I am Scandinavian, and here's what I think Irish parents could learn about dressing kids for winter
It is freezing out.
And while you might be tempted to spend most of winter season indoors, here is what I have to say to you (that I have had repeated to me all through my Norwegian childhood and upbringing): There is no such thing as bad weather. You are just wearing the wrong clothes.
In fact, if you were to visit Norway (or Scandinavia in general) in the autumn or winter, I bet you would quickly notice how much time children there spend outdoors – no matter what the weather.
I must admit – this was one thing that always baffled me when I first moved to Ireland – and still does, to be honest – how much more time children here spend indoors – heck, even in creches and school they are being made stay inside at the mere hint of a drop of rain or a bit of sleet or snow. And parks and playgrounds are often empty on colder days here. As well as this, outdoor areas of creches and schools are tiny here compared to what they are at home, where the focus for most parents and childcare facilities is that children should spend as much time as possible playing outdoors and in nature.
In creches, preschools and schools in Norway, kids play outside most of the day. The temperature limit for going indoors is usually set to -10°C or-15°C.
I think part of it is clothing – despite the fact that over the last few years, there definitively seems to be easier here in Ireland too to get a hold of good, quality outdoor clothing for kids.
However, when it comes to what kids wear underneath their wind- and waterproof gear, the Scandinavians have a secret weapon that has not caught on here yet – despite it being all sorts of amazing, durable and sustainable.
And not the scratchy, rough Aran-sweater wool that will spring to your Irish mind.
No, this is the baby-soft, super lovely, gentle-on-skin variety – and belive me when I say this: My children – and all Norwegian children – are literally living in it from birth. And when you realise how amazing wool really is, how it lasts so much better than clothes in cotton – and certainly any synthetic material, how it is better for their skin, better for the environment – you might be convinced to start dressing your own children in wool too.
(Image via Woolland.no)
Norwegian Vibeke Kvam Johansen lives with her family in New York. Realising parents in other countries, like the US, didn't know about the Scandinavian way of dressing children in wool, she set up online shop Ella’s Wool, specialising in children’s clothes -in wool.
Here is what Johansen has to say about what it is that is so great about dressing children in merino and alpaca wool:
When autumn and winter arrives, and temperatures drop outside, it can be tempting to keep your little one inside and safe from the cold. Scandinavians, however, have been keeping their babies warm in harsh winters for hundreds of years. How? By clothing them with wool.
So, what’s so great about merino and alpaca wool?
1. It’s warm and cozy
Like wool in general, our wool keeps you warm. There is no need for your children to wear multiple layers of cotton and synthetics, leaving them no room to move and play. Equipping your little ones with a merino base layer directly on the skin is the most important step to let them benefit fully from the exceptional warming qualities of wool. In addition, wool from merino sheep is known for its incredible softness and its non-itch quality, so it’s ideal even for babies' sensitive skin. On extra cold days, a second, thicker layer can be used to lock in a maximum of heat.
(Image via Ella's Wool)
2. It works like a natural air conditioner for your body
Wool is not only suitable for freezing cold winter days. In fact, it’s a naturally heat regulating fabric, meaning that you can wear your merino garments in any weather conditions and be sure to feel perfectly comfortable. This is one of the reasons why wool is recommended for babies, since they are unable to express whether they’re feeling too cold or too warm.
3. It regulates moisture
On cold and rainy days you normally get wet, and on warm days you might break a sweat. The good thing about wearing wool is that the material is able to absorb moisture while letting you feel dry and comfortable. In Norway, we know that for our kids to stay healthy when spending time outdoors, they should wear wool. Cotton is to be avoided because when moist, it will cling to your body like a cold and heavy sheet.
4. It’s water-resistant
What if the weather forecast calls for light rain? Then you can benefit from another virtue of merino wool, namely that it has a water repellent effect. In other words, you can brush the raindrops off your sweater before the water gets the time to soak into the wool. Merino woo can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture before it feels wet. The fabric is also considerably stain resistant, which makes merino clothes particularly useful for toddlers.
5. It’s bacterial-resitant
Since wool is resistant to bacteria, you can wear it again and again without having to wash it. Another remarkable quality of wool is that it’s odour-repellent. Even after wearing a merino shirt multiple times, it will still feel clean and fresh.
6. It’s flame retardant
When it comes to our kids, safety is our highest priority. As opposed to many synthetic fabrics, merino wool is naturally flame retardant, and doesn’t melt when exposed to fire.
7. It’s got stretch, it’s crease-resistant and it’s durable
The merino fibre has got natural stretch, it doesn’t need ironing and it’s super durable. In other words, merino clothing last a long time without showing many signs of tear and wear. In Norwegian families, merino wool garments are often passed on from sibling to sibling as they grow out of them.
8. It provides a natural sunscreen
Our skin is constantly exposed to UV light when outdoors, even when wearing clothes. However, merino wool provides good sun protection compared to other fabrics, which is especially beneficial to a baby’s sensitive skin.
9. It’s easy to care for
All underwear from Ella’s Wool can be machine washed. And while the thicker knit items are hand wash only, they can be worn many times between each washing. Simply hang them to air! Perspiration will evaporate and bacteria are in any case not attracted to stay on the scaly surface of merino fibres.
10. It’s sustainable
Caring for our kids’ future also implies caring for the planet. When choosing merino wool, you’re being environmentally friendly, because it’s a renewable, recyclable and biodegradable natural fiber.
11. It makes it easier dressing children for outdoor play
In Scandinavia, we dress our kids (and ourselves) with thin layers of wool under our clothes when it's cold – so that no matter the weather, we can be outside.