This is my daughter Holly. She is sensible. She will wear her winter hat and her winter gloves, and even requested her summer shades to deflect the snow glare.
Her younger brother, Alfred, is not so compliant. Mummy spent weeks knitting him a special winter hat. It is on the floor precisely 3.5 seconds after we cover his head. Gloves are a grievous imposition; he’ll liberate his hands like a preschool Houdini. We haven’t tried a scarf, but I suspect it would find itself cast into a puddle at the first opportunity.
Walk the winter streets for long enough and you’re sure to come across discarded woollens, either cast aside by the reluctant infant, or else accidentally dropped from a pocket or buggy bag. The phenomenon of the lost mitten has even been celebrated in art. No lesser figure than Tracey Emin contributed this sculptural mitt (pictured above), to the railings outside London’s Foundling Museum.
What is it about kids and outer layers? They don’t seem to realise we’re covering their extremities for their own benefit. You’d think the novelty of a new and unfamiliar item of clothing would make it a keeper. But no. It seems the restrictive feel of gloves and hats is unpleasant for many infants. The thrown-down woollenwear is both a physical and metaphorical gauntlet to our patience. But what can we do about it? Fortunately, we have a few tips up our insulated sleeves…
Won’t Wear A Hat
Try a coat with a thick hood instead. Some kids prefer this. As it happens, we’ve got a guide to that.
Likewise, a headband that covers the ears might be just the thing for your child. Or not.
You could try a novelty hat, featuring their favourite character. Play with the hat before you go out, so your child values it more. They’ll be less likely to flick it under a hedgerow if it sports their favourite unicorn/robot/dinosaur/anthropomorphic pig.
Balaclavas might be worth a go. They’re harder to pull off than hats, and will keep your child even warmer. On the down-side, your little one may attract jokes about bank robbery.
If school-age kids refuse the hat, then just go out uncovered (but take the hat with you). They’ll soon ask for it if their ears are getting cold. It’s harder to do this with younger children as they might not be able to communicate that they’re getting a bit chilly.
If you’re reading this in December, try a Santa hat. The novelty value might be enough to persuade them to wear it. If you’re reading this in January or February, you could try the Santa hat anyway, but be prepared for a few funny looks.
Won’t Wear Gloves
Mittens are a better bet for younger children. For one thing, they’re a darn sight easier to get on in the first place.
Get a coat or jumper with tight sleeves and run the gloves under the sleeves. It won’t discourage the determined escapologist, but may delay the inevitable.
Alternatively, find gloves with elasticated or velcro wrists, so you can tighten things up (without cutting off the circulation!).
Consider attaching the gloves or mittens to coat sleeves, with a length of yarn and button. If your child takes them off, they’ll dangle by the tether and won’t be lost to the floor.
If you can find them, try elbow-length gloves. Manual unattire is near impossible once you’ve put a coat over these badboys.
If they’re still in a buggy, then pull over the rain hood to keep the cold wind out.
Thumbsucker? Cut the thumb off one of the gloves so they can continue their habit uninterrupted.
Buy a winter coat that’s a couple of sizes too big. That way, their hands will be concealed beneath long sleeves. As a bonus, they won’t grow out of it for two or three years. Everyone’s a winter winner.
If you’re going out in snow, remember to take a second pair of gloves. Woollen mitts in particular can very quickly get wet and cold, and they’ll be glad of the replacement.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.