How to choose a winter coat for kids
A child’s smaller body loses heat faster than adults. But, on the flip side, a child that’s actively playing in the snow may generate more body heat and be warmer than an adult who’s simply supervising the fun. So, how do parents determine how many layers a child needs to stay warm? What should parents look for when choosing a coat for kids? When shopping for a child’s winter coat, consider the materials, design, warmth, waterproofing, layers, and fit.
Materials: A coat’s materials play a big role in how much heat is retained. The ideal material is warm, yet makes a coat that isn’t too bulky to play in. McGurk prefers synthetic down alternatives that hold heat well, even when wet. Although down holds heat well, it loses the ability to hold heat when it’s wet. What a coat is not made from is also important. McGurk recommends coats with water-repellant coatings that do not contain perfluorochemicals (PFCs). PFCs do not break down in the environment, and lab animals exposed to large doses experienced adverse effects, according to a CDC fact sheet.
Design: The design of the coat is also essential to consider. Winter coats for children tend to fall in one of these categories:
- A puffy coat is light and easy to play in, but it needs to be paired with an outer shell, such as a rain jacket, in order to be waterproof. An outer shell will also protect the coat from tearing, which is common with puffy coats.
- Three-in-one coats use a warm inner layer, often made of fleece or polyester, and a waterproof outer layer. Both layers can be worn at once for winter play, while the inner jacket works well for cool fall days and the outer jacket can be worn without the inner layer as a raincoat or windbreaker.
- Other winter coats are designed as a single garment consisting of both a waterproof outer layer and insulation for warmth. These coats are less versatile than the three-in-ones but may be easier to zip since the multiple zippers of three-in-ones can confuse younger children.
Warmth and waterproofing: Always consider the climate the coat will be worn in. For wet, cold winters, McGurk says a waterproof, windproof coat is a must. The colder the climate is, the more insulation parents will want to look for. For all climates, a coat that’s breathable will help keep active kids from overheating.
Layers: Coats for outdoor play should have enough room for layers underneath. In the coldest temperatures, winter coats work best with layers. For babies and younger children who are unable or unlikely to tell you if they are too warm or hot, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using one more layer than an adult would be comfortable in. Yurich recommends using merino wool as a base layer. This material is warm, but wicks away sweat, she says.
Fit: Parents should also consider how a coat fits. A well-fitting coat will allow a child to move around and play. If the sleeves are creep up on the wrists, the coat is too small, McGurk says. If the sleeves are cover the hands , the coat is too big. Some coats have a clever extend-to-size feature, which allows you to snip some stitching to make the sleeves longer. Both McGurk and Yurich said they tend to go up one size to get two or more seasons out of a coat as well as to allow enough room for layers underneath. Sizing up can also help make the cost of a coat more reasonable.