Keeping Children Warm – Why is it so important?

From the moment a new baby is born, it is put in a hat and swaddling and placed under a warmer. Keeping babies warm is something most parents and caregivers just know to do. But as children age and begin to dress themselves, they seem to get progressively less bundled up than they were when parents did the dressing and swaddling. Many people might say that it’s no big deal for a child to run around in a t-shirt and a diaper, or on hard floors without slippers, or outside on a brisk day with no hat. However, keeping young children’s bodies covered and warm is really quite important.

When children are not properly warm, energy from food that is otherwise used to learn, grow and move is automatically diverted to keeping the internal body core warm. Children have an accelerated metabolic rate, which is why they often do not feel cold themselves. Parents know those icy hands and feet, though. Cold hands and feet are the body’s way of keeping the essential organs at our core warm enough, and their limbs experience this diversion of warm blood to the chest and brain. They are also a big signal flag that a child needs warmer clothes.

Now that we recognize the importance of keeping warm to a child’s body and mental development, how can we get the children, who don’t feel cold, to wear those extra layers? One suggestion is to tell your child that being warm will help them to run faster and play longer, and it will! Cold children run out of steam more quickly as their cold muscles tire far more quickly than those who are all bundled up. Another suggestion is to teach and model winter good habits. The whole family should make examples of wearing house slippers and robes indoors during winter months, and wearing warm layers and hats outdoors.

A third suggestion is to make sure that whenever possible to layer children in clothing items of natural fibers. Rayons and polyesters make children sweaty and when they are hot, so they get uncomfortable, shed clothing and then get cold. Breathable new performance fibers, silk and wool make great warm layers for active children as these natural and engineered fibers are moisture wicking and insulating, rather than simply covering.

Wool is sometimes hard to find and can be a bit pricey, but lined wool hats provide all the insulation and are significantly less sweat inducing than acrylic yarn or microfleece. Wool also wins in the durability department. It should last through years of washing and wearing to pass down to a sibling when the oldest child has outgrown things. So long as it is properly cared for, wool items are an investment. Save wool outwear for the second child, and beyond. Cotton “is rotten” as winter outwear as it does not trap heat but it does trap moisture. During the winter months, avoid cotton warmth layers; especially gloves and hats. Polyester fabric items are a bit more accessible, and absolutely do breathe, but lack in the snuggly department. Silk is fantastic, especially for long johns under winter outfits. This comes in handy for parents who have children who insist on a tutu for preschool, but don’t want their little fairy child flutter off without warm layers. Ditto with having girls wear tights or leggings under skirts or dresses.

House slippers are an easy way to make sure kids are keeping warm at home. Getting kids to wear their slippers is another matter. Again, the microfleece and faux fur linings of many slippers may make little feet too hot and itchy. Opt for thick wool socks, or leather soled slippers. And always try to involve your little one in picking their own slippers or footwear. Children will be better vested in clothing (and other) decisions that they help to make!

Whatever parents of preschoolers and nursery school aged children choose to keep their kids warm, attention to a child’s underwear and outwear heat retention and moisture wicking should be a priority for any child whose nursery school, preschool, or daycare center allows children to play outdoors when it’s cold outside. Running and playing outside in all kinds of weather is great for kids minds and bodies, and bundling up makes the fun better and last longer.

Prime Time Early Learning Centers operate in Farmingdale and Middletown New York, and in Hudson and Bergen County in NJ, where temperatures can fluctuate widely through the year. Prime Time trains our staff that it is healthy for young children to be going outside to play and learn most days of the year; hot, warm, or cold; so long as it is not raining. Our teachers are always attentive to what children are wearing when they come to school, and when they go out to play in the playground. Ensuring that kids are wearing a hat and gloves in addition to appropriate footwear and jackets when it is cold outside makes a BIG difference to whether they are comfortable and sufficiently warm in their body core.