Have you ever heard the saying “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing?” My warm-blooded, Latin self used to think that was just something people said. Of course there is bad weather, it’s called WINTER IN NEW ENGLAND!! 🙃 15 years, two kids and a scruffy pup later, I now understand (and dare I say subscribe to?) the saying. For us Rices the arrival of winter no longer means the end of outdoor play, just the addition of a layer (or three) before heading outside. Let me show you what I mean..
But first– a note on layering + shopping for kiddo winter clothes
Layering is the true MVP of the winter. There is no playing outside comfortably during the winter without solid, well thought out layers. They are KEY.
As you dive into this post, keep in mind that what I describe below is what the kids (and us adults) wear for outdoor play in the winter– meaning when we go to the park in the colder months or set out to do a FULLY outdoor activity like skiing or ice skating. If we will be spending time both inside and outside the considerations are different as both my kids run hot and can overheat quickly. The easiest way for me to think about layers for inside/outdoor winter outings (school included) is as building outfits on top of each other so we don’t look crazy as we take stuff off. This post talks a little more about this.
Also before we dive into winter dressing 101 please know this– gender is utterly irrelevant when shopping for winter clothes. Instead of looking at the girls vs. boys section, my advice is you search by SIZE and focus on purchasing good quality items regardless of what gender they are being marketed towards. OK now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get into it..
First things first: base layers
What makes a good base layer?
Base layers are the start to any functional winter outfit. The key with base layers is to ensure they are made of fabric that will “wick” moisture away, meaning move sweat off your body as you heat up playing or just moving your body outdoors. Base layers should lay flat against your skin so they are able to work their wicking magic. For this same reason, they should fit snug so base laters are about the only thing I do not size up when purchasing for the kids.
My best advice when it comes to base layers is to stay away from cotton at all costs. Cotton base layers are cheap for a reason– they have very little moisture wicking capabilities. I find base layers made from a mix of synthetic materials (for more stretch and a better fit) and at least 40% merino wool to be the best when dealing with very cold temps. Merino wool is lightweight and not itchy. It has great moisture and temperature control. Merino wool is also naturally odor-resistant, which comes very handy given how stinky my kids are! ☺️ If the temps are not below zero or if you KNOW you’ll be moving a lot (ie- going tubing or skiing) 100% synthetic base layers can work well, if they are good quality.
If you want to read more about merino wool and how it works, this is good article to get you started. Some of my favorite (affordable) base layers include this set from Amazon (60% merino), this affordable fleece set and these REALLY good ones from Etsy ( with slow shipping, just FYI).
Shop Kiddo Base Layers
Shop Adult Base Layers
Second layer: tees and sweats
One of the benefits of starting with a good quality base later is that you can skip this step, if it’s not crazy cold. When it’s needed, the kiddo’s second layer is usually comprised of thick comfy sweats or winter pants on the bottom and thicker, long sleeve tees (and maybe sweatshirt) on top.
Third layer: bring on the fleece
Fleece clothing has been powering New England winters for a very long time. Fleece sweaters are thick, easy to wash and not terribly expensive making them every moms dream and what we use over base layers and sweats. We typically leave these right by the front door and layer them on as we’re leaving.
Shop kiddo fleece layers
Fourth layer: outerwear
A good, solid coat and ski pants make the final layer of our winter outdoor play outfits. After being obsessed with Patagonia for many years, I am now solidly on the Reima USA camp. Their stuff is very well made and lasts forever! They are sized BIG so no need to size up. In 2020, I purchased a Reima waterproof “onesie” for Teddy and it was AMAZING. I didn’t share it last year because I wanted to be sure it lasted – I just took it our of storage for the 21-22′ season and it looks brand new. (UPDATE: The 2023 season is upon us. The onesie still fits and wear and tear has been a DREAM).
For ski pants, I typically buy L.L. Bean ones to leave at school (where they are only outside for 40 mins at a time) and more hardcore ones for actual winter play.
Shop Kiddo Outerwear
My least favorite part of winter– keeping track of the little stuff!!! Never underestimate the power of winter accessories, though. Neck warmer, hat, gloves (clipped to coat if under 4!), thick socks and snow boots are ESSENTIAL to a good park run. Sorel makes the best snow boots– we are on our third pair! If you are skiing, I recommend you purchase these balaclavas — a helmet-friendly neck and hat combo that kept us TOASTY throughout ski season. Of course, a ski helmet and googles are a must. Last year I found inexpensive kiddo ski bags and they’ve been awesome. Sharing some of our favorite cold weather accessories below!
Shop our favorite kiddo winter accessories
And there you have it, friends– the basics of dressing littles for REAL cold temps. Anything I miss? Anything I should expand on? Drop me a note on Instagram or leave a comment below to let me know. Thanks for stopping by!
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