How to Buy Winter Clothes For Kids (from a mom who’s doing it)

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Staying sane as a mom is H.A.R.D. For me, it’s made especially hard when the two of us are cooped up inside all day. While I’ve definitely found some fun indoor activities (like MOHAI), my favorite thing to do with my toddler is exploring the outdoors.

In many respects, outdoor adventures are easier to pull off during the warmer months. Why? Because dressing kids for cold weather can feel overwhelming and intimidating. (I’m speaking from personal experience!)

While I had every intention to be a well-equipped 4-season outdoor momma, it wasn’t until my daughter went to outdoor preschool that I really started feeling like I had things under control.

The following outdoor winter kids gear and budget-friendly shopping tips have been gleaned from recommendations made by Pepper’s school, personal experience, and recommendations from fellow mommas.

If you have any insights to share, please do!! 

There’s nothing quite like getting outside with your little one to make the day better. Just be sure you have plenty of snacks!

There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather If You’re Dressed Correctly

Let’s call a spade a spade — a cold, wet kid is miserable. And the younger they are, the more miserable they are. Because there’s no telling a toddler to suck it up. 

But with the right clothes, toddlers and kids can have fun in nearly any weather. After all, what kid doesn’t love splashing through mud puddles and sliding through snowdrifts?

Layers Are Essential to Dressing Kids for Cold Weather

Dressing a kid for rain, snow, and cold temperatures is just like dressing an adult. It’s all about the layers. Layering correctly allows you to quickly and easily adapt as the environment shifts.

Mother Nature is a fickle gal. She can start out cold and frosty, turn warm and sunny and then shift to buttering wind in a matter of hours. So if you’re dressed to just face what you’re currently seeing, you may not be set up to win the day as it unfolds.

kids' north face jacket
All smiles when we’re getting ready to take a hike!

The Best Kids’ Outdoor Gear for Winter

We’re starting from the inside and working our way out with this one. I’d like to give a special shout-out to two good friends of mine, Lisette Wolter-McKinley and Rachel Zupke. These ladies are the epitome of adventure moms, taking their tiny humans on incredible excursions. I’m so grateful for all their insight and expertise — not to mention inspiring me to keep trying to explore with littles!

Kid’s Winter Socks

Top Pick: Kids Smartwool Socks

These have been our favorite! They seem to fit the best on smaller feet, offering a water-wicking thick layer that’s worked well in both cold and medium temperature days. Plus, they have by far some of the cutest at designs.

Top Pick: REI Co-op Merino Wool Midweight Crew Hiking Socks – Kids’

More affordable than the Smartwool socks, these have been our second favorite. They haven’t fit small feet quite as well, running on the big side. But as she keeps growing this has become less of an issue. And, I’ve been very impressed with how warm they’ve kept her feet even in the snow.

Kid’s Winter Base Layer

It was laundry day in the Judd house, so we’re in our second-favorite base layer, Costco long underwear and our REI socks.

Top Pick: Chasing Windmills Merino Wool Thermal Long Johns 

I love EVERYTHING Chasing Windmills. Their long underwear is SO incredible. It keeps her warm in the cold and cool in the warmth. Plus, they’re super soft, machine wash friendly, and seem to wear like iron. I do follow the line-dry recommendations, which takes a little planning to make sure they’re dry, but it’s worth it.

The one downside? Price. Due to the quality of this brand, it’s pretty expensive. But when it comes to keeping your kid warm, you get what you pay for.

*See tips for ‘Buying Outdoor Gear Without Breaking the Bank’ below.

Fabulous Budget-Friendly Find: Kids Long Underwear at Costco during the Winter 

I was really hesitant about buying these, but I won’t think twice next year. In 2021, they were just $7 full price! Definitely worth having a set (or a few) on hand if you’re not going to invest in an entire Chasing Windmills wardrobe.

Kid’s Middle Layers

Our daughter is pretty obsessed with this wool jumper. When we first got it, she wanted to wear it ALL the time. But the thing is way too warm to wear indoors. So we’ve always called these her ‘fancy pants’ and we set the rule that ‘fancy pants’ are for school and adventures. It’s helped reduce the meltdowns and made getting ready to go exploring more exciting.

Top Pick: Chasing Windmills Boiled Wool Jumper

Like I said, we love ALL things Chasing Windmills. They don’t always have these jumpers available for sale. But they’re amazing when you can get a pair! Because they’re so expensive and my daughter is growing like a weed, I bought them 2 sizes bigger than she was at the time.

To make them fit, I rolled the pant legs and crisscrossed the straps. I’m hoping this allows me to stretch them another year, but you never know.

Top Pick: Insulated Northface Jacket

A quick-drying, insulated jacket is a MUST!! There are a variety of brands from which to choose, but we’re digging our puffy NorthFace Jacket with a hood — like this one here.

Having a jacket with a hood has proved particularly nice because it’s a built-in hat that’s pretty darn hard to lose. And BOY do kids seem to lose things!!

Great Option: Fleece Jacket

Great Mid-Layer for Multi-Use: The North Face Toddler Glacier Full Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt

A warm fleece jacket is another great mid-layer option. We recently outgrew ours and are in the market for another. (Size 5T or 6 if you’re looking to gift one.) When you’re looking for a good outdoor fleece jacket, you want to make sure you get something that’s:

  • Breathable
  • Moisture Resistant
  • Insulating When Wet

Not all brands fit the bill. For instance, Carter’s clothes are fabulous, but I’ve found that their fleece just doesn’t measure up to some of the more outdoor-focused brands.

*See tips for ‘Buying Outdoor Gear Without Breaking the Bank’ below.

Kid’s Outer Layers

This rain suit is AMAZING! It technically can go through the washing machine if you’re really worried about it. But they don’t last as long when you do that. I just hose it down and let it air dry. She ends up covered in mud anyway and it’s the outside layer.

Top Pick: Oaki Rain Suit

This thing is PURE MAGIC. My daughter runs through puddles, plays in the rain, and builds mud pies without getting wet or dirty. (With the exception of her hands and face, that is. The rain suit doesn’t cover those and she often ends up needing a thorough wash.)

But she’s happy outside. And I’m happy — especially when bringing her inside doesn’t require hosing her off like the muddy dog!

Fabulous Snow Solution: Columbia Toddler Buga™ Set

There are a variety of brands from which to choose. We really like the Columbia snowsuits for a few reasons:

  • Columbia’s OUTGROWN system allows you to lengthen the arms to accommodate a toddler as they grow.
  • Adjustable suspenders allow you to adjust the fitting to accommodate growth.
  • Reinforced seat, knees, and cuffs made to withstand the pounding of a toddler.

Another thing to consider is a one-piece or two-piece snow outfit. We were fans of the two-piece outfit, which gives you a snow jacket and snow bibs. This allows you to use the jacket on its own, unzip the jacket for breathability or take the jacket off altogether without losing the pants.

*See tips for ‘Buying Outdoor Gear Without Breaking the Bank’ below.

Kid’s Winter Shoes and Accessories 

These boots are fabulous for exploring. They keep her feet safe and dry, while providing stability. And the balaclava hat is super warm. As you can see, I was not successful in getting her to wear her gloves. This is common in our house, but I try and bring them in case she gets too cold.

Balaclava 

These hats are super warm. They cover your kid’s head, neck, ears, and mouth. The mouthpiece can also easily be pulled down to allow your kid’s face to be exposed. Another perk of the Balaclava is that they don’t seem to come off as easily as a traditional hat, so your kid is less likely to lose them.

Warm Gloves

We’ve been a huge fan of the Columbia ones. We like how they unzip so far, making them easier to get on. 

Hot Tip: Put the gloves on before any jacket. This makes them WAY easier to put on.

Okai Neoprene Rain/Snow Boots

We LOVE these!! Like a lot of the recommendations here, there are a variety of brands from which to choose, but if you’re buying new, these are a good price point. When looking for something to wear outdoors during the winter, I’d look for:

  • Traction
  • Insulation
  • Waterproof 

Why not ‘water resistant’ gear? Because water-resistant gear still leaves room for your child to get wet. It’s ideal to have the option to keep them completely dry. 

*Buying Outdoor Gear Without Breaking the Bank

Make no mistake about it, outdoor kids’ gear is an investment — especially if you’re buying all your kids’ gear new and full-price. Throughout this post I primarily linked to Amazon. Why? Because shopping on Amazon can be SO easy! But it’s FAR from the only way to do things.

In addition to using the following tips, make sure to shop around. You may very well find better deals on different sites. For example, the REI Outlet and REI’s selection of used gear can be great. 

Find Great Deals on Used Outdoor Gear at a Consignment Sale

One of the amazing things about used kids’ clothes is how little they’ve often been worn, especially outdoor clothes. Sales — like the consignment pop-up JBF Issaquah — are a gold mine for gently used outdoor gear.

This is where we found our daughter’s North Face puffy jacket and her winter gloves. I’ve found fabulous snowsuits and snow boots. I have yet to find long underwear or snow socks, but you never know!

Subscribe to Newsletters to Stay in the Know

Brands like Chasing Windmills hardly ever have a sale. And when they do, they sell out FAST!! Your best bet to get a good deal is to subscribe to their newsletter.

Let Friends Know You’re Open to Hand-Me-Downs

Hand-me-downs are one of the most amazing things in the parenting world. They’re the already tested winners and they’re often free — which is a great price.

Pay It Forward

We personally aren’t at this stage yet, but I’m SO excited to get to pay it forward with all the fabulous gear we have. I would not recommend giving stuff away until you know FOR SURE you’re done having kids. 

But once you are, give it a good home. Not only does this free up space in your house, it allows you to help other mommas who need the sanity of getting outside with their kids.


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