take the jacket off when going into a slightly less cold place (like the metro) without loosing it all, and vice versa. A hat is good but a hat with a hood on top of the hat is better - and if you lose the hat you still can wear the hood. Mittens are warmer than gloves because there's all that air space in there getting warmed that's cut out with the individual fingers of gloves - but you can layer thick mittens over thin gloves for maximum warmth and you can take the mittens off for outdoor dextrousness. You can reuse a lot of warm weather clothes as base layers for your kids in the snow. A thin shirt is great under a sweater and jacket, leggings are great under pants and a snowsuit, etc. Long underwear for you. It's not about the bigness of the outerwear, it's about the pockets of air you can trap and keep warm.
posted by Mizu at 11:48 PM on November 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

If the main concern is dampness/snow is infrequent and thaws quickly wellington boots can go a long way and may be more use year round once they can walk reliably. Some have plenty of tread and you can add an insole/2nd pair of socks for warmth if required for these infrequent bits of snow.

I absolutely remember strings for my mittens and I remember the hood of my jacket being fastened over my hat for extra warmth and possibly to stop me taking the hat off...to be fair this may have been during extra cold spells because overheating.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:56 PM on November 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I loved the camp boot linked above for stroller walks (we had Robeez) but they have zero traction. Some of your gear will depend on your plans and just how much snow you get - Toronto can be annoyingly freeze/thaw but we did “sledding” (really just pulling the sled with occasional tiny hills) those first-ish winters pretty often at the park across the street and there was crawling/standing/walking/plopping down on bottoms. So boots were handy.

I got mine used (since it wasn’t really that much walking)...up here Kamik was a great brand and we had a pair of duck boots from the Gap too. Seconding the MOM or local baby groups. Winter gear is a killer and at that age they rarely wear out snow pants etc.

If you’re not going out for a long time you can also have warm socks + runners, there’s no law against it.

A few other things:
- definitely hats with chin straps
- mittens not gloves and agree with thumbless and strings - if you’re going out regularly you need 2 sets for when one is wet. For us since we were out twice a day I had a snow suit and a backup jacket + pants + one-size-up rain pants.
- if it’s super cold Vaseline on their cheeks prevents chapping
- if you’re playing in bright white snow the strap on sunglasses help a lot but I’d look used for sure

I always dressed myself a layer down so that when I was cold it was time to go. But pro tip: the tantrum leaving often added 15 minutes.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:11 AM on November 5, 2020

I live in the DC area. As an aside, we don't get that much snow. And if we do get snow, it doesn't stay around very long.
posted by XtineHutch at 5:27 AM on November 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

We got a lot of mileage out of a rain suit for my kid.

We dressed him warmly and used the rain suit to keep him dry in the snow/rain/mud. It was a lot easier than trying to get him in and out of a snow suit. I deliberately bought him one a couple sizes too big so he could wear it fit a while. The elastic at ankles and wrists made it ok for it to be too big.

Boots: we got lucky with consignment places and found insulated wellies each winter. I’d get at least two pair for each kid so you can dry them out between outings.

If your kids refuse to wear mittens/gloves, get coats with sleeves long enough to cover their hands. If they refuse to wear hats, try to get coats with hoods.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:40 AM on November 5, 2020

If you don't already have one, definitely get a (clear plastic) cover for your stroller. It blocks wind and rain and provides a bit of insulation. On cold days, it will keep them warm in combination with clothes. On cool days, it will reduce the the need for heavy clothes.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:00 AM on November 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

This series from Lucie's List may you help think it through.

If they spend time in strollers, it's worth getting the buntings or warm blankets to make sure that they are all wrapped up when they're not moving. I just had fleece blankets ready to pile on at that age.

I did get some boots for the 1 year old, but she couldn't really walk in them. But I got the ones that fit over her shoes, so it was an extra waterproof layer.

Definitely hats that tie or velcro under the chin. Mittens are a lost cause, but the ones with longer wrists can tuck under jackets and stay on for at least 30 seconds.

Since you're not supposed to put kids into car seats with heavy jackets on (the poof makes it hard to tighten the straps enough), we also had a fleece 'car seat jacket.' Then when we got there, we'd throw a heavier jacket on over that.

I get most of my winter gear (and baby/ toddler/ kid gear generally) on Nextdoor or Craigslist. DC Nextdoor is full of great stuff, lots of it high and lightly used. My usual DC winter routine was jacket, mittens, hat plus blanket for stroller time. Snowpants and boots only came out for the actual snow -it's good to have them, but they were too much trouble for every day.
posted by oryelle at 6:10 AM on November 5, 2020

Here’s a previous answer of mine about how to wear a scarf in such a way that it will keep warmth in, rather than being purely decorative.

I’m not sure what the deal is with little kids and scarves and safety, but even if you don’t use the advice right away, keep it in your back pocket for later (and use it for yourself in the meantime!)
posted by penguin pie at 6:22 AM on November 5, 2020

I live in DC and I would plan for "extreme damp" more than extreme snow. It will be cold for many many days, but when it does snow, it will quickly turn to slush. Rain boots are the way to go for footwear. If there is one sledding-type-day we'll be lucky, and those rain boots will work just fine.
posted by nkknkk at 7:37 AM on November 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

you want mittens, not gloves, and you really want the strings!
posted by j_curiouser at 8:19 AM on November 5, 2020

"Idiot strings" aren't as awesome as "idiot clips," because using strings means that wet mittens need to be dragged up the sleeves to remove them from the coat to dry -- but you just undo the clip and the wet mitten falls away. (Search the web for "mitten clip" or "pacifier clip" to find them.)

Get backup mittens: once they're wet, they're useless.

Swap with family/friends, or buy used in Facebook groups.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:19 AM on November 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

See if you can find boots that work in rain or snow. Even if you don’t get much snow, romping around in it is one of winter’s few pleasures. This need not only include walking! Rolling, crawling, and falling over are also important parts of the childhood snow experience.
posted by mai at 10:43 AM on November 5, 2020

Grew up in Michigan, live in DC. There is no such thing as too cold, just insufficient clothing.

Yes to layers. Flexibility is the key! This also helps when removing the poofy jacket for the car seat. Blankets to throw over the secured child are a good idea. We also used microwavable heat pad (you know, the bean-filled kind) as an extra source to put in with them on really cold days...although not too many of those.

At this age I wouldn't worry about boots too hard...but as they get old enough to enjoy the occasional snow day, they're useful. (Increasingly rare, it would seem, thanks climate change).
posted by stevis23 at 11:56 AM on November 5, 2020

Lands' End clothes for kids last a lot longer than the kid will wear therm, but you can pass them on to friends or sell them. Same for L.L.Bean.

In D.C. you'll get chilly wet more than you'll get bitter cold & snow, so go for lighter garments and layer them up.

The fleece hats with a chin strap are ridiculously cute, and also very functional.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:59 PM on November 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

You want a boot dryer. It does wonders for mittens, too. And once you have one you'll use it year 'round -- we put hiking boots on it, and bike helmets, and sneakers.

My mom was told by my pediatrician that if baby me didn't need gloves, I didn't need socks. I used the same theory on my kids. I think people tend to overdress their toddlers, who then get hot and sweaty and angry.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:15 PM on November 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thank you for this unbearably cute image of 1-year-olds in snow gear and hats with flaps.
posted by mecran01 at 6:45 AM on November 6, 2020

I love these kinds of questions because I moved to the freezing midwest as an adult from Florida and had to learn really basic "how to keep warm" clothing rules the hard way. (Versus just subconsciously absorbing them as common sense, as you do if you grow up in a place that has seasons.)

I would like to cosign on (preferably wicking) LAYERS and keeping your feet DRY. These are the two most important things for keeping your kids and yourself warm. You probably don't need snow boots in DC, but if you come across some kids Bogs boots (used or gifted, because they are not cheap for shoes that will be quickly outgrown), they can double as rain boots. But, you can probably wait until next year to worry about this if your kids are barely walking and you aren't getting several inches of snow on a regular basis.

If you plan on using your strollers a lot -- especially, if they are not getting out of the strollers while you are outside -- you can get these stroller muff things (similar to the ones for carseats). That plus a wind/rain cover, and you can transport your kid comfortably in cold weather without having to wrestle them into as many layers.

It looks like there is a Uniqlo in DC and this your holy grail of affordable, functional, attractive winter basics. I'm not sure if DC even gets cold enough to need it, but pre-COVID, I survived my daily winter commute by wearing their magical heatech turtlenecks and leggings as my base layer every day. The heatech socks are good too, if you don't feel like springing on Smartwool (They will not last as long, but are much cheaper.) Uniqlo puffy coats are legendary for a reason -- and they make them in toddler sizes! Get them a size up or two for your kids so they can get more than one season out of them.

Upthread there was mention of a rainsuit. We were gifted one of those and it worked great with some layers underneath! Lazy parenting tip: throw one-piece fleece zip-up pajamas underneath and you'll have a very warm and cozy toddler.

Like everyone else, yes, mittens with strings. Also, instead of a traditional scarf, I'd recommend a kid-sized fleece gaiter. Much easier to get on and stay on a wiggly toddler. Fleece in general is a good layer for little kids because it is effective (wicking!) and inexpensive. LL Bean fleeces are not so affordable, but they are pretty amazing if you can get one used/on sale. Our kid was gifted one and it was thick and warm enough to use a winter coat on its own some days.
posted by thewrongparty at 11:39 AM on November 6, 2020

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