How to dress kids for cold weather featured image

How to Dress Kids and Toddlers for Cold Weather

ClaudiaArticle, Snow

Keeping your kids dry and warm outside during winter can make the cold weather months much more enjoyable. If you are looking for information on how to keep your kids and toddlers warm in cold weather you are in the right place. From toddlers playing outside in the front yard to snow shoeing in the backcountry you can expose them to all sorts of temperatures outside, so how do you keep your child happy in the cold weather. You will need to anticipate the weather ahead of time, how to dress a toddler in 60 degree weather is a lot different than how to dress a toddler in 40 degree weather.  Dressing your kids for dry snow in freezing temperatures or playing in the slush while it rains, we will try to cover it all in this article.

The key to being happy outside for children is being dry and warm.  The number one rule dressing for cold weather for any person is layering.  Layering, clothing allows for removing and adding layers as the temperature or activity changes outdoors.  Think ahead of time, consider what the temperature is going to be, are we going to be hiking up the sledding hill, the little ones might get pretty warm if we bundle them too much.  Are you going to be spending the day on piste, away from the car? Chair rides can get pretty chilly on a windy day.  Is the snow really wet? They will likely need some good waterproofing.  Check the weather ahead of time and try to anticipate the clothing you will need to pack along on your adventure.  Additionally, if you know you are going to be far away from the car or house for the day, you will want to bring some backup clothing with you for your daily adventure.

Knowing how to dress your kids for cold weather will require some planning. Below are some general guidelines for layering clothing on your kids when they go outside. Typically 3 to 4 layers are enough for any temperature you will be encountering.  The weight of the layers may vary depending on the temperature, or you may choose to skip a layer to adjust to activities throughout the day.  All of they layering properties apply to both the upper body and lower body of children.

Body Layering

LL Bean First Layer

Young childs polyester spandex blend that offers softness and comfort and is easy to care for.

1st Layer

  • The first layer should be a lightweight moisture wicking material.  It should act as a foundation for all other clothing.  There are many different options of base layers. Silk, synthetic layers, wool and others all should fit close to the body.  This should sit on the skin and be able to pull and exhaust moisture from the skin.  
  • Synthetics base layers dry quickly and are usually made of polyester or a poly blend.
  • Merino wool is a good option if you are unsure what the weather or activities is going to be. It’s warm, naturally wicking, also very soft and comfortable.
  • Silk layer is great for moderate temperature layering, it feels great against the skin and is less bulky.
  • Stay away from cotton, it retains moisture from sweat and can make you cold and clammy.
LL Bean Second Layer

Fleece layer, offering light insulation, durability and flexibility.

2nd Layer

  • The second layer should be a lightweight insulating layer.  If you have every looked for base layers before you likely have heard of merino wool, it is a type of sheep with very fine, soft wool that is perfect for regulating heat, and insulates even when wet.  One great property of wool is that is absorbs water and sweat to help with wicking yet retains its warmth.  Merino wool is also very lightweight and comfortable, not like the old itchy wool socks you might remember from the army navy surplus store.
  • A first and second layer can be one in the same, for example merino wool works best when worn against the skin. And has a good natural fit.  Although you might be tempted to buy a large size, just try to get something that isn’t too big, and not too tight.
  • This can be combined with the first layer if choosing different fabric weights.  There are some heavier weight under garments that can be worn for colder temperature days, or lightweight under garment for more mild conditions.


LL Bean Insulating Layer

Kid’s down insulated jacket that is super compressible for packing, yet offers extreme warmth to weight properties. This jacket from LL Bean also features DownTek(TM), a down coating that resist moisture to stay dry and warm even when wet.

3rd Layer

  • The insulation layer should trap air and warmth next to your body.
  • Should act as the main insulation layer
  • A great insulating layer is a down fill or a synthetic filling.
  • Natural down fill like goose down are some of the best insulators on the market but can be expensive, however the warmth to weight ratio is unbeatable.
  • Fleece layers like Thinsulate(R) or Polartec(R) offer great warmth at a cheaper price
  • Like the first or second layer, look for a weight that matches the conditions your little one will be facing, there are light, medium, and heavy-weight insulating layers.


LL Bean Outer Layer

Kid’s waterproof shell, 100% polyester coated waterproof, breathable to let moisture out

4th Layer

  • Think of the fourth layer as the protecting layer.  If your child is going to be out in the wet snow, make sure this is a waterproof breathable layer. Wind blocking pants and bibs
  • This is your first defense against the elements, make sure it blocks the wind, stays dry, and is breathable
  • It could be rain, snow, mud, even rocks some bib offer reinforced knees and rear ends, these are great for kids as they spend a lot of time on the ground in the snow.
  • A good shell will be treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating remain dry.
  • For extreme temperatures, look for insulating shells that provide an additional layer of insulation in the coat shell.
  • We recommend bibs for kids over snow pants because of the protection from snow entering up the back or down the pants.

Layering Kids Extremities

Layering extremities can be a bit difficult with little ones. Here are some guidelines for keeping those little piggies warm, toasty and dry.  Remember, when thinking about how to dress your kids for cold weather hands and feet are the first thing to get cold.

Layering Feet

Sock Liner

Childrens foot liner, light weight, and low profile

Our little one has overly sweaty feet (Hyperhidrosis).  When we are going out in the cold weather we always bring an extra pair of socks.  In fact, if we are driving to the ski resort we have her wear a different pair of socks, then switch them out for a dry pair just before we put the boots on.  Layering feet works best with a thin nylon or polyester sock and a thicker wool sock.  The sock shouldn’t be too thick that it makes boots uncomfortable, but enough to provide movement and warmth. 

Wool Sock

Wool socks provide some of the best comfort and warmth

Stay away from cotton socks. Wool blends, and synthetic fibers are best for feet.  Like gloves, it’s always best to have an extra pair just in case they get wet, and to prevent blisters.  Knowing how to dress a toddler in 50 degree weather means choosing just the right socks, they can be too thick, or not thick enough, so make your selection according to the temperature and climate.


Boots are the first line of defense against cold toes. Boots should provide grip for required conditions, warmth, and waterproofing for conditions in the cold weather.

Warm BootsThere are a few options for toddlers boots. If you are doing a specific outdoor activity like skiing or snowboarding you are going to be using specific boots for the activity.  These are typically best to rent from a local shop.  Kids feet grow fast, and a good fitting boot can make a big difference in warmth and performance while they are learning to ride on the snow.

Rain boots or galoshes can work in a pinch when layered well with socks, however they usually provide less traction in snow or ice.  They are great at keeping feet dry, but can cause feet to sweat because of they rain protection they offer.  If your child like to run, you might want to think about the best way to dress them for cold weather running.  Boots aren’t always the best for running up hills, or around the neighborhood.

The best option is a good set of snow boots that have good traction for playing in the snow, offer flexibility and mobility that a ski or snowboard boot wouldn’t are breathable and waterproof.

Layering Hands

Hands Base Layer

A light weight liner can be great for keeping hands warm

Gloves can be layered with a light polyester liner, then a water resistant glove.  Although you may quickly learn that liners are more hassle than just bringing an extra pair of gloves.  They can be difficult to get children to align fingers. If you plan on using a liner, we recommend pairing it with mittens over gloves. Gloves are also a way to add some style to your kids outfit.  If you are concerned about how to dress cute for cold weather, matching gloves to outfits always looks great.

Young ones are notorious for getting wet hands, and gloves.  Another option is to look at some of the newer leather gloves that are treated with Nikwax(R) it offers a very durable glove and waterproofing that will help keep your kids hands drier longer.  


Lightweight waterproof, Thinsulated(tm) gloves for kids or toddlers

There really is no substitute for having an extra pair of glove just in case. Trying to dry a pair of glove out after they have gotten wet is hard to do when out at the sledding or ski hill, so to ensure the best day possible always have an extra pair of glove on hand.


Waterproof mittens with a high wrist to keep snow off the arms and wrist, excellent for keeping toddlers warm.

Mittens are a great option for kids, they are typically much warmer than fingered gloves.  As mentioned above, they are also easier to layer with and offer easy on and off for kids.

Look for gloves that have attachments to coats, or make your own. Kids are notorious for losing gloves, find a way to attached them to your little ones.  This is key for knowing how to keep your kids hands warm.

Head and Face

You have heard it before, you loose most heat through your head.  Covering up your toddlers heads, faces and necks will keep them happy longer.  But be careful, any item around your kids mouth and nose is likely to get wet.  While you or your kids may be tempted to cover up mouth and nose, keep them uncovered to allow the moisture in our breath to escape, only covering up for short periods as needed.


A good medium weigh hat to capture head on the head

Just as important as hands and feed is their head.  Knowing how to keep their head warm with the right had is a must. A winter hat should be chosen based on the temperature and activity.  If temperatures are warmer and you are planning to be active a breathable lightweight hat would be OK. However, if temperatures are frigid you want something that will trap the heat in, completely cover the ears and keep them close to the body.


A kids style balaclava

Balaclava are great option for really cold days and can be paired with an additional hat, or helmet.  While most balaclava’s look like they should go over your mouth, they should fit just over the chin to stay dry and warm.



Kids neck gaiter

How do you keep your toddlers neck warm in cold weather?  Neck Gaiter are a better option that scarfs for kids. They offer sun protection and can keep ears and necks warm as well as keep snow out of the back of their coat. Gaiters often serve as a tissue for your child, keep them washed and clean.

Warm Helmet

A good winter helmet can offer a lot of warmth, and when paired with a good neck gaiter and goggles can cover most of a child’s head, providing both safety and warmth.

Cover the Gaps

Some of the most uncomfortable points on a child are where skin can be exposed.  For example where the gloves meet the coat, or the coat covers the snow pants. Keeping these gaps covered, snow and wind out, will keep children much happier in outdoors for longer.  Some coats and pants have attachments to keep them together and prevent snow from entering.  Also, some jackets offer inner sleeves that fit over the thumb and inside the glove to keep snow out.

Snow suits can be a great option for keeping warm air trapped in and snow/wind out.  They are really good for little ones that will rolling around in the snow.  They make potty breaks a bit more difficult, but the simplicity of them is very convenient.

Final Preparation

Here are some last minute suggestions for keeping outdoor play time to a maximum.

  1. Check the weather ahead of time. Know what the high and low temperature will be for the day.  Also know if there is any chance of precipitation and prepare for it.
  2. Stay away from cotton, it stays wet longer, and causes a clammy feeling.  Additionally cotton provides little insulating property when wet
  3. Bring extra clothing and hand warmers for emergency. This includes hats, gloves, socks, additionally extra upper and lower layers to adjust as the temperature changes throughout the day.
  4. Hot chocolate can fix a lot
  5. Don’t forget the sunscreen. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t get a sunburn. Keep the nose and cheeks covered with some SPF.  This also includes protecting eyes with sunglasses or goggles from the sun.  Often times snow amplifies the brightness of the sun and can make it uncomfortable for little ones on a bright sunny and snowy day.