By: Laura Armstrong, Early Childhood Educator, Terra Centre Practicum Student

Feeling prepared to leave your house with a young child in wintertime is a lot easier when you know that they’ll be warm and safe. Check out the tips and hints below to find out more!


These young citizens need their caregiver to make sure that they are dressed appropriately for the weather.

Two quick ways to check if an infant is either too warm or too cold are:

  • Feel the back of their neck and if it’s hot and sweaty then they are too hot.
  • Feel their hands and if their fingers are cold, then they’re too cold.

Babies need a hat that covers their little ears, ideally one that fastens under the chin with Velcro to make sure it doesn’t slip if they turn their head from side to side. Hands can be covered with mitts, the ones without thumbs keep fingers warmest. These can be thin and soft if baby will be bundled up in a stroller and under blankets. Instead of boots or booties which easily fall off, choose snowsuits that have the feet included in them, sleeper-style. This also prevents cold air from sneaking in.


Always on the move, toddlers need sturdy boots that they can slip on and off themselves. Boots should fit well and have enough insulation to keep tiny toes warm, and if you choose a size slightly bigger than they need it’s more likely that the boots will fit all winter long. Check if they can wiggle their toes and that there’s a little extra space for growing. Put on the boots and mittens before the snowsuit if you’re playing outside, which prevents getting a draft of cold air or snow on bare skin and increases the likelihood that warm gear stays on!

Baby Wearing

I mention this here because it can be a wonderful way to keep your child safe, close and warm in winter months. If you own a big jacket that can zip your child up inside with you, even better—now all they need is a hat and booties to keep warm. There are a lot of baby carriers available, including wraps, slings, backpacks and more. Check here for a complete list of the five kinds of baby carriers, including their pros and cons.

Lastly, remember that safety with baby wearing is key. Check that your child’s nose is visible and kissable at all times, and make sure to research safety instructions for baby wearing. For more safety tips, visit the Government of Canada website.

This is Laura babywearing her youngest on a winter day.

Car Seats

For children of any age, puffy jackets in cars pose a safety risk.

The car seat straps cannot securely fit against a child’s body if they’re wrapped up in too many layers, and even if it seems tight enough the puffy material can suddenly compress in a crash, becoming dangerously loose. The best way to protect your child is to dress them for the car seat, rather than the outside weather.

Thin warm layers for under the strap, like a fleece jacket with mitts boot and hat, will keep them warm and safe, and you just need to add a blanket on top. Or, they can wear a fleece layer and a puffy coat to the vehicle, remove the puffy jacket before buckling them into their carseat and use the puffy jacket as blanket.

Finally, note that after-market products like strap covers, mobiles, head supports, or car seat bags that fit behind the child have not been tested as safe for use—if it didn’t come with the car seat, you probably shouldn’t be using it. For more info, including a quick way to check if the jacket you’re using is safe, check out the this link.

Safety Tips
  • Beware of strings and scarfs, which can get caught and pose a strangulation hazard. Buy mitten clips or hats with Velcro instead.
  • Check the wind chill—that wind can increase the chance of frost bite, so pay attention to the temperature, wind chill factor and length of time you’ll be spending outside.
  • Remember that young children have skin thinner than ours, and bodies that are not yet great at regulating temperature. Because of that, they need to wear one more layer than you would. If you’re comfortable in a T-shirt, they often need a long-sleeved shirt or a sweater. If you’re wearing a jacket, they should definitely be in a jacket as well.
  • Children lose a lot of heat from their heads and hands. Their heads need hats, and mittens should always be available, even if they are pulled off for short periods of time. If you’re playing outside and want to avoid this, choose longer mittens and put the mittens on before the jacket or snowsuit, as this keeps hands warmer and mittens more difficult to remove.
  • To check if your child’s car seat straps fit right with their winter wear, St. John Ambulance offers free Child Safety Seat Information sessions every third Wednesday of the month from 7 – 9 p.m. Please call 780-452-6161 to register. There is also a quick and easy free online course you can take, Alberta Child Seat Safety Modules, which offers a certificate on completion and takes less than an hour to complete.
Keeping Costs Low

Children grow so fast that the winter items they leave behind are mostly good as new. The Clothes Closet at Braemar school or Terra’s downtown location is a great place to source free winter wear for your child and yourself. Some other low-cost alternatives are Value Village, Once Upon a Child or Kijiji. When gathering used items check for issues like zipper function or rips in the seams, and bring your child along to make sure their new coat, boots, mitts or hat will fit.

The author’s children, demonstrating how much fun winter can be when you’re warm!

A Note About Hats

It’s so worth it to take the time to find a well-fitting hat for your child. The Clothes Closet, Value Village, and Once Upon A Child are all free or low-cost options for finding the perfect hat, with lots of styles available. Children that are likely to pull their hats off or are not old enough to communicate that their ears are getting cold will benefit from a hat that covers the ears and has a Velcro chin strap, while older children can stay safe and warm in a snug hat that covers the ears. Watch out for loosely knitted hats with larger holes, as fingers may get caught and cold air can get in. Balaclavas are a nice option, too.

Safe, warm, and ready to play! These hats cover the ears nicely.