Ages and stages: how many layers?

How many layers of clothing does your child need to wear in cold weather? Tiffany Brown explains.

Cold bodies have to work harder to keep their important organs warm, using up the extra energy kids could otherwise be using for learning, growing, and moving. A general guide for kids is one extra layer than you’re wearing to be comfortable. Dress your child in layers from the lightest- weight fabric out to heavier clothing. Where you live will influence how many layers are needed in the winter.


Checking in with your baby as you move through different temperature environments during the day is important. You may, for example, need to adjust their layers between heading out of the warm house, getting into the car, walking in the park, or a trip to the supermarket. My eldest daughter was a mid-summer baby, and it took me weeks to figure out why she would wake from her cosy stroller nap every time we entered the supermarket. Finally I realised I needed to adjust her clothing between the heat wave temperature outside and the cool chill of the supermarket inside! If your baby’s neck, back, or tummy feels moist and their toes are warm to touch, they may be too hot, and you should strip off a layer. If these areas feel cool, they may need an extra layer. Because babies have little or no hair and their heads are proportionally larger, the head is a key place for them to lose heat. Consider a firm-fitting merino beanie essential to keep baby warm. Mittens and socks and booties or shoes are easier to remove than main items of clothing and can be used for extra warmth. Remember, bulky jackets can interfere with car seat safety. Be sure your baby is dressed warmly underneath, and remove the bulk before you set off.


All-in-one jumpsuits and dungarees are handy choices for active toddlers, avoiding the separate clothing pieces that can ride up and cause draughty gaps when playing outdoors. Toddlers are notorious for being too preoccupied to have an awareness of their own temperature. Singlet layers under their tops, or leggings or tights under pants or skirts can help keep them warm when jackets and sweaters are abandoned for the sake of play.

School kids

Watch the temperature in your area for an indicator of the clothing your kids will need each day. Cold and clear days may require more warm layers, wool socks, additional scarves, gloves, or hats, while wet weather means you need to keep children dry with waterproof raincoats, hats, and boots. Wet clothing can compromise the regulation of body temperature and your child’s immunity to colds and illnesses, so dryness and moisture-wicking properties are important.

School uniforms

Uniform rules vary, and in some cases, you may need to conceal extra layers of clothing underneath the uniform itself. Singlets, T-shirts, or long-sleeved tops can be worn underneath top layers, while leggings or tights may add extra warmth to cold legs. Hats, gloves, mittens, socks, hooded tops, or scarves may also help kids feel cosy.

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