I live up in Maine (the “Far North,” as they say on the radio), and the people here, grown-ups and kids alike, are giddy about the prospect of snow.
I’ve learned two things about winter in my time here:
1) Gear Up. I once went for a jog in my snowpants because I didn’t want to be cold — I looked completely ridiculous, but I was warm and cozy. (This is a far cry from my former self, who did things like walk to dinner in nothing but a pea coat and jeans when it was -12 twelve degrees, then proceed to spend the entire time rubbing my body in pain, all because I wanted to “look cute.”) Gear makes all the difference, seriously.
2) Enjoy Winter Outside. I’d always thought of winter as “a time to get through” (indoors), but when I recognized that treating winter like I did any other season (a time to enjoy and do things), I got six months of the year “back.” Seems obvious enough, but it was apparently a small epiphany for me. Reclaim the cold!
Now that you’re a parent, do the same with your kids: Gear Up and Enjoy The Great Outdoors! (And this year, with the risk of indoor viral transmission lurking, it’s all the more important… )
Here are some of our favorite picks for fun in the snow for toddlers and little kids:
If you have a baby or a toddler, a pull sled is the absolute best. Here are the crowd’s faves:
Flexible Flyer Baby Pull Sled ~$19 or Wooden Pull Sled ($79) — Best for Babies and Young Toddlers
This classic fire-engine red pull sled is perfect for littles who need more support and structure. The seat has a high back (like an old-school booster) and a little seatbelt(!). We used it with my son when he was barely more than one, and it was perfect. (Note: only seats one child.) [also available @buybuybaby)]
The wooden pull sled is a slightly more durable and crafty version. (Note: the cushion is sold separately.)
Vintage Upgrade: L.L. Bean Kids’ Pull Sled ~ $179
For those of you die-hards who want the *perfect winter wonderland photo opp for the annual holiday card, this sled will give you that and a fun ride for your kids. Add some jingle bells for extra fun…. It will last a lifetime (sh*t, it better for that price!). (Also comes in a tandem version that’s great for a couple of kiddos or twins!)
If you have slightly older children who are dabbling in downhill sledding:
The textbook hard plastic starter sled (it can also double as a pull sled, but your child needs to be old enough to sit up straight on their own while on the move).
Tons of fun and very well built. Kids like that it’s more “cushiony,” and it’s also really well-built, so it’s durable enough to last you through the years.
Toddlers can snowshoe, y’all — it’s true! They love it!
Romp around wherever in these (“the outdoors is always open”)— they allow you to get off the beaten path (plowed roads and sidewalks and such) for a true winter outing.
For the uninitiated: you don’t need any special boots or other gear for snowshoes… they fit right in with your kid’s normal winter boots. Unlike boots or skates, shoeshoes adjust to fit a range of sizes, so it’s a one and done purchase.
Tubbs Snowflake Snowshoes ~$39 — Budget Pick
These are an affordable way to explore snowshoeing with your toddler, and we really would only recommend them for a (younger) toddler because they’re not the most durable things in the world. But it’s a solid choice for those who just want to dabble. (Also available @REI.)
*Tubbs also makes an older kids version, which is a more sturdy pair, but for the price ($59), we think you’re better off with our top pick…
L.L. Bean Kids Winter Walker Snowshoes ~$79/89 — Editor’s Choice
These kid’s snowshoes are the best. They are REAL snowshoes that perform admirably, are easy to use, and stand the test of time. They come in two sizes: 16” for kids 25-60 lbs., and 19” for kids 50-110 lbs.
Cross Country Skis
L.L. Bean used to make a pair of toddler’s XC skis, which were great, but they’ve discontinued them for whatever reason (booo), which leaves us with slim pickings. Read also: Staying Active Outside in the Winter… with Little Kids
Here are your options for toddler cross country skis. Note that none of them require any special boots/footwear (aka, they have a universal binding), and you also don’t need poles. In fact, I’d honestly recommend against poles for very young children (especially those just starting out) because they can just interfere with the learning process.
In general, shorter, wider skis will be easier to learn on, so if your child is younger and/or smaller, that’s something to keep in mind. Note also that you could try these out as downhill starter skis (bunny hill only — and they’re not super slippery on the bottom), but they’re really designed for XC, not downhill.
Here are our picks:
This is a serviceable starter set for littles up to 4 years old. Comes with a pole set. (Ski size: 25.6 inches long; 3.5 inches wide)
This set from a well-known brand is recommended for kids up to 55 lbs. No poles — also available @REI.
Last but not least — kids love to shovel! Put those toddlers to work!
OK, friends — that’s a wrap. Let us know how else you and your kids have fun with snow play.