Thumb in the thumb place, fingers all together
That’s what we say when it is mitten weather
Whether they are wool or made of finest leather,
Thumb in the thumb place, fingers all together….
For children to grow, thrive, and live in harmony with others they need plenty of restorative sleep and whole food nutrition, both of which give them strength and energy to meet the world. Children also need the protection of warm layers during cold and wet months, which can be a significant portion of our year in the Berkshires.
As an “all-weather school,” Steiner students spend a good amount of time outside; being well-dressed here has much to do with conserving warmth during their outdoor adventures so that their bodies can focus on building, growing, and maintaining their immune systems, rather than on keeping warm.
For base layers, natural fabrics are the best options for protection and warmth. Wool and silk breathe and absorb moisture, to keep it away from the skin so little ones stay warmer. Merino wool and silk (or a combination), both on top and bottom, is the most effective combination. (Cotton absorbs moisture but does not wick it away from the skin, so it becomes clammy. Synthetics tend not to breathe or absorb moisture, and can create painful static. However, for children who are very sensitive to fabric next to their skin, parents have been successful with wicking polyester undergarments such as Uniqlo’s Heattech line).
Next comes a thick wool sweater (lambswool or merino wool preferred – envision the sheep on our local farm, with only their fleece to keep them warm) or polyester fleece, topped by a vest if the sweater layer is thin. Thick pants such as flannel-lined cotton, corduroy or wool, covered by waterproof insulated snow pants, snow suit (no snow surprises between top and bottom!) and/or parka. Alternately, there is fleece-lined rain gear which can be worn with a packable down layer underneath on the coldest days.
For fingers and toes, wool socks (we like cozy merino wool) are the only ones that keep feet both warm and dry. Early childhood teachers recommend Bogs or Muck brand boots for the same reason. (Snow boots keep feet warm but not always dry in icy mud puddles, and remember that, unlike adults, it is your child’s job to walk through every icy puddle.) Insulated, waterproof mittens are warmer than gloves for snowy and icy weather, and wool mittens for dry cold days.
A soft wool hat that covers the ears or a wool or silk balaclava under your child’s jacket hood protects them from wind, cold and moisture. Their neck also needs to be covered by a sweater, balaclava or scarf. (One trick we learned for very cold days is to wear a silk scarf next to the skin with a warm wool scarf on top.) Balaclavas are the head and neck protection of choice, as they allow for the most coverage and warmth while children play and explore.
And remember, singing through transitions (such as the mitten song above) is a great help to getting all these warm clothes on and off! Middle school math and science teacher Lynn Arches notes that the children’s “work” of learning to dress appropriately for Berkshire weather is the beginning of logic and processing, since children learn by doing that pants have to go on before boots, and mittens last, once the buttons and zippers are done up.
As an extension of our offering at the Holiday Handcraft Fair, the Steiner School is excited to offer a final opportunity this year to order warm woollies for children and adults from Danish Woolen Delights, a European company that produces the highest quality “soft & soothing organic clothing and accessories that promote the health & well-being of those who wear them, those who produce them, and, ultimately, the well-being of our Mother Earth!”