If you have a young baby or a toddler, taking him or her outside in the heat of summer or the cold of winter can be a bit daunting at first. (What if those chubby cheeks get sunburned? What if he’s too hot? Too cold? Aaack!) It’s enough to drive any new parent around the bend.
With proper summer gear and winter layering, however, you can put your fears to rest—which is a good thing, because there is nothing quite like worrying about the welfare of your child to rob your outdoor activities of all enjoyment.
We all love the sun, especially after a long, rainy winter. However, our love of its warm rays shouldn’t obscure the fact that the sun carries its own hazards. In addition to sunscreen, a good sunhat is important for any child (or adult) who spends time outside, at any time of year but especially in the summer. UPF fabrics provide an excellent layer of light protection (with the added bonus of exposing less skin to mosquitoes or ticks if you happen to be hiking.) Children who have intense sunburns at a young age are more likely to develop skin cancer as adults, so covering up is as critical as good hydration on a sunny day. Look for quick-dry fabrics for outdoor activities; a child whose clothes are soaked with water or perspiration can get miserable pretty quickly when it starts to get windy or cold.
The right gear is also important for water play. A rashguard tee (or one-piece rashguard swimsuit for a younger baby) can help your child stay warm while also providing extra sun coverage. Even on a hot day or in a heated pool, children can easily get cold in the water. Applying sunscreen is also easier—your child is less likely to end up with a sunburn near the edge of her bathing suit, where the fabric slipped a little after sunscreen application. After swimming, a good terrycloth coverup can help keep her warm and catch extra water that the towel missed; you can get styles for both boys and girls that slip on easily and are enough like street clothes that you can go right to the ice cream shop.
For exploring tide pools or wading, your child will need waterproof shoes with good toe protection. Look for water sandals with toe guards (such as Keens) or mesh-sided sneakers (Merrell has a few appropriate styles). The great advantage of these multi-purpose shoes is that kids can go hiking and then go right into the water; they’re comfortable enough for the playground too, and can be used all summer long.
A windy day is tricky because the temperature can feel radically different depending on how much wind there is. A fleece alone won’t do; the wind can cut right through it. You can find a thicker, wind-resistant fleece, or you can layer it with a sturdy raincoat or windbreaker.
A good set of raingear is a must for any Vancouver-area kid. Rain boots should have sturdy, yet moderately flexible soles for your puddle stompers. A good raincoat is both waterproof and breathable (think Gore-Tex). A raincoat hood should provide full coverage, ideally with a brim over the forehead to keep water out of your child’s eyes and an adjustable drawstring. Look for a coat with built-in reflective elements to make it easier for drivers to see and avoid your child. Rain pants are optional, but delightful—as long as you have them, there’s really no reason to come inside.
Winter seems like a ways away, but an “all condition” article wouldn’t be complete without a little discussion about it. With good base layers and the right outerwear, you and your young one can enjoy all kinds of winter activities in style and comfort.
If you plan on snowshoeing or cross-country skiing with your youngster in tow, you’ll need to dress her more warmly than yourself. She will be sitting in a ski trailer or toboggan while you do all the work, so make sure she’s well insulated. Look for fabrics that are warm when wet (like fleece or wool) and avoid cotton. Patagonia makes fantastic capilene long underwear for babies; this is a soft, breathable, warm layer that’s the perfect base. Make sure that your base layer includes a onesie for best coverage. Next, you’ll need an insulating layer, such as a microfleece suit or warm sweater and pants, followed by a water resistant outer layer. Make sure that either your insulating layer or your outer layer include warm foldover mittens (for younger babies, foldover booties as well). Older babies should have separate warm booties (for those that aren’t walking) or warm socks with boots (for toddlers.) A hat is a must; look for one with good ear coverage and a chin strap.
One of the joys of western B.C. is that the weather can shift at any time. Always keep a rain shell and sun hat nearby in case of unexpected changes in weather condition. The right layers can help you stay outside longer…and have more fun!
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