Wool is magic. I grew up with this being drilled into me by my fiber artist, wool loving mother, but never fully understood it until one rainy day in high school when I unearthed and read cover to cover this old National Geographic from the 80’s entirely dedicated to wool. Wool has incredible properties. The exterior layer of each fiber repels water (like from rain) but the inner part is able to absorb up to 30% of it’s weight in moisture before it feels wet. This means it can wick away sweat and keep out rain, and will still keep you warm when it’s wet (unlike cotton, as anyone caught out in the rain with cotton socks on knows) It’s inherently fire retardant, biodegradable, and will keep you warmer than anything else out there. Polyester or cotton might be cheaper, but I will always recommend wool.
“are you warm enough?”
Children have a hard time telling if they’re too hot or cold, it’s as plain as that. Expecting them to know if they need a sweater is developmentally inappropriate. That’s why you’ll see a little one playing in the lake, refusing to come out, until their lips are purple. That’s also why we’re here, to make those decisions for them. After judging the weather, I’ll announce before we get dressed “today is a rain pants day!” or “today is a snow pants and mittens day!” which I find much more effective than making the decision while we’re also trying to get dressed.
Here is my (very) loose dressing guide, for kiddos mostly. If it’s raining or snowing, obviously add the appropriate gear. Another good rule of thumb is that children need to be wearing one more layer than you to be warm—when I’m wearing a jacket and scarf and hat, I’ll make sure the children have the same with sweaters underneath.
60s - long pants, warm socks, wool sweater
50s - add a scarf and a hat and make sure that sweater is wool
40s - add a jacket and warm pants and maybe rain pants
30s - warm coat, serious warm pants or snow pants, mittens, super warm socks and insulated shoes
20s - whimper a little, double up your sweaters and socks
teens and below - long johns, wool pants, snow pants, wool socks, wool knee socks, long wool undershirt sweater, another sweater, another sweater, giant coat, two scarves, big wool hat, two pair of mittens, fur boots, plane ticket to southern California.
Children as young as a year can really participate in dressing themselves. All children are different, but I find that given enough time and encouragement even those as young as 2 can do a lot by themselves. Zippers and buttons come later, tying shoelaces even more so, but a toddler’s inability to entirely dress themselves to go outside within 5 minutes is no reason to do it for them. Give them time, make it simple, and make it consistant. A few things that help: a neat, child-height zone with a peg for the day’s gear, a spot for boots, and a stool or bench, and doing things in the same order every time (ie. rainpants, then coat, then boots, then hat, then mittens.)
My rule (in life, actually) is: you can always try. True, you can’t always do it, but you can always try to do it. Therefore, I will help them with their coat or whatever only after they’ve tried to do it themselves. “Show me how you can try!” is a common refrain. It’s amazing because often, when they try, they can do it! Starting this young helps, because they won’t be in the habit of expecting adults to do it for them.
ps: I wrote a whole other article about this, read it here!