It's a rainy afternoon in Western Washington, 40 degrees with snow on the ground. I'm subbing for my son’s teacher at nature school and it takes almost 30 minutes to get both of us dressed. We dig through the laundry for a fleece layer and wool socks, find wool layers mixed in with PJs, unwrap newly purchased liner socks, and find a neckwarmer in a bag from a trip to a friend’s house. T wiggles around on “the big bed” while I talk him through my layering routine:
Underwear first, then liner socks. Now my fleece base layer goes over those socks, and I’ll put my wool socks OVER the fleece pants. Then I have to tuck my shirt in and put a long sleeve shirt on top.
These are just my base and insulating layers—now it is T’s turn. I get a clean diaper on him, a wool shirt, the new liner socks (which go up to his thighs), and a wool pants layer, but when I try to put his wool socks on, he decides it’s time to fight. He yells at me and cries a bit: “I don’t want TWO socks!” I manage to get his fleece insulating layer on before he’s too wiggly to be productive, then we move to the living room.
You’ll feel better once we get your fleece layers on. You need two pairs of socks for your boots to fit correctly! Just let me finish your layers so we can put the boots on.
I give up and let him writhe around for a bit while I put more layers on: snow pants, rain pants, rain boots that I tuck under the two layers of pants. I open the door and say:
I left your boots in the car, I’ll be right back. DON’T GO OUTSIDE. I don’t want your socks to get wet.
Well, I leave the door open and OF COURSE he wants to go outside—he wants to make a snowball! When I get back to the porch he’s inching toward the edge.
Wait, I have to put your boots on first! I don’t want your socks to get wet!
He’s finally ready for the rest of his layers. We quickly pull on some rain pants and get the boots on last. It’s such a pain to pull the rain pants over his boots! But I know it’s raining today and it’ll keep him dry. Then we add his neckwarmer, a puffy jacket, a fleece hat, and finally a lightweight rain jacket, and he’s ready to go make snowballs.
T goes outside while I finish my layers: a puffy jacket, a neckwarmer and a rain jacket. I tuck my winter gloves and T’s mittens in the backpack along with our snacks and water bottles. I completely forget his extra mittens and hat! Good thing I already have extras of those in his backup gear at school.
When we get home after 3.5 hours outside, I peel off my damp outer layers quickly while he fusses for help (he’s eager for a snack). I take his muddy rain jacket off, his damp mittens, his neckwarmer and dry puffy jacket, then I sit him on my lap while I pull the muddy boots and rain pants off in one piece. He wiggles thinking he’s done, but I insist we take more layers off—the house is so warm after being outside! I remove his fleece top, then all of his lower layers as if they’re all one piece (he needs a fresh diaper right now).
I comment to my husband about what other kids were wearing at school and tell him to feel T’s legs. They’re warm to the touch—only his hands are cold, and the tips of his toes. I’m not surprised, but I’m still in awe that the wool and fleece and rain gear did so well—I used to think a bulky snow bib was necessary to stay warm. Now I know preserving the body's core warmth with wicking base layers and warm insulating layers is the key to layering for success!
- Teacher Kendall
Dr. Kendall Becherer
Kendall is an author, photographer, teacher, and learning scientist who loves helping parents & teachers find new ways of connecting with their children.