Help for Jacket Drama: Convincing Kids to Bundle Up

Category: Winter Fun

Tips for toddlers who prefer to dress like they’re on their way to a tropical vacation even when it’s 0 degrees outside.

Need help finding the best winter gear for kids? Check out our article on Dressing Kids for Outdoor School & Play.

Want to connect with a community that will keep you warm all winter? Join PSP today.

One PSP member asked the 2019 Kids group…


“Hi all, wondering if others are in a loosing battle with their little ones in attempting to get a jacket or snowsuit on this winter? Our 2.5 year old has negotiated us down to a light sweater (that’s she’s quickly outgrowing) as her only means of warmth in all weather. I’d love any tips/suggestions if others have dealt with a similar situation? Or do we just resign ourselves to staying inside until the Spring??”


Members advise…


Try the “jacket trick.” “Our 2.5 year old learned the ‘jacket trick’ at preschool and gets excited about showing it off whenever we go out - maybe try that?!”


“Visiting my parents over the holidays, my mother observed this exact same problem with my 2.5 year old, and remembered a technique that the Montossori school I attended as a kid used to do: put the open jacket on the floor, front facing up and neck end almost touching your toddlers feet. Guide them to put their arms through the sleeves from that position. Then they stand up and flip the jacket over their heads. … it seems to help some kids to have a bit more independence.”


Teach natural consequences. “My daughter had a REALLY hard time with this at the beginning of fall when it first started getting cooler out. It'd be a battle every morning to get her to wear a sweater, and she was obsessed with wearing this one pair of sandals. I read what Big Little Feelings recommended, and their guidance was to teach them natural consequences- don't fight with them inside, but bring the jacket/coat with you to put on once you go outside and they realize they are cold. Some days she still wouldn't put on the jacket outside, but eventually it started working and now she hates being cold and prefers to bundle up before we head out. Not sure if the technique worked or if it was just a passing phase…”


“When our toddler doesn’t want to put a coat (or hat, gloves, etc) on we say ok, let him go out without those things (I put them in the stroller/diaper bag) and generally within a minute of being outside he tells me he’s cold and lets me put his clothes on. We then remind him that his coat keeps him warm outside and that’s why we wear it. In a perfect world he’d let me do this before we leave the house, but we have found that this is an easy way to avoid a tantrum. If we go out and he doesn’t tell me he’s cold then I just let him be 🤷‍♀️ Eventually he’ll ask me to put it on, or he’ll ask to go back inside.”


“We open the front door. let her feel the temperature and weather conditions on her own and that pretty much ends it. This morning she even refused a shirt. She felt that air on her bare belly and we were back on track.”


Talk, sing, and make it fun. “So. Much. Drama. 

Like wrangling a wild pony into shoes while holding a feral cat. 

We just talk about it a lot. It is still dramatic, but we basically team it with something the little will definitely want to go out for. Not exactly bribing, but enticing. We sing songs sometimes too. Songs make everything more bearable for him somehow. Not real ones. We just sing what we’re doing.”


Turn it into a game. “We’ve experienced the same thing out of nowhere. 

It eventually resolved with a game, we say, ‘can you find your fingers?’ And he pushes his arms through each sleeve we hold out for him.”


Turn it into a joke. “Dr. Becky Kennedy (@goodinside on IG) says to use humor. We were going through an extremely frustrating week of not wanting to get dressed at all, and I figured I could either let her just wear PJs all day (which we have done), or I could try humor. When I tried to get her underwear on her, I very seriously put them on her head and said, OK, now for the pants, and asked her to put her arms out - she thoughts this was insanely funny, and it broke the power struggle, connected us, and she showed me how to do it the proper way. I have used that a couple of times. It does not always work, but it works.”


Offer choices. “We also let him choose something - like, which socks or gloves or hat. or better yet, which toy.”


Let them pick a coat that they’ll be excited to put on. “Slightly different perspective, as our 2.5 yo is still non-verbal and likely autistic, so all a bit different. A big thing that has helped was getting a coat in his preferred color (red) and now he's excited to put it on. When we first got it a couple of months ago, he absolutely refused it. Since it was a bit warmer then, we sent it to school in the stroller and let him play with it for a while. He was walking around preschool with the hood on his head and the coat hanging like a cape, but it seemed to work! Once he got used to the weight and hood of the coat, he now seems pretty ok with it.”


“Our kid might be easily impressionable, but she's obsessed with animals, and if we put an animal patch, pin or sticker on her coat, she gets excited to wear it. We found a winter hat with a cat on it and suddenly, she'll wear a hat outside after months of fighting. We even have a pair of boring off-white PJs that suddenly became her favorite pair when we started calling them ‘snow bunny pajamas.’ Worth a shot!”


Ultimately, consider picking their battles and just letting them figure it out. “I choose my battles very carefully and it seems to me like most kids aren’t going to be harmed by being out in the cold for a little while. If you can start to guide them towards making the decision to put it on themselves, however you do that, you can hopefully eventually get past the fight, though that takes time. And thankfully they’ll grow out of it eventually. Or they’ll turn into one of those people who wear shorts in January. Either way it seems they will survive.”


Finally, just an anecdote to make you smile… “I was raised in California and went to college in Boston. As it got colder during my first year, I noticed that a guy I casually knew was still walking around in shorts and a t-shirt while most everyone else was bundling up. On one particularly frigid and windy day in the dead of winter, I saw him in front of the main building, still wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Having previously established that we were both from California, I felt comfortable asking if he was doing alright. He looked at me in all my winter layers, and through chattering teeth replied, “We gotta get used to it, you know?” 😂”


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