Having the right clothing is essential for having an enjoyable time playing outdoors in the winter. When we are warm, we are happy and able to stay outdoors for longer and make the most of what mother nature has to offer.

There are so many benefits for getting outdoors and into nature in all weather and once we are committed to getting outside, we need to make sure we have the right clothing that can keep us warm in the colder seasons.

 Before we look at the actual clothing there are a couple of things we need to consider:


Adults tend to stand around more and get much colder, so this list is not just for the children! It is recommended that adults have even more layers on due to adults often observing children outdoors.


The length of time spent outside is a factor to consider, specifically around the number of layers you will need to have on. The advice below is aimed at longer sessions outside so just adapt for shorter sessions or really cold weather.


Wind chill can make it feel much colder than the actual temperature. It can take heat away from your body much faster than you think.



Wool / Thermals next to your skin become essential with cooler temperatures. Often I see children turning up wearing cotton next to their skin, but when cotton gets wet it doesn’t keep you warm. Wool, merino and thermals are best for warm layers as they keep you warm even when they get wet. Wool works by trapping pockets of air helping to insulate you from the cold. Being aware of what children are wearing against their skin is a good thing to check before heading outdoors for the day.

Warm Thick Socks for winter are essential for keeping warm. Again, natural materials like wool are best as when wool gets wet it will keep your feet warm but cotton socks when they get wet will get cold. In colder climates it’s recommended to have thicker socks as thin merino socks, while great, might not keep feet warm enough in cold places e.g., with snow on the ground. Sometimes I suggest two pairs of socks if thick socks aren’t an option. If children’s feet start getting too cold, then it will impact on how long they can stay outside.

Mid Layers can be additional thermals, woollen jersey or polar fleece. Another tip is to wear a couple of thinner layers over top of the layer next to your skin, rather than one big thick jacket. This will mean you can regulate your temperature much better if you get hot.

Rain Jackets are awesome for long periods of enjoyment in wet conditions. Hoods are useful for stopping rain from going down the back of your neck and can also act as a heater for your head. The main purpose though is to stop us getting cold through long periods of wetness. When we get wet, we are more likely to get cold (especially with wind chill), so rain jackets are a priority.

Over Trousers are a great addition for winter and on rainy days. What tends to happen when only wearing a rain jacket is the rain runs down the rain jacket and then at the bottom it has nowhere to go so it runs onto your trousers causing a big wet ring. Over trousers help children to play outside for longer periods of time. In some parts of the country ski pants would be very useful.

Gumboots are ideal in the winter months or on wet days. Even though they are harder to run in, they will keep feet much drier and hence warmer. One thing to note in colder climates is that gumboots are not actually that well insulated from the ground. In these really cold environments, it’s worth considering adding cell foam matting into the bottom of the gumboots or adding sheepskin. This will keep feet nice and cosy.

Waterproof Onesie When it comes to babies and toddlers a one-piece suit is ideal. If babies or toddlers are spending time on the ground then these will help keep them warmer as jackets can ride up and if they fall in a puddle it will help protect their body from getting wet to the core.

Woollen Hats are great in the winter or on a particularly cool day. We can lose 80% of our body heat through our head so a hat will help reduce heat loose and keep us warmer for longer. It’s good to think about the thickness of the hat when choosing them, as often children are moving around a lot, so a thick hat can be taken off because it’s just too warm. A thin hat can be useful when it’s a little cold or wet, but not freezing cold.

Gloves are great in winter too. They can make it a little harder to do things, but it can turn into a problem-solving activity for children by using gloves. Woollen gloves are generally enough in New Zealand city winter conditions. However even if you are wearing wool gloves and they are wet and exposed to the wind, it can be extremely hard to keep fingers warm. So waterproof gloves can be helpful on raining or water play days. For those in rural, southern or inland locations where the temperature can be a lot colder, I would suggest thick waterproof / water resistant gloves, or you can wear wool gloves with outer waterproof gloves.

A final few words.

As mentioned this applies to adults too. You will want to be wearing more layers than the children as generally you will be moving less and observing more. As an adult having a thick warm hat, 2-3 thermal or wool layers, down jacket, rain jacket, thick gloves, good over trousers over thermal leggings and gumboots, become an essential part of staying warm while children play.

Jeans are not going to keep you warm. This might mean that you need to have two sets of clothes yourself but turning up in jeans on a wet and cold day is going to reduce the amount of play the children get to have because you will get too cold and need to go in.

While these clothes aren’t as fashionable as perhaps you would like – it isn’t about you! This is for the children and I can promise you that the children will not be judging your attire!

So, before your next rainy, cold day, make sure you personally have the right clothing and that your children have the right clothing too! Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!

What to know more about the benefits of outdoor play? Get our 5 page summary of benefits and research. CLICK HERE.

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