How to dress a child for Finnish winter

People often ask me how I’m coping with the Finnish winter – so far, so good. Frozen days? So novel. Long hours of darkness? So restful. Piles of snow? So magical. Dressing a child? Kill me. Seriously.

Tip sheet from daycare (

Dressing tip sheet from daycare

When the mercury hit zero degrees celcius two months ago I panicked and wondered what on earth to dress Miko in. But with a few tips and pointers along the way I felt quite confident sending him off today, with the forecast sitting at a high of -12°c and a ‘feels like’  of -19°.

Sunny, with a chance of freezing

Sunny, with a chance of freezing

As many of you will know, the secret is: layers. And what I have found even more useful is: all-in-ones. For weeks we’ve been struggling with too many bits and pieces, which leads to Miko flopping around like a non-compliant jellyfish and arguments and grumbling from both of us. I also suspect it might be where he learnt his new favourite word (starts with f ).

Layer one: thermals

Layer one: thermals

Until this morning, a typical outfit for Miko consisted of: undies, singlet, socks, thermal leggings, thermal top, fleece leggings, fleece top, then outer overall pants and jacket + hat and gloves and boots. And if it rains? Rubber overalls and jacket and rubber gloves over that. Because even waterproof gear can’t protect from a child kneeling in puddles and scooping water up with their hands.

Things like socks and thermal underwear come in different wool / polypropylene ratios for when the weather is 0 to -10°c and -10° and below. Gloves come with woollen inners or some people wear a thin woollen glove beneath a padded mitten.

Layer two: 100% wool suit

Layer two: 100% wool suit

After some advice from a teacher I bought Miko an all-in-one wool suit for when it gets below -5° and an all-in-one snow suit. So today he has on: undies, socks, thermal leggings and top, wool suit, snow suit, balaclava and gloves.

The balaclava might seem over the top, but when you’re out in these cold temps and the wind is blowing it doesn’t take long before you find the weak spots in your outfit. All-in-one suits eliminate chill factor down your butt crack and around your kidneys.

IMG_5049

Today when I dropped Miko at the park (because they start the day outside every day until it’s below -15°c) the teacher commented that his boots were not the best. I’ve been sending him in fleece-lined gumboots thinking this was the final frontier in winter footwear. She showed me that most kids are wearing warmer, gore-tex boots that are lighter.

What about when it’s cold and wet? I asked (because I ask the stupid questions so you don’t have to). It doesn’t get that cold and wet, she replied. Once it’s below zero, all water freezes and the snow is dry. Of course! Science.

Layer three: snow suit and gloves

Layer three: snow suit and gloves

So I’m off today to buy some better boots and then I think we’re set. Although it’s going to get warmer again tomorrow so unfortunately we’ll be back in a wet world of slush.

I’m obviously still fumbling my way through this winter get-up thing so any tips or comments are welcome. Thankfully I find shop staff incredibly helpful, especially when I say it’s my first winter here.

Made it!

Made it!

My biggest tips to you for dressing a child in winter are: allow at least 15 minutes and always ask if they need to pee first. Any time spent on dressing can be made up on a day like today by delivering them to school via sled.

26 thoughts on “How to dress a child for Finnish winter

  1. Oh man, I cant even begin to imagine! The toilet rushes… And if you are too slow removing all the layers. I am surprised you haven’t had any accidents yet!

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  2. Hello! I came here through design sponge!
    Being a local it’s interesting to browse through your blog and read your thought’s about Helsinki! 🙂 Dressing up the kids is a headache for us too! But you got to keep ’em warm 🙂 I usually buy get a warm snowsuit and add a woolen layer when it goes towards or below -10’C, warm shoes are a must and it’s always a plus if they’re water repellent too! 🙂 But it’s tricky, especially when it can be freezing in the morning and when you pick them up all the snow is replaced by puddles!?

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    • Hello, thanks for your comments. Sometimes I wonder if we are the only ones struggling to get dressed so it’s nice to hear we are not alone. I had Miko in his wool suit when it was too warm and he came home sweating so it’s also good to read when to use them. And I totally agree with your last sentence – we can go from ice – snow – slush – puddles fairly quickly! I think it’s funny too that on wild days like today (icy rain, strong winds) I leave him with the teachers in the park and then hurry home to get warm and have a cup of tea! It seems so unfair. ; )

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  3. Hi Melanie, as a mother of two I so liked your post and your struggle for less struggling every morning that I decided to follow up on my own blog 🙂 keep warm! and don’t give up! I know, you won’t!

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  6. Hi, great post 🙂 I was wondering if you could give me some suggestion: we were thinking to bring our son to see Santa in Lapland in December…now, he will be 20 months old. We live in Ireland, so it can get cold, but last time we had anything below -10C was 2010 and the baby was not here to experience it 🙂 DO you think it would be too much for such a small child? Or covering him in all these layers should suffice? If so, do you have some online shop that you could recommend, so I am sure to buy the proper quality items? Thanks a mill 🙂

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    • Hi, well I haven’t been to Lapland in winter so I can’t really say but I imagine that like Helsinki you’ll find everything very warm indoors. Although we had a mild winter last year we did have some very cold days, the coldest being -18. Will you be outdoors much? Are you planning on doing things like husky rides or reindeer rides? You may find being out in the wind much colder than anything else. Check out http://www.reima.fi/en for good quality clothing and I’d also highly recommend visiting the FB page – Expat parents in Helsinki. You can post questions there and people give great advice and tips. I think you can definitely do this trip, I’m just not sure how best to advise you. Have fun and safe travels, Mel.

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  11. Well this might be a stupid question, but…

    I’m going to Helsinki next week

    I’ve bought synthetic baselayers/ long underwear but not sure they will work properly as on top I’ll wear a cotton shirt, wool jumper and parka/ down jacket, bottom will be jeans.

    Will the baselayer still work or is it pointless?

    brgds
    Peter Ting-Saelges

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    • It will still work but to be honest you’ll probably be too warm. The temps are hovering around 0 C this week. Unless you’ll be outside for extended periods, everything you mentioned minus the base layer will be fine. Bring gloves & a hat & the base layer just in case, but every store, cafe, bar & apartment is heated so you’ll be fine. Enjoy!

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