How to dress babies and young toddlers for winter play

Winter with a newborn was surprisingly not as hard as I thought (Staying active outside with newborn winter babies).  Little Bear’s second winter was harder as she was ready to start exploring on her own.

Outdoor gear can be pricey so I always appreciated hearing what other families used for their kids and how it worked. In that spirit, here is what I bought and how it worked for Little Bear from late fall/early winter (~8 months) to early spring (~15 months).  During this time she went from crawling, to finger walking, to walking independently.

Warm and snug in her Chariot after a walking in a snowstorm

Warm and snug in her Chariot after a walking in a snowstorm

What we bought

Base layers

  • Patagonia baby capilene base layer set in size 12 months
  • Cheap fleece sweater and pants (from the secondhand store)
  • Whatever cotton socks fit her, layered with my own wool socks on top (infant wool socks are probably best but also pricey!)

A walk around the boardwalk

Out for a walk

Outer layers

The toaster suit worked best when LB wasn’t walking (it’s bulky) and the down bunting was the most versatile and my favourite.  I had a MEC fleece bunting but I found that more useful in the fall/spring and never used it over the winter.

Boots

Hats/mitts

  • Matching hat and mitt set from Superstore. The mitts were a double layer of fleece with no thumb and the hat also had a double layer of fleece, ear flaps and straps that velcro under the chin.

I tried a few other brand name mittens but found the cheap ones I bought worked well given she was never out using her hands for long.

Miscellaneous

I had a small (1m x 1.5m) down blanket from Eddie Bauer that I used whenever she’d be carried or pushed to help insulate and block the wind.

How we used it

During the winter, we would dress Little Bear in her base layers, drive to the trailhead and add layers as needed depending on the weather.

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Enjoying a snooze in her MEC toaster suit

Riding in a backpack/Chariot (no walking)

  • Patagonia base layer
  • Fleece pants and sweater (optional depending on temperature)
  • Wool socks over cotton socks
  • MEC toaster suit or Molehill bunting (both worked well)
  • Stonz booties
  • Down blanket in case it was cold
  • Fleece hat but no mitts (I folded the cuffs down on her snowsuit so I didn’t have to worry about lost mitts)

In and out of a backpack/Chariot (walking as well)

  • Patagonia base layer
  • Fleece pants and sweater (optional depending on temperature)
  • Cotton socks
  • Molehill bunting
  • MyMayu boots & liners (plus Stonz booties to slip on top when being carried)
  • Down blanket in case it was cold
  • Fleece hat and mitts

I really liked the Molehill bunting for anytime LB was walking or playing as it didn’t seem to restrict her movement.  I worried initially that it wouldn’t keep her as warm/dry in the snow as the toaster suit but never found that to be the case, perhaps because at that age she wasn’t in the snow long enough for it to be an issue.

Short walks or playing outside (no carrier/stroller)

  • Patagonia base layer
  • Fleece pants and sweater (optional depending on temperature)
  • Cotton socks
  • Molehill bunting or MEC Cocoon bunting or MEC Cocoon jacket depending on temperature
  • MyMayu boots & liners (plus wool socks if it was cold)
  • Fleece hat and mitts

As soon as LB started walking, we rarely used her toaster suit or Stonz booties as she seemed more stable on her feet when she had less “bulk” on.  I worried that she might get cold, but walking must be quite the workout because she always came home warm.  That being said we were never outside for too long, or in very cold temperatures.

Puddle splashing

Puddle splashing

Other options

Here are some other tips for outdoor gear as well as blog posts on the same topic!

Happy winter playing!  Let me know if I missed any great baby winter products.

Recharging the batteries: An adult trip to Shadow Lake Lodge

The cabins at Shadow Lake Lodge. The first two are the eating cabin and then the reading cabin.

The cabins at Shadow Lake Lodge. The first two are the eating cabin and then the reading cabin.

This past July, I got to check off one of my bucket list items! I’ve always wanted to stay at a backcountry lodge and decided this was the summer we would visit Shadow Lake Lodge in Banff.  Usually we like to do backcountry camping trips with friends, though those trips were temporarily put on hold when Little Bear came around.  Since she’s now an independent little toddler, it seems like a good time to take an adult trip.  We had a few potential trips in mind but when I found out I was expecting a Baby Bear in the new year, it sealed the deal that we would celebrate with a fancy lodge experience!

I had done quite a bit of hiking when I was pregnant with Little Bear so I felt fairly confident that I could handle the hike in (14 km with 400 m elevation gain) as I’d be 3.5 months pregnant.  We decided to go for 3 days (2 nights), as it was LB’s first time away from us and I wasn’t sure how many days of hiking I’d be up for.  And it wasn’t exactly cheap!

The hike in on the fire road was very straightforward and rather nice as far as fire roads go.  It was cool for the first half of the hike and then rained/hailed for the second half.  Luckily we had our full goretex gear so no one got wet and it was great motivation to move quickly!  Unluckily for me, pregnancy #2 turned out to be much harder on my body than #1.  Even my small 15 lb pack turned out to be a bit much and by the time we got to the lodge I was limping and ready to sit.  With a good rest that night, I was recovered by the next day so it wasn’t too bad.  It took us about 4 hrs in total to walk up there and as a side note, the “steep” part at the end didn’t seem very steep or sustained in my opinion.

Checking out the clearing views after an afternoon of rain and hail.

Checking out the clearing views after an afternoon of rain and hail.

Same view but in the morning!

Same view but in the morning!

The next day we did a day hike to Gibbon Pass, followed by a post-lunch walk to check out Shadow Lake.  I had originally thought it would be fun to go off trail and explore Copper Mtn but my hips declined that option.  Gibbon Pass was beautiful though, and likely one of the prettiest passes I’ve seen which made the change in plans worthwhile.  We lucked out and had cool weather all day which was lovely to hike in.

The wildflowers on the way up to Gibbon Pass

The wildflowers on the way up to Gibbon Pass were some of the most vibrant I’ve ever seen!

Gibbon Pass

Gibbon Pass

The lodge was amazing! It will definitely be that much harder to go back to backcountry camping now that I know what I’m missing.  We got an individual wood cabin with a wash basin, heater and very comfy bed with a down duvet and wool blankets.  There was even our own porch for afternoon tea!  The communal bathrooms had hot water and showers.  I think the best part though was not having to worry about food. After our hikes we enjoyed afternoon tea, then settled in to the reading cabin to read and chat with everyone.  Dinner was in a separate cabin and was as good as any restaurant I’ve been to. They did a great job preparing high end meals in a off-grid setting.

Hubby and I both agreed that this was the perfect relaxing vacation for hikers and we’d love to do this again sometime after the next bear cub.

Shadow Lake and Mt Ball

Shadow Lake and Mt Ball

In case anyone is in my situation and thinking of heading in while pregnant, here are a few things I’d take note of:

  • The hike in.  My husband didn’t feel like he broke a sweat walking in but I really felt it due to this pregnancy.  I wore a hip stabilizing belt which helped a ton.  I wish I had packed lighter or opted to let hubby carry our stuff in and only carried my water and snack in my bag.
  • Day hikes. There are a lot of day hikes to do from the lodge but many are at least 6 km return with elevation gain.  And this would be after your hike in and before your hike out.  I was ok with the idea of hanging out around the lodge for a day if I didn’t feel good but thankfully felt fine the next day.
  • Food. Let’s just say, between breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, it was a pregnant lady’s dream come true!  Add in the extra calories burned hiking and I was very happy to stuff myself at every meal.  There was always more than enough food and it was delicious.

If anyone has been to any other lodges here or elsewhere, I’d love to hear how they were!

Taking road trips with tiny toddlers

It’s been a quiet past 3 months in terms of posts which is due to it being a very busy past 3 months in our household!  As summer winds down I’m hoping I’ll have more time to write.

Most summers, we try to do a family road trip to the Okanagan.  Getting to the there from Calgary involves a solid 8 hrs of driving which translates into 9 or more hrs on the road depending on pit stops.  We’ve had two very successful trips that we’ve done with friends and their children so I thought I would share what’s worked for us!

In particular, these tips are geared towards the tiny toddler crowd.  Little bear is almost 20 months and is old enough to need entertainment and toys but not quite old enough to play by herself or watch a cartoon.  There’s a big variation in sleep patterns/preferences and development in toddlers so your mileage may vary with some of these tips :)

Destination: Okanagan!

Destination: Okanagan!

 

Planning

After several overnight and weeklong trips with a kiddo, I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that the further ahead I plan and pack, the more relaxing a trip will be.  Many of the items we bring are ones that we use everyday so I start with lists.  Many, many lists.  My favourite way to keep track of lists is using Google Keep.  Every time I use a list, I’ll label it (ie “Toddler Overnight”, “Toddler Weeklong”, “Toddler Camping”, etc), color code it (all toddler lists are one colour, adult lists another colour, etc) and then archive it.  That way on my next trip, I can easily find the list that most closely applies to my trip, make a copy of it, re-name it and reuse it!  This saves time as I create my lists fairly quickly and edit them as needed.  Then I can check things off the list as I pack them throughout the week and see in a glance what I’m missing before I head out the door!

Packing

The day before a road trip, I pack the car up with as much as I can so that come the next morning, I just have to grab a few last minute items and head out the door.  To help with this, I’ve bought doubles of toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, etc … so that I can pack those without waiting for bedtime.  It’s also key to be as fully packed as possible the night before so that …

Getting an early start

The best way to make a long trip with toddlers feels shorter is to ensure they’re sleeping for a large chunk of it!  How do you get an active, wiggly toddler to sleep? Well, one answer is to drive through the night.  For us, we didn’t feel comfortable doing this as the Trans-Canada through the mountains is full of wildlife, is not twinned for a majority of the trip, and involves driving up and down several mountain passes with no shoulders and extremely steep drop-offs.  Instead, we leave around 4am which allows us to leave the city and hit the single lane section right when the sun comes up.  We set our alarms, finish any last minute packing and the last thing we do is wake up Little bear, change her diaper, buckle her in and take off.  It usually takes LB 30-45 minutes to fall back asleep and she’ll stay asleep for 2-3 hrs.  For us and our friends, this little trick has worked every time for all three kiddos (19 months, 26 months, 4 yrs).

Snacks, snacks, snacks …

At home, we have a routine for meals and snacks and try to limit sugar and processed food.  On road trips, all of that goes out the window! We pack a variety of fruit, cheese and yogurt (which we try to offer first – ha!) but also bring copious amounts of favourites (Multi-Grain Cheerios, yogurt melts, fruit pouches, rice rusk cookies, homemade protein bars with generous chocolate topping, juice boxes, etc).  Little Bear is old enough to tell us when she’s hungry so it’s a good time killer to go through the snack pack and find something that suits her.

Toys!

Often, hubby and I will intentionally pack less for ourselves so we have more room for toys and games.  I’m ok with wearing the same thing a few days in a row but I’m less ok with running out of things to do in a car!  We try to bring a bag of favourite toys, a bag of books and a bag of new toys that are bought specifically for the trip.  Some toys that worked well at Little Bear’s age are Mr. Potato Head (my childhood fav!) and a Crayola coloring book and markers (we went for markers that will only colour on Crayola’s books).

Pit stops

Once Little Bear is awake, we found ~2hrs is the sweet spot for how long she can happily be entertained.  After that, we try to plan a break or if she falls asleep, we keep driving until she wakes up.  This makes it hard to predict where where’ll stop so part of my pre-trip prep involves finding a kid-friendly restaurant and or/park every 1-2 hours on our route.

Other

If we’re lucky, grandma will join us on our trip. On other road trips we’ll rotate who is driving and who is on toddler duty to give everyone a break.

Have any other tips for road trips with toddlers? Know of some good places to stop on the Trans-Can? I’d love to hear!

Staying active outside: 9-12 month old winter babies

If you haven’t already read the last four parts of this series on staying active outside, you can read them here Pregnancy, 0-3 month old winter babies, 3-6 month old spring babies, 6-9 month old summer/fall babies.

9-12 months was an exciting time as little bear went from crawling, to walking! It led to some challenges as not only were we heading into the coldest months of the year, but I had an extra wiggly baby on my hands who wasn’t as content to stay in the Chariot or in a carrier.  That being said,  we did manage to make it work. Here’s how …

Scoping out the latest problem on a walk to the park.

Scoping out the latest problem on a walk to the park.

Activities

Hiking

Late shoulder season is challenging in the best of times to get out in, so I was prepared for a bit of experimentation to find our groove.  Interestingly, the most difficult “problem” was the lack of snow due to a low snow year and icier trails! Here’s a few tips that made snowshoeing hiking easier.

  • Stay closer to home.  Keeping car rides ~40 min made for more relaxing days as we could drive out in the am, and be back by lunch.  Little bear also had a lot less patience for being in her carseat awake, so shorter car rides were more relaxing.
  • Try to time driving (or at least once direction of the trip) with a nap. Ie, morning nap goes with the drive out, or …
  • If you’re planning a longer hike or will be out closer to lunch, consider a hike with a kid-friendly restaurant nearby for lunch.  If we added lunch out, then the drive home would coincide with an afternoon nap.
  • Pack the night before.  If only I’d listen to my own advice! Speaking from experience mornings are really stressful when you’re trying to pack under a (nap) deadline.
  • Here are a few items we found we needed for fall/winter hikes in particular:
    • Microspikes – Kahtoola microspikes are our favourite!
    • Poles
    • Lots of snacks for the car and hike that won’t freeze
    • Extra layers in case it’s warmer/colder at the trailhead

Cross-country skiing

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do a lot of cross-country skiing this winter as many of the beginner trails didn’t have enough snow.  We had never cross-country skied more than once or twice before, so it was definitely a little more challenging to learn a new sport with a baby in tow.  If you’re in the same boat, here are a few things we learned along the way:

  • Downhill skiing is NOT the same as cross-country.  There is no “braking” when you cross-country ski.  Your options are 1) fly down the hill or 2) attempt to snowplow without metal edges.  For this reason, we stuck to mostly flat terrain with the Chariot.
  • Stay close to home.  If you have a sport or activity you’re good at, you can forget how much effort goes into packing and dressing appropriately for a new one.  We loved skiing in the greenspace outside our house after a snow or going to the city golf courses.
  • Go for waxless skis.  It’s one less thing to worry about when you’re a newbie at everything else!
Skiing at Shaganappi Golf Course

Skiing at Shaganappi Golf Course

Walks

Walks still remained a staple as they get everyone outside in the fresh air!  Even when the temperatures dipped well below freezing, it wasn’t a problem.  In particular, as little bear transitioned from two naps to one, it helped to be able to walk her in the Chariot for a nap on days when she was having trouble settling.  When it was above freezing, I’d use the backpack since it’s a good workout and easy to transport.  On colder days, I liked the Chariot as it was much warmer.

Indoor walking practice

Realistically, it’s not always possible to get outside in the winter and being bundled up in several layers isn’t the ideal situation for learning to walk.  We signed up for Gymboree for the winter months and loved having somewhere to go to run around and walk on very cold days.

Gear

Backpack

Warm and snug in her Chariot after a walking in a snowstorm

Warm and snug in her Chariot after a walking in a snowstorm

With little bear got heavier, the backpack was our go-to way to carry her around on walks or hikes in mild weather or on terrain that was unsuitable for the Chariot.  We rarely used it below -2C and found that a sweater, fleece pants, full snowsuit, hat, wool socks and warm Stonz booties did the trick

Chariot

On colder days, the Chariot saved the day.  We took little bear out in most weather as the Chariot does an excellent job of blocking the wind and keeping warmth in.  It’s deceptive how warm it can get in there! For almost anything below -5C, we’d dress her in a sweater, snowsuit, hat, wool socks, Stonz booties and a down blanket.  We’d also lower the sunshield or weather shield depending on the wind.  On really cold days we’d add a warm rice bag wrapped in a blanket under her feet (careful it’s not too hot!!).

Gear for you

The two pieces of gear that I highly recommend when carrying older babies in the winter is microspikes (I have Kahtoola) and poles.  Slippery ground is twice as nerve-wracking with a baby on your back so these were both lifesavers and we never left the house without them.

Gear for baby

Our favourite pieces at this age were:

  • Molehill down suit. Very warm and not as bulky as synthetic suits which make it easier if you have a young walker.
  • Fleece hat that covers the ears.  We got ours at Superstore for cheap, seems many department stores have them too.
  • Stonz boots. Easy to layer underneath and they stay on with toggles.  Best for non-walkers or keeping feet warm while not walking.
  • MyMayu boots.  I only found out about these when little bear was 1 and wish I’d found them earlier! They’re great for walking and come in small sizes. Here’s my review.
  • Patagonia capilene base layer or fleece base layers.  They’re wicking and keep little ones warm!

 

Do you have any tips on getting out in the winter with babies?

Review: MyMayu Muddy Munchkin boots

In the last month, a very exciting event occurred in our household.  The little bear learned to walk!

Family walks <3

Training for summer hikes :)

One of the challenges that arose with learning to walk in the winter, was finding winter boots.  I wanted to find a pair that came in her tiny size 3 feet and would be able to handle different winter conditions (so far this year we we’ve had snow, ice, puddles, and lots of bare concrete – sigh, that’s another story) while keeping her warm.

The idea of trying MyMayu’s Muddy Munchkin boots, came after seeing a post on their blog about using them in the winter.  I was excited to give the boots a go and contacted the owner, Suzanne.  MyMayu is a British Colombia based company that Suzanne started after having similar issues finding properly fitted boots for her youngest son, who was also an early walker.  If you have any questions about MyMayu’s boots I highly recommend contacting Suzanne, she’s passionate about getting kids outdoors in good boots and is happy to help!

Review: Muddy Munchkin boots and Helios fleece liners

These are lightweight, water-resistant boots that comes in toddler sizes 1/2 –  7/8.  The boots have a wide rubber sole and cinches at the ankle and calf to keep adjust fit.  To use the fleece inserts for extra warmth, put them on first before slipping little feet into the boots.

Dry feet even after this!

Dry feet even after this!

Where have they been used?

These have been our go-to boots since they arrived! Little bear likes to do a little walking wherever we go so they’ve been used in snow, puddles, on sidewalks and indoors. We’ve used them both with the liners on cold days, and without on warmer ones.

Puddle splashing

Meltwater puddle splashing! And yes, that is ice underneath.

Things we loved:

  • These boots are cute!  There a ton of colours and cartoon characters to choose from. We’ve gotten quite a few compliments on them!
  • They’re warm.  We’ve gone on family walks down to ~-5C and had no problems with cold feet.  We’ve been out in colder weather on errands and even then, no problems! The tall gaiters also help keep legs warm and protected from wind.
  • They’re waterproof (in my experience). Little bear has fully submerged her feet in puddles and had dry feet at the end.  The boots are labelled water-resistant but for short puddle splashing sessions, they work great.
  • They’re collapsible.  They take up very little space so it’s easy to throw them in my purse or the side pockets of a backpack if we’re unsure whether little bear will do any walking.
  • Cinch at the ankle keeps boots on.  The wide opening to the rubber sole makes getting feet in easier, and the cinch is really well positioned to keep the boots from slipping off.
  • They’re lightweight.  Having done a lot of hiking, I can attest to the saying “a pound on the foot is worth 5 on the back”.  They’re significantly lighter than any rubber boot or winter boot for toddlers that I’ve seen.
  • The liners do double duty as warm socks.  Turns out, the liners have been extremely useful on their own! They make a great layer over her socks during hikes where she’s being carried or pushed in the Chariot.
  • Last but not least, little bear is able to walk as well in them as she does barefoot! The boots don’t seem to hinder her walking at all which is exactly what we were hoping for!
Sitting in the new snow with her Muddy Munchkin boots

Sitting in the new snow with her Muddy Munchkin boots

A few things to consider:

  • These are good quality boots that excel at what they were designed for – which makes them well worth the price in my opinion!
  • When using the liners, the boots aren’t the easiest to put on a wiggly toddler.  That being said, practice makes perfect and this hasn’t held us back from regular use!  Making the gaiter a little wider at the top may help.  I’ve passed this on to Suzanne who appreciated the feedback! Edit: now that we’re out of snowsuit season, I can say it’s really easy to get the boots on without liners. Even with the liners it’s quick to slip them on over leggings!

To sum it up …

If you have a young walker and would like to be able to take them out walking in wet or chilly conditions, these are a great “fit” and I highly recommend them :)

Thank you to MyMayu who helped provide these boots for testing and review!

A walk around the boardwalk

A walk around the boardwalk