Dressing kids for the cold

When children go out in deep snow or howling winds this winter, whether to play or go to school, they'll stay warm if properly dressed. Careful selection and layering of clothes is the key, according to parents and expertS.

"I dress my children the way I dress myself, in layers of thin, wool sweaters topped with a lightweight jacket," says Lynn Kapplow of Boston, mother of two girls in Kindergarten and second grade. "Children are active. They resist being overbundled and will shed excess clothes." Jan Mather of Spokane, Wash., mother of five boys, dresses infant Jeremy in flannel or terry sleepers under his clothes. "I've always had hand-me-downs and find that clothes of the next size fit confortably over the sleepers and aren't binding. Flannel-lined slippers, booties, or socks are cozier than baby shoes."

With temperature at -15 degrees F. in Spokane last winter, Mrs. Mather says she zipped Jeremy into a thick bunting with attached hood, sleeves, and mittens for outdoors trips. A stocking cap under the hood kept this neck and ears warm.

Proper boots are a must, she says. One mistake she made last year was to buy slip-on shoe-boots for her toddler who was learning to walk, Mrs. Mather notes. "The boots fell off when I carried him and he could easily pull them off. I much prefer the rubber boots that slip on over his shoes."

Nat Handy, a Norwell, Mass., father with boys aged three and five, says, "They love to wear ankle high 'work boots' with thick, warm socks and huge, oversized hats that engulf them. They don't like long, knitted scarves because they get caught on tree branches or in things like woodpiles."

Nancy Zimlack, 4-H home economist at the Suffolk County Cooperative Extension Service in Massachusetts gives these tips to keep children warm:

* Several layers of clothes insulate a child better than one heavy, thick garment. Warm air trapped between fabric layers holds body heat.

* Put on less clothing for work or play. Add more layers for sleeping in cold rooms.

* Always wear a hat, cap, or hood. When the head is covered, body heat will help keep hands and feet warm.

* Thick-soled shoes and boots are warmer on cold ground than tennis shoes.

* Try mittens on coldest days instead of gloves. Fingers held together in mittens share heat.

* Replace damp clothes with dry ones for warmth.

* Choose clothes that allow for cooling down. Look for clothes that are open at the neckline, wrists, and waistline. Look for jackets with drawstrings or tab fasteners at wrists and waistline, and collared shirts and sweaters with front buttons or zippers and sleeves that roll up.

Mrs. Zimlack says thick fabrics -- knitted or woven of fuzzy yarns -- act as insulators by trapping warm air in spaces between fibers.

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