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.


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.

A Day in the Life

Miko is now at his second Finnish daycare (not expelled, just moved house) and based on our short time here there are a few things I’ve noticed that are quite different to New Zealand daycare.


Daycares are in high-rise buildings
Miko’s first daycare was on the fourth floor of a large modern building and his new one is five floors up in a building that is probably 100 years old. Each daycare has a playground nearby they head out to each day, where they store outdoor toys in large, lockable boxes.

They go out in all weather
Rain or shine, Finnish children play outdoor every day. I believe the cut-off point is when the temperature drops below -20. Miko’s daycare recently headed out to the zoo on a drizzly day with a high of 10 degrees celcius. The only times they won’t go out is if there is thunder and lightening. If it’s raining, the kids just put rubber pants and jackets on over their clothes and jump about in all the puddles.

Carts like this are used to transport smaller children to the playground

Carts like this are used to transport smaller children to the playground

More outfit changes than Beyonce 
Because of the all-weather outdoor play, I have had to buy Miko quite a few new clothes. He heads out in regular clothes plus over-pants for the dusty playground. In his backpack he has: sunhat, warm hat, gumboots, rubber overalls, rubber jacket, gloves, and a change of clothes for inside. And we’ve yet to hit winter!

Opposite of NZ
In NZ it’s not unusual to play outside in bare feet. And at daycare we would always wear shoes inside. Here, shoes are always worn outside and removed indoors. This goes for all visitors to daycare too. So once inside, Miko changes into his slippers. Even Jonathan wears slippers at work and it’s not unusual to see a rack of slippers in many Helsinki offices.


Meals are provided
Lunch is provided in daycare and every day, right up to the last year at school. It might be made in-house or delivered by a company. Regular menu items include: soup and rye bread, lasagne, fish bake and peas, sausages and rice. For kids like Miko, vegetarian options are also provided. Miko is not yet three and expected to serve himself, scrape his plate and stack his dirty dishes. He also pours himself a glass of milk or water from the drinks stand.

Amazingly, lunch is still provided for children through-out the holidays in city parks. You just turn up at the city playgrounds on the right days, bring your plate and spoon and line up for your meal.  There’s no stigma attached, the lunches are part of life and for all children. It’s like a modern day Oliver Twist – we went to a playground one day and there must have been 100 kids and parents lining up for lunch.

And for dessert…
After lunch at daycare, all the children help themselves to a piece of chewing gum from a large dispenser. Finland is very proud of xylitol you know! Not only did they discover its benefits for dental health, but also that chewing can reduce middle-ear infections in young children. I love all the self-reliance Miko is being taught but honestly, if he’s being cheeky, there’s nothing more annoying than being spoken back to by a three-year old chewing gum!