Outfitting Your Kids for Outdoor Play

Frugal Living Outdoor Gear Outdoor Play winter

Time outside in nature is one of the pillars of most philosophies of home education. Charlotte Mason recommended children spend 4-6 hours outside DAILY! While she lived in a very temperate climate, there are many countries with extreme variance in weather where children and adults spend very large amounts of their life outside!

Recently, I read the book “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids” by Linda Åkeson McGurk and was incredibly inspired. In her book, Linda beautifully lays out all the myriad of benefits to spending time outdoors, and de-stigmatizes being outdoors in all kinds of weather for children of all ages.

I’m not doing the book justice on how inspiring it really was for me in wanting my kids to be outside more often! Living in Minnesota, that means a large range of weather and temperatures (about 150 degrees from the lowest temp to the highest), so being prepared for all kinds of weather can be tricky…and expensive!

Outfitting multiple children with quality items, who are changing sizes every season is a challenge on a budget, and can often be a deterrent for getting kids outside! Here are some of my best tips on how to do this resourcefully:

little girl in pink snowsuit and mittens playing in the snow.
  1. Assess what you have: Too many times I have bought something new only to bring out the next season’s bin of gear and find an identical item that I had forgotten about. Ah! The worst feeling!

  2. Use what you have: Can a boy wear purple snow pants? Can your daughter use her brothers outgrown rain suit even though it’s not her style? These are questions that you and your children will have to sort though, but it’s likely there are already items in your home that fit and can be “made do”.

  3. Sell what you’re not using: If you have something you know will never see the light of day outside again, sell it! There are so many options these days between local moms groups, garage sales, Facebook marketplace, selling aps that you should be able to sell it somewhere!

    If you have a high end item or very specific piece of outdoor gear, consider selling it someplace like Poshmark or Mercari. There are tons of blogs out there with tips for how to sell items well on various sites, but typically it’s good photos with good lighting and detailed descriptions. And the right price! Remember, any cash is better than no cash for an item that was collecting dust!

After you’ve done an inventory of what you have and have made your kids try it all on, you’ll need to fill in the gaps. If you’re really strapped on cash, here are two ways to save your money:

  1. Borrow: If you have a network of moms you’re connected to, they’re doing the same thing you are at the beginning of a season–sorting! And, chances are that someone else might have a swimsuit, or snow boots or sun hat that are the same sizes you’re looking for.

    Swapping with a friend means you’re limited to what you get, but it can work really well in a pinch. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable with swapping, usually buying from another mom locally is the most inexpensive way to outfit your child!

  2. Gift: If you know your child is needing new thermals or his water bottle for hiking is lost forever, or they have outgrown something, a great way to fill in these gaps on a budget is to gift them at a time when you’re already spending money! Especially if children are spending more time outdoors, you don’t need more indoor toys.

    But, you will need things that are going to keep them warm, hydrated and comfortable for long hours of play time. Consider swapping out a toy for some outdoor items! These are great things to ask for from loved ones (even chipping in towards an item is a great idea–who needs another unwanted toy)!

a boy sitting in a pile of snow eating snow.

If you’re still striking out and not finding exactly what you need or are looking for, it’s time to buy! Buying high quality items seems very daunting if you just pull up a website and look at the sticker price. After multiplying it by many children it can be very expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

  1. Plan ahead and buy during off seasons: Just as a season is ending is usually the best time to buy items for next year. If you know your children are going to need an item, you can find those lasting high end items for used prices if you watch the sales.

    Sometimes you have to guess at what sizes you’ll need, but many stores honor returns or exchanges. Keep your receipts and be strategic. Even if you get stuck with an item that doesn’t fit and can’t be returned, you can often sell it for what you bought it for.

    A brand new winter jacket might be inexpensive to buy on clearance in April, but in November someone will likely be willing to pay the same price (or more) for it and consider it a steal!

  2. Buy gender neutral items for your oldest child: If your oldest child is needing new items every season and her younger siblings are boys, don’t buy everything in pink. A plain black or blue jacket can be livened up with a pink hat and then can be used again and again.

  3. Don’t buy gimmicky, cartoon-character-laden gear: No matter how much your kids love Spiderman or Trolls, these items are never quality items. Plus, you usually will pay a branding mark-up for them because of the character. More often then not, these don’t last more than a season (and sometimes even kids outgrow their love of a certain character mid-season and then refuse to wear it). Just skip it!

  4. Teach your child to care for their gear: Nothing is worse than paying a large price for something quality and then having it be lost or broken because of carelessness. This is a hard habit to learn but can be fought for and hard won! If your child is likely to damage things, stick with brands like Patagonia or the like that have replacement guarantees and always buy the warranty if offered.

  5. Do your research: If you know what you’re looking for it’s easier to find it for a less expensive price. For example, if you know you want to buy your daughter Sorrel boots and what style will work for her, you can likely find the exact boot for less on other sites (like Poshmark or Ebay or even sometimes a lightning deal site).

    There are people who test gear for a living and write about which is the best, so a quick google search should offer lots of reviews and opinions. Even reviews on the item on the company’s website can be insightful!

I hope that some of these tips are helpful for being able to keep kids outfitted for any kinds of weather. Who wants to be in the snow or rain if they are cold or wet? With a little bit of strategic planning and sleuthing, I hope you are able to fit the best gear for keeping your children, and yourself, happily playing outside in any kind of weather!

let them be little preschool graphic.

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