I wrote about wintry bundling layers when Faye was 18 months old, but now that she’s nearing the three and three quarters mark and I’m in the middle of the second winter spent bundling up two little guys for adventures outside of our tiny apartment, I thought it might be helpful to share an update on bundling.
It’s been decades since someone else wrestled me into winter layers, but my memories of getting bundled haven’t faded—the itchy layers, the general bunchiness, the elastics that were too tight, the elastics that were too loose, the tyranny of turtlenecks, the indignity of camisoles—I remember all of it. I especially remember feeling exhausted before I even made it out the door and dreading the process of peeling back the layers when I came back inside. Cut to dressing my own kids, and it’s no surprise I’ve been interested in making the process as painless as possible. Layering on hats and scarfs and woolly layers still requires a bit of stamina and we’ve endured a layer-related meltdown or two, but I have found a few items and a few strategies to be particularly helpful. In case anyone else is interested in simplifying getting bundled up with kids, here are a few things I’ve embraced along the way:
What we have:
Hat, Scarf, Mittens
Our general rule is to keep just one hat, one scarf and one set of mittens for each kid. (Faye has an additional too-small-for-her red cap that she still sometimes likes to wear), but by and large the one for one ratio means it’s easy to keep track of everything and we don’t get bogged down in too much conversation or negotiation about getting bundled. I’ve opted for warm woolen accessories with strings that tie under chins and strings attached to mittens to keep them from disappearing. We keep everything in a cloth bag that hangs next to our apartment door and accessories get returned there as soon as we come back in from outside. At thirteen months, even Silas knows where to stick his scarf when we return home.
Because New York City apartments tend to err on the very warm side, we tend to focus on adding additional outer layers instead of too many base layers (see below!). Still, Faye has a really great pair of merino long underwear that fit snugly and comfortably underneath under her regular clothes. Coupled with snug camisoles that don’t bunch, they’ve been perfect base layers for staying cozy.
This winter we’ve embraced the utter joy of woolen overalls for layering over any manner of everyday clothes. (We have these for Silas and these for Faye.) In our experience, the overalls have been especially terrific at extending the life of cotton leggings or tights that might otherwise feel not quite warm enough for winter. With a pair for each kid, we didn’t have to reinvest in additional cool weather pants—they just wear the same thick overalls on top of the clothes they were wearing in the fall. The thick wool is excellent at repelling water and regulating body temperature and even if they do get a little damp, they still keep everyone warm. We chose dark colors to hide playground stains and we keep them in a wooden crate under our couch for easy access when heading out of the house. They’re hands-down the most practical and most-used kids clothing item we’ve invested in. If I sound like I’m making a hard sell, that’s because I am. These things are the best. (When Silas was an infant, we used this wool coverall that kept him cozy in the carrier. Just like the overalls, I could put that over whatever he was already wearing and rest easy knowing he was plenty warm enough. I only wish we’d had it when Faye was tiny, too.)
Since Faye was first born, we’ve invested in just two down jackets. The kids have worn them roomy in their first winter and fitted in their second winter. (This winter Faye’s very much embraced a wool coat that we found on sale at Mabo last winter. I never intended it to be an everyday coat, but she loves it and so it is. Worn over her woolen overalls and thick wool sweater, it keeps her plenty warm and awfully cheery.)
We have a hand-me-down pair of insulated winter snowpants that Faye has worn out in the snow a few times, but the wool overalls layered with a waterproof mud suit has stood out as our preferred combination. I love the practicality of a full-body coverall that can keep away water and mud and make it so we don’t spend time any time worrying about how much a winter coat or pair of leggings may be getting muddy beyond recognition. (As a family without a washer or dryer in our apartment building, it’s especially nice to have a barrier from the wet and dirt.) We have a suit from Splashy that was affordable and has served us well. It’s not insulated itself, which I rather like. That way we can zip it over a down jacket and woolen overalls in the winter and over fewer layers in the spring and it acts as a perfect protective layer. I like to think of it as a smock for the great outdoors.
Both of my kids are in hand-me-down boots for winter—Silas is in leather boots, Faye is in rubber rain boots and thick socks. We’ve muddled along just fine with both, which is to say that neither have been totally perfect in every single scenario, but chasing perfection isn’t really advisable. If you are looking for new rain boots, I love the classic Aigle boots that Misha and Puff has in stock.
Some folks are rightly concerned about PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals) in waterproofed clothing. They’re not great for people or the environment and so it’s wise to find options that don’t rely on them. (Greenpeace launched a related Detox the Outdoors campaign in 2015 to address the hazards PFCs pose and the role of outdoor gear companies in fixing them.) A few alternatives:
+ Splashy suits like the one we have used to be made with PVC (another material I try to avoid), but they’re now made water-resistant with the use of Polyurethane-treated nylon.
+ L.L. Bean snowbibs like the hand-me-down pair that we have are made of a coating-free polyester.
What about you guys? Any winter bundling tricks we should know about before spring?