baby proof: bundling, part ii.

February 21, 2018

I wrote about wintry bundling layers when Faye was 18 months old, but now that she’s nearing the three and three quarters mark and I’m in the middle of the second winter spent bundling up two little guys for adventures outside of our tiny apartment, I thought it might be helpful to share an update on bundling.

It’s been decades since someone else wrestled me into winter layers, but my memories of getting bundled haven’t faded—the itchy layers, the general bunchiness, the elastics that were too tight, the elastics that were too loose, the tyranny of turtlenecks, the indignity of camisoles—I remember all of it. I especially remember feeling exhausted before I even made it out the door and dreading the process of peeling back the layers when I came back inside. Cut to dressing my own kids, and it’s no surprise I’ve been interested in making the process as painless as possible. Layering on hats and scarfs and woolly layers still requires a bit of stamina and we’ve endured a layer-related meltdown or two, but I have found a few items and a few strategies to be particularly helpful. In case anyone else is interested in simplifying getting bundled up with kids, here are a few things I’ve embraced along the way:

What we have:

Hat, Scarf, Mittens

Our general rule is to keep just one hat, one scarf and one set of mittens for each kid. (Faye has an additional too-small-for-her red cap that she still sometimes likes to wear), but by and large the one for one ratio means it’s easy to keep track of everything and we don’t get bogged down in too much conversation or negotiation about getting bundled. I’ve opted for warm woolen accessories with strings that tie under chins and strings attached to mittens to keep them from disappearing. We keep everything in a cloth bag that hangs next to our apartment door and accessories get returned there as soon as we come back in from outside. At thirteen months, even Silas knows where to stick his scarf when we return home.

Base Layers

Because New York City apartments tend to err on the very warm side, we tend to focus on adding additional outer layers instead of too many base layers (see below!). Still, Faye has a really great pair of merino long underwear that fit snugly and comfortably underneath under her regular clothes. Coupled with snug camisoles that don’t bunch, they’ve been perfect base layers for staying cozy. 

Woolen Overalls

This winter we’ve embraced the utter joy of woolen overalls for layering over any manner of everyday clothes. (We have these for Silas and these for Faye.) In our experience, the overalls have been especially terrific at extending the life of cotton leggings or tights that might otherwise feel not quite warm enough for winter. With a pair for each kid, we didn’t have to reinvest in additional cool weather pants—they just wear the same thick overalls on top of the clothes they were wearing in the fall. The thick wool is excellent at repelling water and regulating body temperature and even if they do get a little damp, they still keep everyone warm. We chose dark colors to hide playground stains and we keep them in a wooden crate under our couch for easy access when heading out of the house. They’re hands-down the most practical and most-used kids clothing item we’ve invested in. If I sound like I’m making a hard sell, that’s because I am. These things are the best. (When Silas was an infant, we used this wool coverall that kept him cozy in the carrier. Just like the overalls, I could put that over whatever he was already wearing and rest easy knowing he was plenty warm enough. I only wish we’d had it when Faye was tiny, too.) 

Warm Jackets

Since Faye was first born, we’ve invested in just two down jackets. The kids have worn them roomy in their first winter and fitted in their second winter. (This winter Faye’s very much embraced a wool coat that we found on sale at Mabo last winter. I never intended it to be an everyday coat, but she loves it and so it is. Worn over her woolen overalls and thick wool sweater, it keeps her plenty warm and awfully cheery.)

Waterproof Layer

We have a hand-me-down pair of insulated winter snowpants that Faye has worn out in the snow a few times, but the wool overalls layered with a waterproof mud suit has stood out as our preferred combination. I love the practicality of a full-body coverall that can keep away water and mud and make it so we don’t spend time any time worrying about how much a winter coat or pair of leggings may be getting muddy beyond recognition. (As a family without a washer or dryer in our apartment building, it’s especially nice to have a barrier from the wet and dirt.) We have a suit from Splashy that was affordable and has served us well. It’s not insulated itself, which I rather like. That way we can zip it over a down jacket and woolen overalls in the winter and over fewer layers in the spring and it acts as a perfect protective layer. I like to think of it as a smock for the great outdoors. 

Boots

Both of my kids are in hand-me-down boots for winter—Silas is in leather boots, Faye is in rubber rain boots and thick socks. We’ve muddled along just fine with both, which is to say that neither have been totally perfect in every single scenario, but chasing perfection isn’t really advisable. If you are looking for new rain boots, I love the classic Aigle boots that Misha and Puff has in stock. 

Other things:

Some folks are rightly concerned about PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals) in waterproofed clothing. They’re not great for people or the environment and so it’s wise to find options that don’t rely on them. (Greenpeace launched a related Detox the Outdoors campaign in 2015 to address the hazards PFCs pose and the role of outdoor gear companies in fixing them.) A few alternatives:

+ Splashy suits like the one we have used to be made with PVC (another material I try to avoid), but they’re now made water-resistant with the use of Polyurethane-treated nylon. 

+ L.L. Bean snowbibs like the hand-me-down pair that we have are made of a coating-free polyester.

+ Polarn O. Pryet one-piece shells are all PFC-free.

+ Faire Child is a Canadian children’s brand making beautifully designed waterproof outerwear from a PFC- free material called Sympatex. Their coverall looks terrific.

What about you guys? Any winter bundling tricks we should know about before spring?

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26 Comments

  • Reply Ashley Narens February 21, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Thank you so much for this post. I am very interested in the wool overalls. Would you mind sharing what size you purchased for Faye? It looks like she’s wearing them in the photos, with the cuffs rolled up.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 21, 2018 at 10:43 am

      They’re so terrific! We got the 2/3 (and they’ll likely fit next year too!) but Faye is more petite than the average three-year-old!

  • Reply Christina February 21, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Such a helpful post, thank you. Getting that Engel romper for my youngest now 🙂

  • Reply Jessica February 21, 2018 at 11:02 am

    Vermonter here! Our children spend a good portion of every day outside, in all types of weather. For wintertime each child has one of the following: snow boots (Sorel, Kamik, or Bogs), water resistant jacket and snow pants (LL Bean, Burton or Lands End), fleece neck warmer, water proof mittens and a hat (plus helmets and goggles for sledding!). We don’t worry about base layers unless it’s literally below zero. Having good gear is an investment (I work for a company that sells all of these products and receive a generous discount but we still shop at consignment shops and secondhand children’s shops) but it can be the difference between hating winter and enjoying it so we make it a priority. Plus it all has great resale value, and most years I am able to sell of what doesn’t fit to supplement purchasing some new sizes!

    A new tip I discovered this year is that I strung a length of yarn with clothespins attached over the heater vent in our floor and now both children know when they come in to immediately clip their wet mittens, hats etc to the line to dry. Has seriously saved my sanity this winter. Plus, what’s more cozy then putting on a pair of warm mittens before you head out into the cold?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 21, 2018 at 11:05 am

      Agreed! Love that mitten trick!

  • Reply kimmag February 21, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    Fantastic recommendations. I love those Faire Child jackets. Never thought of the wool overalls! Mittens with strings is a must!!! We’ve also found that rain boots with warm liners have been very verstaile for West Coast winter.

  • Reply Jessica February 21, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    My Danish mother-in-law buys our children snow suits in Denmark every year and flies them over to us. On the coldest days, rather than bundling, they just get zipped into their snow suits, even if we are sans snow. Happily, one piece snow suits are becoming easier to find Stateside (though we are glad to continue to let farmor buy ours )

  • Reply Karen February 21, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Hi! Is there a reason for referring to your children and readers as “guys”? Just curious. It may be a language anomaly on my part. Thank you for another useful post!

  • Reply Kristyn February 21, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Thank you so much for this! And thank you for including Canadian brands!! Always love your posts with suggestions for little ones!

    • Reply Susan February 26, 2018 at 7:29 pm

      I think of ‘guys’ as the North East ‘y’all.’

  • Reply Brittany R. February 21, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    We have a pair of Stonz rainboots for each of my kids. They are made from natural rubber. My boys’ boots have held up really well for two seasons. I like that they are not heavy and bulky and are very flexible and easy to move in. My daughter’s pair actually tore near the sole which was very odd to me b/c the site had such great reviews so maybe it was a fluke? I was in the process of emailing with the company when I got busy and didn’t continue to follow-up. Anyhow, I would buy from them again b/c they have been great boots-for my boys at least.

  • Reply Stella February 21, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    We live in Sweden and have pretty snowy and cold (and long!) winters so wool here is a must in this family. My 4-year old attends daycare/preschool and they spend a good amount of time outside every day so during October-April he wears wool long johns + and a long sleeved wool t-shirt, then depending on how cold it is he has a wool camisole under the shirt and then on really cold days a wool fleece set (pants and shirt) or if its not so cold a wool sweater ( I knit!). And then of course hat, mittens and a scarf of some sort. The last layer is a shell overall in the winter and jacket/pants during spring/fall. My kid is pretty warm and active so it feels very important that the layer closest to the body breathes and also keeps him warm even if a bit sweaty. Cotton just gets wet and cold. We only use natural materials. Thankfully since we have cold winters here there’s also plenty of good quality clothes for kids to be found. We spend a lot of time in Chicago where the winters are similar to ours but the clothes I find there and how other kids are dressed amazes me, but i know they also spend more time in cars and maybe not as much outside at daycare/preschool.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 21, 2018 at 4:59 pm

      Sounds similar to what we’re shooting for! So helpful to have access to these European brands making cozy stuff for kids!

  • Reply Sophia February 21, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    Great post. Layering for toddler play in NYC felt so intimidating the first time i did it. The Disana overalls are my winter go-to from the first. Went with the mustard yellow from MamaOwl and they have been literally rolled in mud and ten minutes later, mud dried and brushed right off. They’re amazing. I hard sell to everyone, too.

    And in winter we avoid the radiator and keep the windows open! Our apartment runs really hot. The radiator would make it an oven, but a cracked window except on the coldest days/nights has kept us comfortably in the 60’s all winter so we can still use under layers at home and then throw on outerwear to leave.

    I love Aigle rainboots. We did a pair of Kavat rainboots for playground this year and secondhand Angulus leather boots and they’ve been amazing. I sized up and hope they’ll last till next year.

    Size up everything is basically the rule I live by for outerwear. Jackets and snow gear are expensive, as are wool underlayers and sweaters! Roll sleeves first year, wear again for 1-2 years is the way to go.

  • Reply Jen February 22, 2018 at 12:32 am

    We’re in Ottawa Canada and use a similar system as you described. Wool for the win.

    I like having wool socks for everyone, and for the really young ones (pre walking), I love our Padraig wool slippers (https://www.padraigcottage.com/). Natural fibers and perfect for baby wearing.

    We also use balaclavas and tall neck gaiters for extreme cold days (also super easy for kids to take on/off).

    I asked my mom to knit a pair of baby overalls, bc we didn’t have access to the European brands when my kiddo was younger. What I discovered later on was that the sleeves of most wool sweaters make for perfect pant legs for small people. An idea for a more economical alternative, if people are into thrifting / crafting.

  • Reply Julia February 22, 2018 at 1:54 am

    Biddle and Bop! Online shop that sells rain suits that are pvc and flame retardant free along with other high quality outerwear and woolies. That’s our source for this stuff.

  • Reply Ninna February 22, 2018 at 8:17 am

    Buy a Danish ‘flyverdragt’ (translation something like pilot suit). Here is an example:
    http://www2.hm.com/da_dk/productpage.0486767001.html?gclid=CjwKCAiA8bnUBRA-EiwAc0hZk-Yo4wHJ_gHyDLvPqiKiydvblzfho-yTpLSQE4xbyOnUBJyAgEqNTRoCQAEQAvD_BwE&s_kwcid=AL!850!3!46406412457!!!g!64528126931!&ef_id=VAJOfAAAAULJHBYX:20180222130642:s.
    One zip, fast dressing even the very small ones can handle themselves, mittens attached with clips to the sleeves and an ‘elefant hue’ (elephant hat), a knitted hat to pull over the head, which just leaves the face free also covering the neck, and you kid is dressed, warm and doesn’t split on the middle. It comes in all sizes, and it is the best two pieces of clothing ever for winter kids.

  • Reply Julie February 22, 2018 at 8:34 am

    Ella’s Wool (https://ellaswool.com/) are my favorite woolens for kids. My son wears the base layer set with tubes over. He’s hardly worn anything else all winter. I’ve been pleased too with Puddle gear (https://atoygarden.com/products/1759), a wool balaclava, and Bogs boots as an outer layer. This combo has been fantastic in our cold Montana winter.

  • Reply Elizabeth February 22, 2018 at 10:08 am

    One aspect of bundling that you haven’t touched on is managing layers while also dealing with car seat safety. We live in Chicago and walk or take transit to do things in our neighborhood during the week, but take the car for errands or adventures elsewhere in the city on the weekends. It has been SO DIFFICULT to figure out the right combination of layers on those days when we leave the house and it’s in the single digits, but we’re only walking a block to the car, or when we’re driving to an outside activity, like walking around the zoo for an hour.

    What we’ve tended to do is: long sleeve shirt over/under short sleeved, thick fleecey sweater, fleece-lined jeans, thick fleecey carseat poncho either worn or bundled over the carseat straps, bring the winter coat along.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 22, 2018 at 10:51 am

      Sounds like you’ve figured it out! We’re almost never in a car, but I think we’d do the same thing! All the layers, minus the coat!

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