If I’d have to name one single thing that helps us with being outside most of the day as a family, it is wearing the right clothes for the right weather. It sounds so simple, but truly, it did take me a little figuring out before I knew how to not only dress myself warm enough for a winter outdoors, but also two little boys, especially when they weren’t able to speak up yet.
This winter it is more essential than it has been for a long time to manage to be comfortable outside in the cold. Schools are having more outside time or keeping windows open, play dates might stay outside and a walk with a friend is for many the highlight of their social life these days.
Whether you’re out on a farm running chores, or going for an afternoon of play in Central Park, the same rules apply to keep yourself and little ones warm.
Let me share our favorites that make morning chores in the single digits still enjoyable (besides the trick of milking the cow to warm your hands or sticking your nose in the fur of a thick coated donkey, I guess..).
Oh, the days when I’d just wear a darker colored dress and call it a winter outfit.. Layering is what it is all about these days. I start with a tank top, then a wool/silk long sleeve shirt, then a wool sweater, winter tights and stuff that all into my insulated Carhartt overalls.
I’m not sure that outfit would fly in the city, but the principle is the same. Start with a tank top that actually keeps that core warm, then one or two long sleeves, a cashmere or wool sweater, and my very favorite cozy and warm tights that work as well underneath my overalls as under a dress.
Layering is nothing new or surprising, but when we spend time with other kids on these cold winter days, the ones with wool long underwear and a pair of extra socks are those that can play freely for hours.
I am very sure the hair sheep breed that we raise is the right choice for our farm (hardy, wonderful mothers), but goodness, with the amount of wool we wear you’d think we’d have some big fluffy wool sheep running around here!
The biggest trick of them all for me is layers and layers of wool. There is nothing that keeps me as cozy as wool socks, overalls, sweaters and wool everything else.
When I refill the goat water tank and accidentally spill an entire bucket of water over my pants (might have happened twice this week), it still keeps me warm. It regulates heat so I hardly ever have that suffocating feeling waterproof clothes can give you when you work yourself in sweat. And best of all, you can get away with hanging it up to air and wear it again and again due to its antibacterial properties.
Dan and I give each other and the kids a pair of wool long Johns for the holidays, and those get worn daily.(My favorite shirt to layer over is this one. They have versions for men and kids as well. The kids wear theirs for 3 years in a row, due to the stretch that these fabrics have.)
It might not suit city life all that much (though I’d 100% have worn this in NYC as well if I’d have known about them), but my biggest trick this winter has been my wool overalls. This brand makes these felt wool overalls from deadstock fabric, and they make me feel like I’m wearing my pajamas while looking too cute to be an actual farmer in my own humble opinion.
Keep hands, head and feet warm
If I’d invest in only a few things, it would (besides a snowsuit for kids) be some truly good mittens. I have some military grade gloves for outside work, which might be a bit of an overkill in the city, but the wool mittens lined with an upcycled cashmere sweater my friend gave me recently, give me joy every day.
For our boys I’ve tried many different mittens, but only these keep their little paws warm enough for hours and hours of outside play. We get them in the sale and they hold up so well. I tie a string between them, so they don’t get lost too easily.
In terms of feet, we all wear wool socks each and every day. Dan loves Darn Tough socks (you can send them back and will receive a new pair for free when they break!). For the kids we have a few pairs of Ruskovilla and these thick terry ones. My very favorite warm socks (that only fit in my roomy muck boots) are these socks made from Finn wool.
For myself, between all the layers of wool and good mittens and socks, it doesn’t matter too much anymore what boots or jacket I wear.
Our little ones though have one last main trick: their snowsuits. We don’t really use jackets at all, they wear their snowsuits all day long. Never a cold belly, wind under their coat or getting wet.
We have tried a few, but with all the sliding down boulders, crawling through brush and hours of outside time outside that happens here, these are the only ones so far that keep up with life. Both kids get three years of wear out of them, and we already got them as hand-me-downs, so definitely a lot of wear for the investment.
It sounds like a lot, but really, a wool base layer, a few pair of wool socks, a hat and mittens, and a snowsuit for the little ones are mostly what is needed to be out there handling sheep all afternoon (or fly a kite in the park with 20 degree weather).
Making warm clothes accessible.
Good quality outdoors clothes are expensive and not accessible for every family.
We bought most of our wool & outdoor clothes second hand, asked for them as a holiday present from family and were lucky enough to get some beautiful hand me downs from friends. A good Facebook page for second hand wool and weather-friendly clothes is Mrs. Acorn’s Closet. We’ve had some luck with Ebay and Craigslist too. Our 5 year old now mainly wears sweaters that once were adult cashmere sweaters that were accidentally washed too hot and shrunk to his size, thrift stores are full of them.
Our local Buy Nothing Facebook group has been a treasure, with many snow outfits and brand new winter boots passing by for free.
When your kids outgrow their good quality outdoor clothes, consider giving them away on your local Buy Nothing Facebook group or to a community center where they can be distributed.
(Main picture by Rebecca Bloomfield Photography)