Kids' Extreme Cold Weather Clothing

Winter Clothing for Boys and Girls - infants, toddlers and juniors

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Emperor penguin

Layering for warmth is the way to go when dressing for a cold or very cold climate. While a single very warm layer may seem the obvious choice, it gives less flexibility about controlling temperature. When you get too warm it's a big step-down to take off the big insulating layer, likewise if you're too cold, it's maybe a too-big step up to put the thick duvet on.

Layering doesn't mean lots of thin layers, but different layers for different purposes, useful to remember when kids are more eager to rush outside to play than get dressed properly for the cold first. Layers give flexibility in use and can also be used alone when the temperatures aren't so low - an important consideration when fast growing kids mean that virtually nothing is ever going to fit them for two winters!

Surface area and volume - insulating your little penguin. Kids are smaller versions of adults though approximately the same shape, this means that they have a greater surface area to volume ratio than an adult does and will cool down faster in cold conditions and warm up faster in hot conditions being less able than an adult to control their body temperature by physiological means. So relative to an adult a child will need somewhat more clothing for the same cold conditions in the way that a penguin chick needs more insulation than its parent.


Kids cold weather clothing UK

Base, Core (Foundation) Layer

kids warm winter underwear UKkids warm underwear UKUnderwear, a soft layer next to the skin that provides warmth as well as comfort. Close fitting is good to help keep the heat in and also to make it easier to pull additional layers over the top.

If cold weather doesn't happen very often where you are, this is a good way of dealing with it without breaking the bank with clothes that can still be worn when it warms up again, whereas the heavy winter coat might just get grown out of before it's needed again after that week long cold snap.

Insulated long underwear for kids - A versatile layer that can be an outer layer indoors and helps with staying toasty outdoors. Boys  |  Girls


Mid Insulation Layer/s

kids fleece jacket UK
Fleeces for insulation

Boy's fleeces
Girl's fleeces

kids down jacket UK
..or lightweight down
kids winter pants UKThe most versatile and variable layer which can go on as an outer layer or act as a mid layer with extras over the top. One or more lightweight layer/s of cotton, wool or synthetic clothing added or removed appropriately for the weather, temperature and level of activity works better than one thick heavy layer.

When added together warm air gets trapped between as well as within the layers making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Natural fibers can be used for these layers they can be used in addition to, or instead of, modern synthetics which of course are easier to care for.

Zips, collars, draw cords and pockets increase the versatility of these garments and allow for increased ventilation during exertion or for all openings to be pulled closed while at rest and/or in very cold conditions.

This insulating layer can be combined with outer layer for wind and water resistant or can be separate. Fleeces in particular can't really be used as the only outer layer in the worst conditions despite the new coatings and finishes, they just aren't wind or water-proof enough on their own.

Lower body insulation. Thick warm trousers of a heavyweight natural material for older kids or synthetic material such as polyester. Avoid denim though, it really isn't very friendly when it's cold and is quite unpleasant when damp.
Winter trousers - Boys'  |  Girls'


The Outer or Shell Layer

kids warm jackets UKkids winter jackets UKOuter / shell layer. This has to put up directly with what the weather throws at it. So it needs to be windproof and preferably waterproof too.

It may combine the shell function with insulation or it be simply be a "shell" without any extra insulation. Whichever it is, outer shell layers for kids especially should always have a hood to stop wind rain and snow getting down the collar and also as it can't be lost in the way that a hat can!

Elasticated cuffs for little ones and fastening cuffs for older kids along with draw cords to prevent warm air being lost while keeping snow, rain and wind out are essential features.

baby bunting winter UK
Baby buntings provide snuggly warmth for infants

A totally waterproof outer layer isn't required in very cold weather as there's not a lot of rain about and it will probably be quite unusual circumstances for most kids to spend an extended time outdoors in the wet. If yours are going to do this, then they'll also need waterproof trousers and boots too with the coat over the trousers and trousers over the top of the boots so the water just runs off and can't make its way inside the clothing.

Many waterproof garments don't breathe so well and so can get a bit sweaty after a while unless they are a breathable fabric (which all but the cheapest tend to be these days). They also tend not to be so soft when very cold, so choose according to your intended temperature use.

You may be tempted to get a cute child-version of an adult coat, a "looking at coat" as I think of them, often made of wool and with a tailored shape. While this might be perfect for Sunday Best or special occasions, they really aren't very effective at keeping the winter out, not being wind or waterproof, often with button fronts, loose sleeves and no draw-cords or elastic anywhere to keep body warmth in and the weather out.

Girls winter coats  |  Boys winter coats

 

Different alternatives for the outer layer:

  • 3-in-1 Jackets- A great solution for kids outer winter wear.  These consist of two garments, firstly a windproof and often waterproof outer shell, and then secondly a zip-in insulated jacket of fleece or synthetic padding. Either can be worn on its own or they can be worn together for instant two-layer comfort and performance. In extended cold periods, keep the inner jacket fastened permanently inside the outer so they can both be thrown on together - time is always a pressing issue for kids!
    Boys'  |  Girls'

  • Waterproof rain over trousers - for extended time spent in the rain or especially when playing in snow
    Kids'

  • Winter trousers - protection against the coldest conditions
    Boys'  |  Girls'


Accessories to Protect the Extremities - Head, Fingers and Toes (not forgetting ankles, wrists and neck)

Fingers, toes and ears can get very cold very quickly, they can also lead to a loss of heat from the rest of the body. They also have a disproportionate influence in how comfortable you feel, including how long kids can play out in the snow or how long you get to stick to your plans without having to change them to warm up chilly kids. So don't ignore the extremities!

Hands
kids winter gloves UK
kids mittens UKMittens are more effective than gloves for keeping warm. For small children they also have the enormous advantage of being much easier to get on than the detailed problem that getting five little fingers each into its own small compartment can pose.

Older children will be able to get gloves on themselves, though the mittens-are-warmer truism still applies. There's not a lot you can do in terms of manual dexterity with mittens on, but if there's not much to do and keeping the hands warm is the most important thing, then they are the obvious solution.

In extremely cold conditions a pair of thin gloves with mittens over the top work very effectively, not the least as the mitts can be slipped off to allow dexterity with the gloves alone giving flexibility of purpose.

Long wrists are always useful whether they are elasticated under the sleeve or loose and over the sleeve as they prevent heat loss from an exposed wrist which can be significant or at least quite uncomfortable, especially in snow.

Ski-type gloves are a good if not the cheapest solution, they are both warm and water resistant which helps in snowy conditions.

Kids' gloves  |  Kids' mittens 

 

Head

"When your feet are cold, cover your head"- Inuit saying

kids winter hats UKAbout 20% of your body heat is lost through the head. It doesn't always seem like this as the need to keep the brain warm means it is rare to experience a "cold head". In heat retention terms however it's like having a radiator on the roof, so a very effective way of warming up overall is to put a hat on.

The good thing about hats is there is an almost endless variety of them so you should be able to find one that your child likes and wants to wear.

While hoods are good at keeping the weather out, they do restrict movement somewhat which you still retain with a hat, so I always made sure my children had both.

A couple of tips, avoid ones with bobbles or ears or similar sticky-out bits. Plain hats such as beanies allow you to easily pull a hood over them for extra warmth when needed, those extra "cool" additions will make the hood less effective as the hood is kept away from the hat. Dangly bits at the side might look neat in the store, but when the wind starts to whip them constantly against chilly cheeks, you'll really wish you'd gone for the plainer version. I do appreciate however that you may have an uphill struggle to implement the sensible over the cool looking solution here - good luck with that!

Make sure hats cover the ears too or have ear-flaps that can be folded down when needed, (it also stops the bigger kids flicking exposed ears in the cold).

Balaclavas can be very effective in cold conditions, they can be rolled up as a standard hat or unrolled to provide extra warmth, especially useful in conjunction with a hood attached to the shell layer.

Hats - Girls'  |  Boys'  |  Balaclavas

 

Feet

Socks

kids winter socks UKA thin pair of cotton inner socks with thicker outer socks works well with winter boots. Wool is the best material for the outer socks as it is warm though less prone to making the feet sweat than synthetic material, if dampness through sweating does occur, they still provide good insulation. 100% wool might sound best but a small amount of a synthetic material such as nylon gives much better wear while some elastane or similar stretchy material gives a snug fit that doesn't start to sag after a while.

Don't be tempted to put too many socks on and make the boots tight. Squashing out the air which provides the insulation means they won't be as warm.

Boys socks  |  Girls socks

 

Boots

kids winter boots UKWhen buying children boots for winter, you should be clear whether they are insulated or not. Many are sold as "winter boots" which while they are waterproof don't add extra warmth, you might need to get thick socks to go with them to make them proper winter boots. This is not necessarily an issue as they can be used in winter with thick socks and also the rest of the year with thinner socks.

Proper "winter boots" have built in insulation, both in the upper and also and especially in a thick sole which prevents a loss of heat to the ground, this becomes a very significant issue in the colder months in contrast to being something you don't notice at all for the rest of the year.

The very coldest weather boots have soft insulated uppers, thick plastic or rubber soles and particularly thick insoles to prevent heat loss. Being so insulated they are large and can make you rather clumsy on uneven ground.

A good relatively recent development is the neoprene wellington style boot. These are basically a rubber wellington or gumboot with a close fitting neoprene rubber upper, thicker than a normal rain boot which is also insulated, they provide ruggedness and good rough terrain performance.

Boys snow boots  |  Girls snow boots  |  Boys winter rain boots  |  Girls winter rain boots

 

In-between Bits

kids neck gaiters UKYou've dealt with basic insulation of the body, feet and head and the extremities are nicely protected. The last region to attend to are the potentially exposed in-between regions that we can easily ignore in warmer temperatures.

These are the wrists, ankles and neck which can become cold and uncomfortable. Heat will be lost from these areas if not insulated as blood moves between other better insulated areas.

 

  • Neck - A scarf or insulated "neck gaiter" to insulate the neck region where warm air can get pumped out during movement and activity. It will also stop wind-driven snow (and snowballs and the fall-out from making snow-angels) getting into clothing where it then melts becoming cold and yucky. They can also be pulled up over the mouth and nose for extra warmth or to pretend to be a ninja.

  • Boots that cover the ankles at least are much more effective in the cold than shoes however thick your socks are.

  • Gloves and mittens with long wrist cuffs, either elasticated so sleeves can be pulled down over the top (usually gloves) or loose so they can be pulled over the top of sleeves (usually mittens). Sleeves with cuffs that can be closed up by velcro or similar straps also help considerably. Mittens are also of course much easier to get on toddlers and infants than gloves as well as being warmer.
    Boys' mittens  |  Girls' mittens  |  Toddler