When I take my son and daughter to the playground on a chilly day, it never ceases to amaze me seeing other kids running around in little more than a T-shirt and some shorts. Do toddlers and young children not feel the cold as much as adults? Also, how do you know if they are too cold or not? In this article, let’s look at this topic in a lot more detail.
Do toddlers feel the cold?
Although it might seem that children don’t feel the cold as much as adults, it isn’t true. This misconception often comes from young children who refuse to put on warm clothes and a coat when they play outside. Essemtially they don’t like being all wrapped up as it restricts their movement (a bit like swaddling a baby). Furthermore, at this age they are very active which means their bodies can warm up quickly when they start running around outside. When a toddler tells you they are warm, it’s probably true. However, their body temperature can drop very quickly so it’s wise to keep the layers on as much as you can.
Can toddlers regulate body temperature?
Unfortunately, young children are not as good at regulating their body temperature compared to adults. This is partly because they have a smaller surface area, less fat deposits and they aren’t as a good at shivering (which is your body’s way of increasing your internal temperature). As a parent, this means you need to be careful as they are at greater risk of hypothermia.
How cold is too cold for a toddler?
You should avoid having your toddler play outside when it gets below -15 °F (-26 °C). This includes wind chill too. Even though they might be wrapped up in many layers and want to run around and play in the snow and ice, the risk of hypothermia or frostbite is too great.
What should a toddler wear when it’s cold outside?
Providing your toddler is wearing the right attire, it’s perfectly fine for them to play outside. Make sure they’re wearing a warm coat, hat, gloves or mittens, a scarf, waterproof pants and some boots.
Tips for playing outside in the cold
Here are some things to consider if you’re going outside with your toddler on a cold day.
- Don’t get wet. If your toddler falls in a puddle, or in the snow, and runs around in damp clothing, it increases the risk of hypothermia even at a relatively cool temperature, around 40 °F (4°C). It’s vital they stay dry when they’re playing outside, so waterproof boots, pants and a coat are a must.
- Use a neck warmer. Long scarves are more hazardous and can easily come undone when your toddler starts running around. Use a neck warmer instead.
- Use mittens rather than gloves. Mittens ensure your toddler’s fingers are in closer proximity to each other so they can transfer heat easier.
What should a toddler wear to bed?
You want to choose some soft and breathable pyjamas. Cotton is the ideal material. Make sure whatever your toddler puts on isn’t too right and restrictive. Some toddlers can also have blankets, but just remember many will kick them off during the night, so take this into consideration when choosing their clothing.
What about in the winter?
When it’s particularly cold, you can add some socks, a onesie or footed pyjamas.
Will a toddler wake up if they’re cold?
Yes, a toddler will usually stir during the night and wake up if they’re cold. As young children can’t regulate their body temperature that well, it means they can get cold and hot very easily. The prime time for a night time waking due to the cold is between 3-4am when your child’s room will be the coldest. If this is a regular occurrence, it might be caused by them kicking off their blanket during the night, or they’re not wearing enough layers in the first place.
Graham is a father of two who founded Dadometer to share his parenting journey with other moms and dads.