In which Brianna breaks down winter outerwear for snow newbies.
Monkey’s daddy is a Marine, and his job moves us around quite a bit. We’re both from New York (state) and used to playing outdoors all year. However, the vast majority of Marines will spend most of their careers stationed in very warm climates, as most of their bases are in the American South, Southern California, or the South Pacific. Today, we live in Michigan. To us the winters we have spent here are hardly different from what we experienced growing up. Wind chill, lake effect, black ice, snow plows are all terms and realities we grew up with. So when it came time to play with our little Monkey in the winter, we knew what she needed, because our parents had swathed us in similar attire.
This article is not for people like us. In the military community, we have made friends with people who have never left the South before finding themselves and their children suddenly thrust into the cold arms of a Northern winter (and of course, civilian families might relocate for better jobs, too). It’s hardly Game of Thrones up here, but many states south of Virginia shut down in the face of more than an inch of snow or a day of ice. People from these areas, you know who you are, and I, a native Northerner, am here to help you and your kids through this. I know from experience that a drastically different climate can be a BIG adjustment! My first summer in North Carolina was awful. The air conditioner in our house stopped working, and the humidity gave me a headache that lasted over a week. I thought I’d have to be scraped off the parking lot on my way into the grocery store. Well fear not, my Southern friends, I will not let your children turn into popsicles!
Dress for the plan
First, the clothes you and your kiddos will need to survive the cold will depend on what you’re doing outside. Of course. I'm only addressing outer layers in this article. The assumption is that underneath the coats and sweaters, your child is wearing a typical t-shirt and jeans or other pants, unless otherwise specified.
Walking in a winter wonderland
Serious fun in the snow
How to cheat during your first winter
Now, all of this gear is a bit of an investment. If you have a big family or a smaller budget for new clothes, transitioning to a cold climate can be a bit of a shock to your wallet. I’m going to give you a couple tips to get through your first winter like a pro, without going broke. Of course you can go to a thrift store or swoop through summer garage sales for gently used outdoor gear. But you might be surprised how well you can manage with the things you already have in your closets. To keep your legs warm when playing in the snow, slip a pair or two of leggings on under some jeans.
A good splurge is super warm socks. Wool or technical socks are best, but even some thick cabin socks paired with sturdy rain or work boots will keep the cold at bay long enough to go for a walk or get a bit of sledding in. If you don’t have a great winter coat, just start layering. Put tech fabrics, like an athletic sweater, on close to your body; followed by a large hoodie; and top it with a waterproof jacket, such as a raincoat. It’ll keep the wet off. Another small but important investment is a selection of warm scarves for the family. Wide and long are good. Acrylic, wool, and fleece are all fine. Remember, your scarf is your neck warmer, your hat, your ski mask; so when you’re selecting a scarf, think versatile.
If your kids are getting into winter sports, you will need a lot more gear, and it will be a lot more specialized. I won’t list it here, because your club or school will have a detailed list. Generally, be prepared to shell out for special socks, helmets, or face masks, in addition to their sporting equipment.
Safety Note: The key to staying safe while having fun in the snow is to stay dry. This cannot be overstated. Dry means not wet from any cause, be it falling into puddles or sweating in your snow duds before going outside. For this reason, don't put on your kid's last layers until just before you go outside.
Also, don't let anyone in your family wear bulky layers in the car. A puffy coat can render your child's car seat straps, in particular, nearly useless. This is not an exaggeration. My favorite resource for car seat safety is Car Seats for the Littles at http://csftl.org.
Let's formalize our obvious connection
Did you move from a hot climate to a cold one? What was tough about the adjustment for you? Did anything in this article surprise you? Please, share your thoughts with us in the comments below. While you're down there, get in on our awesome weekly newsletter. It has article recaps and sometimes a little extra something. And of course we're having a lot of fun on social media channels. Check us on Facebook, Instagram, and the Pinterest.
Ariel and Brianna are friends who met while working in a library. Now they collaborate to develop life-enhancing book club experiences.
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