Dressing Children for the Outdoors in Winter

One of the most often quoted Forest School sayings is ‘No such thing as bad weather - just bad clothing!’ Here at Children of the Forest we only cancel sessions in high winds, when it’s not safe to be under trees. In rain, snow, sleet and low temperatures - we’re playing in the woods!

Winter seems to have arrived quite suddenly now, and I wanted to share some of my findings on dressing little ones in cold weather, so they can still enjoy the outdoors. This is a mixture of research and first hand experience from dressing my 3 year old.

If you think your little one is suitably togged up, but then seems a bit miserable outdoors, check out the tips below. Avoiding cotton is a big one that you might not know about - I didn't until recently.

Kids often can't process for themselves the fact that they're cold, let alone communicate that to you, so observing your child's mood and behaviour is a good way to check they're warm enough. Smiling, active, relaxed kids = probably warm enough. Whiny, clingy, tearful, not wanting to be active = signs your child might be cold. It's interesting that cold kids, who really need to get moving to warm up, are often the most reluctant to do so.

Here is a picture of my daughter’s Forest School ‘uniform’.

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Layer 1: Snug fitting proper base layer to wick away moisture. Made from wool or man made fibres e.g. polyester. (My 3 year old has some of these stripy merino ones from Mountain Warehouse, and is really grumpy outdoors if she’s not wearing them.) Avoid cotton next to the skin - as soon as your child sweats or gets wet, the cotton stays wet, and your child can get very cold very quickly. Same goes for jeans - they are not good for the outdoors.

Layer 2: Mid layer to insulate. Wool, lightweight fleece or man made fibres ideally. Since my daughter's coat is quite thick, I've gone for a wool jumper. You could go for an extra layer in here if it's really cold or your outer layer is thinner.

Layer 3: Outer layer to protect against rain and wind. Waterproof jacket and over trousers. If you can get breathable ones, great - these will stop your child sweating (and then getting cold) when being physically active. We have two pairs of waterproof over trousers, one from Muddy Puddles, one from Rukka. Hat to keep head and ears warm. My daughter won't wear gloves but if yours do, great.

On my shopping list as the weather gets colder are non-cotton socks, a nice light weight mid layer fleece, and some gloves she might actually keep on!

See you in the woods for some winter fun!