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Dress Your Kids For Outdoor Success

outdoorsIt’s important for your child to stay active and get fresh air, regardless of the season.  In order to make sure you and your little one are prepared for the winter months, Linda Åkeson McGurk, author of THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BAD WEATHER, shares tips to make sure everyone is warm, comfortable and happy.

A comfortable child can play outside for hours, so high-quality outdoor gear and play clothes are well worth the money. If the clothes are durable, chances are they can also be handed down to younger siblings.

Any advice about dressing children for the outdoors naturally depends on what they will be doing and where. For example, going on a long hike in the mountains or participating in other strenuous activities away from home requires more attention to layering than playing in the backyard. The child’s age also matters, since young children move around less and get cold more easily. Keep in mind that weather conditions can change quickly in some areas, and always bring some backup clothes for longer outings. What to look for in outdoor gear and play clothes for children in general:

  • Protects against the elements (wind, sun, moisture, cold temperatures, etc.)
  • Stands up to wear and tear
  • Easy to put on and take off
  • Loose-fitting enough to allow for range of motion while playing


Layering clothes is key to keeping children warm in cold temperatures.

  • The first layer, or the base layer, regulates the child’s temperature and keeps him dry. This layer usually fits snugly.
    • Long underwear made from merino wool, synthetic fibers, or a blend of both works best closest to the body, since these materials move perspiration away from the body. Cotton, on the other hand, soaks up moisture and leaves the child feeling wet and cold.The mid-layer insulates the body by trapping body heat in pockets of air in the fabric. This layer can be made of either natural or synthetic fibers and can, for example, consist of a fleece jacket and pants or a sweatshirt and sweatpants.
  • The outer layer should be waterproof, windproof, and breathable. This layer also needs to stand up to some wear and tear and is typically made of polyamide or nylon, preferably with reinforced high-impact areas like knees and bottom. For the youngest children, one-piece coveralls are usually the best choice, since they are easy to put on and prevent snow from creeping in. Underfoot straps help keep the coveralls/snow pants in place, and reflective trim or a high-visibility vest are a must for outdoor adventures after dark. Combine with snow boots or fleece-lined rain boots, as well as waterproof mittens with long cuffs, and a hat.

Spring and Fall

The same layering principles apply as for winter, but with lighter or fewer layers.

  • For rainy days, the Scandinavian-style heavy-duty rain gear sometimes seen at forest schools in the US is the ultimate outer layer. Typically sold as a set consisting of overalls (bib pants) and a jacket, and made of polyester and polyurethane blends, these garments do a great job of keeping wind and rain out. Layer them with a fleece jacket in cooler temperatures and combine them with a pair of rugged rain boots for endless fun in puddles of mud.
  • For dry days, use regular, breathable shell pants and a windbreaker for the outer layer. Even if the temperature doesn’t call for shell pants, they save your child’s regular clothes from getting stained and torn.


Make a mental breakdown of your child’s wardrobe into “playclothes” and “school clothes” to avoid stressing over. Damage wrought by messy outdoor play. Hand-me-downs, yard sale finds, and older clothes with holes or stains that won’t come out make excellent candidates for playclothes.

  • In cool, wet weather, layer with rain gear as needed.
  • In sunny weather, a sun hat with a strap under the chin and thin, long-sleeved UV clothing help protect the child from
    the sun.
  • Shoes are optional!

Planning a hiking trip with your little one in the summer? Check out these helpful hiking tips.


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