Everybody who works at Dodge goes outside every day, even administrative staff hike the trails, hoof it between spots on "campus," or step out to feed the birds. Not everybody in the world gets to do what we do. We forget that. Life can get so busy, there just isn't time. And not everybody takes the bus, or commutes by bike, or walks to work or school. Garages are attached to houses. Cars are cozy. Kids need dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat. You know the drill. Is it really little wonder then that we aren't quite prepared for outdoor fun in winter? So here is a little primer on having fun outside, in Minnesota, in winter.
Short version: Wear warm clothes.
Long Version: Sounds silly, right? Everybody knows the old adage about "there is no bad weather, just bad clothing," but really, there IS bad weather. Really icky, cold weather. Pellets of ice in the face, bone chilling cold. Now, I do not advocate torturing yourself for too long with ice in the face and relentless subzero windchills, but a little preparedness goes a long way. Dress for winter success and then you can push the envelope. Adults and children alike should wear the following gear to enjoy time outside (if you have a teenager, I'm sorry. I see them at the bus stop. I know you bought them a coat. And they left it at home. On the floor of their closet. Under a pile of dirty laundry.)
1. Snow pants. Even adults need snow pants. Bibs are warmest, and very nice: when you slide and roll, you don't get snow in your drawers. Make sure snow pants pull down over boots.
2. Wool socks. I sound like a granny, but really, wool socks, or at least wool blend are the way to go. Wool is so fashionable now, you can find cheaper knock-offs of the fancier ones at places like Fleet Farm (I have a feeling Fleet Farm has always offered wool socks, though). Wool socks are easy to find for kids too; no excuses. As a teacher, I can tell you nothing is worth less in winter than a tiny little thin excuse of a cotton anklet on a child's foot. Those Old Navy socks are not for winter feet. Those things get soggy and they wriggle right off the foot and wind up in the toe of the boot, like a damp little uncomfortable marble. If your boot liners are dry and your socks are wool, you should never has cause for complaint.
3. Nicely insulated, waterproof boots. Boots need to be warm. Think of the classic 1964 Sorel. Think pac boot. Think snowmobiling. Don't think cute or pretty. Big boots are "in." Boots need to stay zipped or laced and should not allow for the intrusion of snow or anything else. Velcro is not so good on kid boots. Get something they stomp their foot into, something with a hefty liner.
4. Insulated coat. Make sure the coat zips. A hood is a good addition, as an extra layer over your hat. If the zipper is busted, snaps aren't going to cut it, not to keep the cold out. Zipping and snapping is really good. Your coat should not ride up over your belly button when you raise your arms. You're not dressing for the beach. And you should be able to move your arms. If you can't play in your coat, you won't have fun outside.
5. Hat. Again, wool is really the best. Wool lined with fleece is awesome. This hat of yours should pull down over your ears. Think that looks stupid? It might (especially if you wear glasses, like me), but you'll be warm, what do you care? Funk out on the hat, go crazy. Get a really BIG hat. Mad bombers are mad cute on kids. Get a hat that says something like, "This hat is soooooo warm!"
6. Neck Warmer. Here at the Preschool, we are non-denominational, except for...the Religion of the Neck Warmer. That's right. The Neck Warmer is the Holy Grail of winter apparel. Di rigeur at the Preschool. In my opinion, every single Minnesotan should own a terrific neck warmer. At least I could lobby "the powers that be" to issue every last Dodge kid a neck warmer upon enrollment. If you pull a neck warmer down, over your hat, you can either pull it up over your nose, or push it down under your chin, depending on the weather. A Neck warmer means FREEDOM! Freedom to go and do whatever you want in MN in winter. Freedom from cold. You won't get frost nip, or even get chafed. You'll just be protected. Get one. I like fleece. The all-in-one, neck warmer-cum-hat, for that total yeti look, killing 2 birds with 1 stone, is great for kids (adults may be mistaken for circa 1970 bank robbers). At the Preschool, we learn to id kids by eyes only, because that's all we see all winter outside.
7. Mittens. Did I say, "gloves?" I did not. I said, "mittens." M-I-T-T-E-N-S. Insulated, waterproof mittens. Young children have no business trying to put on gloves. This is not an age-appropriate skill to cultivate. Gloves are not warm. Mittens only. Period. Wait. Attention parents: test drive mittens on children. All mittens are not created equal. Some look great, but they do not perform well. If the mitten does not grip the child's wrist, or go up to the elbow, don't buy it. The child should test the mittens while wearing their winter coat, and flapping their arms, vigorously. If the mittens fly, creep or slide off the kid, walk away. Kids don't have enough muscle tone to keep mittens on by sheer will. Clips help, but they do not solve this problem. And make sure mittens dry thoroughly. Some super-insulated mittens can harbor sweat that then freezes around a kids' fingers. Owie!
8. Tissues. Bring them, otherwise your sleeves will be adorned with a not-so-fashionable accessory. Cold weather thins mucous, I think. Why else would my nose run like that?
Next post: Frost Nip vs. Frost Bite...there's a big difference.