In the beginning stages of motherhood, I had absolutely no idea how to prepare for daycare in the Finnish winter. Why would I? My little one was born in February, small enough to be wrapped in sheepskin, and always attached to my hip; and then again I was raised in a tropical climate, where jackets were more suggestions than perfunctory. Oh the mistakes. They were countless and hilarious – all in hindsight of course. When you’re living the embarrassment of misinformation, not to mention mistranslation, the temptation to hide is imminent. But you survive and with part learning and part self-deprecation you live to tell another tale. Which brings me to today’s theme – winter shopping for the little ones.
In a bid to spare you from this steep learning curve, I’ve outlined the necessities for preparing your little ones for their first winter at daycare. In general, there are three main layers to consider when preparing for the coldest days, and various combinations to consider in cooler temperatures. Dressing in layers serve two important functions. First, it gives more flexibility to changing weather conditions and activities i.e. from frigid snow and sleet, to near Amazonian temperatures indoors. Second, layers provide good insulation, due to the air space between skin and the cold. Note, these are just suggestions. If you find that your little ones are more susceptible to cold, don’t hesitate to add and extra layer! This is intended as a loose guide as you know your little one best.
Also known as the inner or base layer, these items are normally fabricated from thin, breathable wool and lie on the skin directly. This helps wick moisture away, while keeping your little ones dry and warm. Ideally, this layer should cover almost the entire body i.e. from neck to ankles (long sleeves are a must). In addition to wool, other materials such as blends of wool or polyester with silk work just as well. Try to avoid cotton though, as it has poor insulation qualities and keeps wetness longer.
Where to find
Polarn O. Pyret – with locations both in Kamppi, and Stockmann department store, this brand has great neutral options, and is a reigning favourite of mine for two years now. With quality make and materials, it can handle the rigours of daycare, and machine handwashing cycles (though dryer use is an absolute no). The sizing is very generous, so there’s no worry that you’re little one will outgrow pieces anytime soon.
Another fantastic brand is Reima. Also found in Stockmann, its concept store is nestled conveniently in Forum shopping centre, and the brand can be found in multiple retailers across Finland. They have a wide variety of colours and materials to choose from depending on your mood, or the season.
The middle or second layer is meant to insulate the body. The best materials are down, wool, and fleece. While you can pad up with several layers from this option i.e. down vest or woolen sweaters, it is important that each piece fits close to the body without restraining movement.
Where to find:
As we grow is a sustainable children’s brand from Iceland that offers knits as little heirlooms. Even the story of its origins reflects sentimental values, where pieces are meant to pass from one generation to the next. Each item is well made and very hardy. For the second year running, my little one’s sweater is still holding strong with little piling. And it’s not for lack of trying! Best yet the styles are classic and charming with a hint of nostalgia.
However if you subscribe to a more minimalist aesthetic then take a look at Fub fall styles at babyshop.com. The knits are elegant and perhaps a tad too luxurious for daycare. Nonetheless it’s a brand worth trying as the trademark stripes, and sumptuous navy adds a finishing touch to a holiday outing.
Gap is another fantastic option, and where it lacks in splendor it makes up for in price. Though you’re hard pressed to find any options that are 100% wool, the synthetic blends are soft, breathable and still keep the little ones warm. You may need an update every season, as the pieces don’t hold as well as the previous options, but the brand is an easy go to especially for finger painting day.
And finally the third or outermost layer is meant to protect your little one from rain, snow, and wind. Normally in the form of a waterproof jacket or coverall, the best materials are constructed from nylon or Gore-Tex – which is also breathable. Personally I prefer coveralls, as it’s easier to put on and take off, and tends to be warmer. (Fewer openings mean fewer opportunities for snow or cold air to seep in). However if you decide on a winter set (jacket and pants), then make sure the coat is long enough, features high collars with a hood, and snow pants are bib style (pants that cover some chest).
Where to find:
For outerwear, Danish brand Ver de Terre heads the list. I had a write up about the company a few weeks ago, and its winter wear remains an all time favourite. This fall’s collection did not disappoint, where two beautiful colours were introduced: pine (a dusty dark green) and hazelnut (a golden brown). And if that wasn’t enough, take a look at their new rubber snowsuit – with all the perks of the traditional models, but with a completely waterproof surface that wipes clean.
Other good options include Danish labels Molo and Mini-a-Ture – something is cooking in the state of Denmark and it sure is tasty! Molo’s prints are wonderfully energizing, packing the personality of a miniature snowboarder. The new season includes graphic florals, winter landscapes, snowboards, and plumes – definitely the kind of coats your little one will be excited to wear. Mini-a-Ture on the other hand specializes in beautiful neutrals that are reminiscent of the nordic landscape. The best part being that their product lines extend from raingear to underwear so your little man or lady will coordinate nicely.
Feet, hands, and heads need some love too. Don’t be afraid to double-up on socks. During the coldest months, I normally start with a regular pair, then add a thick woolen layer, and finish off with winter boots with fleece inside. A current favourite is Sorel’s children boots. It’s easier to get on, waterproof and warm, and offers great traction for uneven surfaces – though remember to size-up as the fit is a bit small. The same is true for hands. I start with wool or wool blend gloves, under a sturdy, thickly padded, and (of course) waterproof pair of winter gloves. I prefer gloves to mittens for older children, as it allows more dexterity and the little ones tend to keep them on longer. Continuing, hats and scarves are essential to keeping little heads warm in the cold. An exposed chest is a one-way ticket to a winter long cough. However I prefer balaclavas (ski masks that cover the chest but leave the face open), or tube scarves that slip over the head, as they are tricky to remove, hence harder to lose.
Tips & Perks
Check the weather forecast. I have google’s weather app on the quick hit list. As a rule of thumb avoid sending your little ones outside if the temperature or wind chill falls below -25°C. At this temperature exposed skin can freeze in a few minutes, though I suspect she’ll start sounding the alarm long before. Either way it’s good practice to keep abreast with changing temperatures.
Carry something extra. This is a given, but ever so often I’m missing one vital item that makes life a little more comfortable. But a spare pair of long-johns, or an extra set of wool mittens have been lifesavers in the past.
Adjust layers according to the activity. In colder temperatures, take away one of your little one’s layers before a moment of play. This is to minimize overheating and sitting in damp clothes. Initially, it may be chilly, but as they start to move, warmth will spread quickly. Of course you have to gauge the temperature, as well as the wind chill. If the day feels particularly cold, then perhaps carry a spare second layer to swap after the activity is finished.