We had a lovely winter hike today with temperatures in the high 20s. 

We found beautiful ice formations around the lake. Never underestimate the magical feeling of hearing ice on a frozen lake! A spontaneous activity of tossing chunks of ice and rocks onto the frozen lake created a powerful, haunting, echoing sound that I had forgotten about. 
We noted the wild rose hips as food for birds and one of the kids found a field mice home in the grass...
The cold does not stop us from going outside to play; it simply never has. When parents embrace ALL seasons and weather, the children will do the same. It is so important for children to spend time outside each day, in nature, the year round.

This sounds like such a simple concept that shouldn't need to be said, but it does need to be said, because there is a phenomenon that I have been observing over the last decade or more of modern children lacking ruddy cheeks, muscle mass, and interest in physical activity. Of course the state of children has been in decline for decades, but we are nearly at rock bottom. I can't count how many children I have met that are incapable of playing outside on a cold day, too scared to climb trees or balance on logs, participate in challenging physical activities, etc. This is heartbreaking and it needs to stop. It begins with the parents. After all, we do intend to raise the most healthy, balanced, resilient, anti-fragile kids as possible, right? 

I see a lot of parents picking up on a popular new incentive called, 1000 Hours Outside. I think this is great. Our children have always spent several hours outside each day, so I thought it might be helpful to write about some of the tips I have gathered over the years in regards to proper attire. Wearing the right clothing and accessories can make or break the adventure outside with the wee bairns.
Dress in layers. Each layer of clothing has air in between it, which creates insulation. Layers can be removed as the kids play and get hot, and then added back to warm up after active play. Always wear natural fiber for the first layer. Cotton, wool, linen & silk are breathable, which is essential for regulating body temps. Wearing polyester as a base layer is not good because once it gets damp from sweat, it will get cold, trap in the cold, and stay wet, causing the body to get chilled. 
Wool is essential, whether its a base layer or an outer layer. Even when wet, it will still keep you warm. Wool is also naturally water repellent and can be lanolized (a simple process of adding natural lanolin to wool) to make it even more so. There are many reasons our wise ancestors wore wool, spun into yarn from flocks of sheep lovingly tended for generations. There are many different types of wool (or animal hair, such as cashmere), but Merino has become increasingly popular among people with sensitivities. 
For the kids, I use a final layer of a waterproof coat that's loose enough to allow air flow inside, but not so bulky as to inhibit agility. If you catch a good sale, or find them gently used, the Land's End "Squall" coats are my favorite. A good outer layer coat will last through multiple kids which also justifies the price vs. a cheap one that will rip or have its zipper broken in a month or two. 
I layer pants in several ways, depending on the weather. If it's a gullywasher, waterproof rain pants are essential. Again, a good investment that can last through multiple siblings. The rain pants go over the child's regular pants. If it is just plain cold out, we use wool pants for the younger kids. For sledding and snow activities, a good pair of nylon coverall bibs are the best! For dry, yet mildly cold days, we just use good old fashioned long johns under jeans or carpenter pants. Again, the power in layering must be appreciated. 
Wool socks are ideal. Darn Tough or Smartwool are decent brands. Yes, they're pricey, but you truly only need one pair per child. Wool is somewhat "self cleaning" and they do not need to be washed after every use. I would rather have one nice pair of wool socks to keep track of, than 25 pairs of little white cotton socks that are constantly getting lost or eaten by the house sock monster. 
Next, a good hat. I cringe to see kids running around in frigid weather without hats on. When your head gets cold, the rest of your body is soon to follow, and worst of all is a cold, sweaty head with no hat. I have seen many a playdate get cut short by parents when their kids were standing on the brink of something super fun, only to be conquered by a cold head that could have been entirely prevented by a good, simple hat. Hats should be wool. Polyester will provide initial warmth, it is true, but after awhile its pitfalls will become painfully apparent. One of the worst feelings in the world, indeed likened to medieval torture some might say, is the feeling of wet polyester clothing stuck to your body. 
Lastly, waterproof boots for keeping feet dry, and mittens or gloves are a given! I have yet to find high quality rain boots/galoshes that are worth the money. Ten years ago, I thought the Muck boots were a good brand, but they have declined in quality just like so many other things available to us today. Therefore, this is one area of kids apparel where I do not invest much money. Fortunately, simple rubber galoshes from Walmart or the hardware store are usually less than $20 a pair and will suffice, as long as they are 100% waterproof. A step up from that, I would recommend Land's End if you can catch a sale. 

As for hand coverings, for babies I use mittens that the whole hand fit in. For kids, mittens are great for walks and hikes. They keep the hands super warm because all the fingers are inside together. With the hands being warm enough to occasionally take the mittens off to pack a snowball or climb a tree, and then promptly placed back on when finished. Gloves are tricky, because wool gloves are very expensive and the ease of losing them can hurt the pocketbook. Garden gloves are one option, however, they are polyester so don't get them wet or sweaty!

We try to avoid synthetic fibers whenever possible. However, if we do wear them, we try to at least have a natural fiber on the skin as a base layer. 

Some items can be handmade with ease using old wool sweaters or blankets found at yard sales, eBay, thrift stores, etc. Hats, mittens, vests, and tunics can be made for children using these old wool treasures. 

While this post is about outdoor winter apparel for kids, it is worth mentioning that the proper snacks and beverages are key for a successful winter hike with bairns. Jerky meat and nuts are ideal because they pack a protein punch. Avoid sugary drinks and provide water or tea instead. I like to take hot water on cold hikes allowing it to cool to Luke warm for hydrating while out in frigid weather. Chocolate can be saved for emergency whine sessions on heavier hikes with a lot of "up hill" walking.