27 May Getting kids to dress warm
Jacinta, a professional nanny in Sydney tells the delightful story of Zoe, a cute four year-old with a big imagination. When Zoe’s family moved from Queensland to the Blue Mountains, their first winter was something they weren’t completely prepared for. But on her first day of a ‘New Preschool’ in her ‘New Town’ in the middle of a freezing cold July, Zoe was keen to make a big impression.
She was dressed and ready to go by 6.30am, wearing her favourite sparkly aqua singlet and a purple ballet tutu. Needless to say, it took some convincing to get Zoe to dress warmly.
Children have a beautiful way of living ‘in the moment’ and not caring about the sensibilities or practicalities of life. It’s up to us grown-ups to help them to navigate these aspects of life, and with the cooler weather now upon us, kids need to dress appropriately. Just as we reinforce sun sense in the summer, it’s just as important to encourage our kids to dress up warmly, even when they don’t want to. And here’s why.
The common ‘cold’
While scientists say that going out in cold weather is not going to give you a virus, like the common cold, research does suggest that the viruses which cause colds and flu prefer cooler temperatures. A Yale University study found that animal test subject we are much less able to fight off a virus if their core body temperatures was a few degrees cooler than normal.
Little bodies lose heat more quickly.
Children have an accelerated metabolic rate, which could possibly explain why they don’t seem to be affected by cooler weather.
But while they may not feel it, cold hands and feet indicate that their bodies are working extra hard at keeping their essential organs warm. This physiological reaction forces their bodies to work extra hard and expels lots of energy.
It’s also important to remember that when we’re not feeling comfortable, we don’t focus, which can affect concentration in kids too.
Most adults know that the most sensible way to deal with cold winter months is to layer up – layers not only help to protect body warmth, they’re easy to remove if there’s a change in temperature. But try telling your 5-year old that. While it might be fun to dress in Mum’s beanie, gloves and scarf during playtime at home, they’re not always that co-operative when it comes to needing dress sensibly for a cold day outside.
And it’s not just 5-year olds. Most mothers will tell you that they get ‘wardrobe pushback’ from their children from the time they’re press schoolers to the time they’re high schoolers.
So how can we get them to dress warmly? Without making every morning a stressful or argumentative battle about what to wear. Here are a few simple tips and tricks from professional nannies that can help every Mum you to make sure that kids rug up when they need to.
- Give kids some control.
School uniforms tend to be pretty non-negotiable, and most schools have a winter option, but outside of school you can give your child the opportunity to have lots of input into clothes for other occasions: bed, after school and on weekends. While your child’s clothing choices may not necessarily conform to your own fashion tastes, the simple truth is that if they love them, they will actually wear them. You can count this as a parenting win.
Shopping can be a fun adventure too – and it needn’t be expensive. A few basics can get you through the worst of the cold weather. For older children, it can double as a budgeting lesson – they’ll learn to make choices in keeping with spending limits.
Remember Zoe? The little girl with the sparkly sequins and the ballet tutu? In her case the solution was to put a long sleeve t-shirt and warm wool stockings underneath. Letting her keep her basic outfit that she’d chosen so carefully, but with some adjustments, satisfied Zoe (and her Mum) without the need for a full-blown meltdown – from either one of them! Some parenting experts suggest that if you need to take control of your child’s wardrobe, then let them have some control in yours … For example, choose two potential outfits for the day ahead and ask your child to decide an outfit for you, that way, they’ll consider it ‘fairer’ when you choose for them.
If you have pre-schoolers, most of the time the wardrobe battle can be avoided if they understand the need for a jacket or a hat or long pants. Their little minds are sponges and they enjoy learning. As the cooler winter months approach choose story books, or TV shows or colouring in activities about the weather, and use the opportunity to talk about how people dress when it’s cold. This can help them make more sensible winter clothing choices on their own.
- Make sure they’re comfortable.
Some kids can be sensitive to itchy fabrics, protruding seams and tags and abrasive fabrics (like wool), as well as clothes that are ‘too big’ or ‘too small’. Children with Eczema or sensory sensitivity can be acutely sensitive to clothing. So, before the cool weather really sets in, do a check on what they need to wear regularly and discard items they’re not completely comfortable with.
- Pack warm clothes anyway
While it may feel like a wasted effort to pop your child’s jumper in their school bag even when they seem to insist on not actually wearing, you might be surprised how strong the peer influence is. If everyone is wearing a coat or a sweater then your child is very likely to join the crew! Most times teachers, professional nannies, and other child care workers will reinforce the ‘dress warmly’ policy too, and when it’s really cold, your child will secretly be glad that you had them prepared.
- Let “natural consequences” make your point.
Hard as it is sometimes, most parenting experts agree, that you really need to choose your battles. If you’re tired of having the “…but it’s cold outside, you need a jacket,” conversation, then sometimes the best thing to do is let it go. As soon as your child gets exposed to the cold long enough to really feel it, then they’ll quickly understand the consequences of not being dressed properly.
- Make it a winter routine.
Sometimes it can just be a matter of being organised and making jackets, hats and shoes the last part of the morning routine, before getting into the car, just the same as brushing teeth at bedtime, or sunscreen before going to the beach. A coat rack near the door can be a gentle reminder not to leave home without one on. Of course, it’s easier to enforce this when your children are little, and as they get older they want to express their individuality and independence. At this point, parents can only help to guide their choices, but routines can be a helpful way of just putting things on a ‘to do’ list and avoid the drama of endless nagging.