A Parent’s Wisconsin Winter Survival Guide

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Why do I live where the air hurts my face?

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that the words “why do I live where the air hurts my face?” pop out of my mouth from time to time, but I’ve learned a few winter survival tips over the years. Especially when you have young children who have a ton of GEAR associated with the winter season, one does not just venture into a Wisconsin winter unprepared. Now is the time, friends. Winter is coming…..

As I enter my eighth Wisconsin winter as a mom, I’m ready to share some of my best tips for not just surviving the Wisconsin winter but THRIVING. 

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A Wisconsin Winter Survival Guide for Parents

Keep those heads, hands, and toes warm.

Seriously. Focus here. If the heads, hands, and toes are warm, everyone will be so much happier.

A quality pair of boots is worth splurging on. I will cheap out on just about anything, but boots are where I throw down. They are necessary for winter survival. A good pair will last years (I’ve been wearing the same pair of Sorels since Christmas 1999. Seriously. My exact ones have been discontinued, but these look fairly similar.) and can be passed down between multiple siblings. For the littles, I’m a big fan of Bogs Boots — even my two-year-old can put them on independently!

Mom tip: if you have children who like different things, get the plain ones so you can hand them down without much of an argument. 

Even if you have no intention of stepping outside your door, putting on a warm pair of socks (I scored some great fuzzy ones from the Target dollar spot this year, but I also love these) can make you feel SO much warmer. Wearing socks around the house has stopped me from engaging in the thermostat wars with my husband!

On the coldest days, Hot Hands (or their toe-specific version) can give you a little extra warmth. We make sure to keep extras on hand to gift to the teacher who supervises outdoor recess, our postal carrier, delivery people, and the trash/recycling pick up guys. They are always appreciated.

Layer, layer, layer.

Layers help to trap heat. I could get into the science involved in thermodynamics, or you could just trust me here. Layers are your best friend for winter survival. Start with a thin, close-fitting layer and work your way out. For my smallest ones, I usually start with fleece footie pajamas.

To be the favorite parent among all the teachers, work with your child until they can put on and take off their winter gear independently. If they can’t put on gloves by themselves, please send them in mittens, and use mitten clips so they can find them easily!

The “flip trick” is genius and can be done by even a tiny kid. Also, make sure your kids get in the habit of going potty BEFORE they layer up and know to tell you they need to go before it is an emergency once they’re all bundled up.

Even then, having a backup pair of snow pants is ALWAYS a good idea, even for kids who are not accident-prone. You never know when someone will jump in a slush puddle or have so much fun they forget to pay attention to signals. I usually stock up at Goodwill or on Kidcycle.

The "Flip Trick" for Putting on a Winter Coat

Keep Dry.

Few things will make you feel chilled like getting wet. Make sure your top layer is waterproof. If your shoes or boots are leather, you can use this stuff to keep your toes dry!

…and while we’re on the subject, keep your floors dry, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped in a pile of slush someone tracked in. We keep a pile of small towels in a bin by the door and keep a laundry basket close by. We also use Waterhog mats to help trap excess rain, snow, and ice that comes in on paws and boots.

Stay Safe in the Car!

The best thing I have gotten for a Wisconsin winter is the remote start for my minivan. It helps us get the car nice and toasty before we hop in. That said, PLEASE, whatever you do, do not leave a car running with the keys inside. There have been numerous reports of car thieves taking advantage of even short trips back inside to make off with a vehicle.

If you do not have a remote start, blankets in the car are your friend. Bulky jackets are not car-seat safe, as they can compress in a crash and result in a child being thrown from their car seat. Thin layers on your child and a blanket or car seat poncho *over* the straps once you have buckled them in is the safest way to go.

Also, make sure that any car seat cover you purchase does not come between the car seat straps and your child. I love our JJ Cole Bundleme, but it stays permanently in the stroller and is never used in a car seat.

Protect delicate skin!

Cracked skin HURTS, and red noses are no fun. I use hand cream at night when I have to, but prevention is your best bet. Make sure you’ve covered as much as possible. Balaclavas are amazing– they can cover noses, ears, and necks in one step.  If you have any remaining exposed skin or have a little who doesn’t like keeping layers on, put on a thin layer of Aquaphor or Vaseline.

My best tip for Winter Survival: Get the kids used to being outside.

My go-to rule is if they would have outdoor recess at school, they can and should be playing in our backyard for a little bit. Getting them out the door is usually quite the ordeal, but once they are out there, getting them back in is an even bigger struggle. The more they are outside, the less they fight going out. I usually welcome them back in the house with some hot chocolate and if we’re out in the world at a sled hill or skating rink, I bring along a hot beverage (in a thermos!) to warm us up from the inside out.

Here’s to enjoying another Wisconsin Winter where we choose to thrive rather than just survive! I hope these items help make the coming months that much warmer and easier for you and your family. If you have any items that come in clutch for you each winter, I would love to hear about them!

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