Suiting Up for Snow: Preschool Teachers' Top Tips

By Emily Cowan January 17, 2019

Getting kids out the door in winter is a lot of work! Finding hats and mittens on top of everything else we need to pack, arrange, and organize on our way out the door... add on snow pants and snow gloves for outdoor play and we're talking ten to fifteen minutes from stocking feet to stepping outside. And that's if I help, which I'm really trying not to do so they can learn to do it themselves.

Yeah, it's way faster to just zip 'em up myself, but what about when they have to suit up just for recess at school? I asked some preschool teachers how they get not just one or two, but TEN or TWELVE squirrely kids to put on their own snow gear in a timely fashion, without the tears.

"First of all, it's important to put your toe-tapping in perspective," says teacher Giovanna Foster. "This process takes a lot of patience — not just for parents but for the child as well."

Here are some top teacher tips for the two P’s: staying Patient and Positive:

  • Pad your departure time. Bumping up your coats-on time by even five minutes will help you resist the urge to get the job done yourself. (In other words, skip this step and you can kiss the rest of this list goodbye.)
  • Let them know you get it. Dressing for cold weather is a pain whether you're 4 or 40. When your child says the task is hard, agree with her. Then tell her that you know she can do it.
  • Encourage your child to ask for help. When a task becomes frustrating, children often default to tears. Head off the waterworks by giving your child words to use when they run into trouble. ("This zipper is hard. Can you help me please?") Then you can help him get back on track. Praise your child whenever he asks for help instead of using their tears or giving up.
  • Use visual aids. You've been dressing yourself for so long it's easy to forget what a multi-step process it is. If you can, use pictures to help your child sequence which article of clothing comes next. T
  • Enlist the help of older siblings. Inviting older kids to help with starting zippers and matching boots to feet takes the pressure off by creating a "we're-all-in-this-together" vibe.
  • Butt out! It's hard to watch your child struggle, but resist the temptation to finish the job when the going gets tough. Instead, verbally coach her to learn the new skills, model how to do it, and then have your child complete the task independently.
  • Sing their praises. When your child is dressed for outside, praise him for completing a difficult task. High fives, fist bumps, and hugs!

"Words are more powerful than tears," says Foster. Stay positive and patient, and your child will likely do the same. And, as with pretty much everything else, practice always helps, so let your child gear up whenever you're not in a rush to go somewhere.

Thank you to the preschool teachers — Linda Dodge, Tanasi Fahey, Giovanna Foster, and Sue Simon — for these tips!