How to get kids dressed for winter and not lose your mind

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My kids have many strengths, but speed is not one of them. Particularly when it comes to putting on snow pants and boots, along with a jacket, hat and mittens. They… are… slow.

Trying to get my two turtles out the door creates a real push-and-pull situation for me every morning. In the interest of saving time (and my own sanity), I want to push boots onto their feet and pull them out the door with me. On the other hand, I’m supposed to be building their independence and empowering them to accomplish tasks on their own, so they’ll become capable, resilient individuals.

It was becoming a daily dilemma. Do I do it for them and have a shot at being on time, or let them fumble along at a snail’s pace (sometimes slower) in the name of future self-reliance? Neither approach was desirable, so I decided to get creative. Here are some of the strategies I turned to, out of pure desperation:

Be an organization ninja. Whether you use hooks, cubbies, drawers or baskets, have a system to keep each kid’s stuff in a distinct place. My kids are slow enough as it is – we can’t afford to spend extra time searching for things. I have a front hall bench that opens to reveal plastic bins for each person’s hats and gloves.

Label, label, label. Anyone who’s had a kindergartener is familiar with the mystifying phenomenon where they don’t know what their own boots look like. Apply Mabel’s Tag Mates to absolutely everything so there’s no confusion at home or at school.

Pile it on. Although I’m really trying to be “hands-off” and let my kids put everything on themselves, I’m not above placing the various items right in front of them if we’re tight on time.

Turn up the heat. On a chilly morning, warmed-up outerwear is more of a treat and less of a chore. Our dryer is in the mud room, so I throw everything in for a couple of minutes on a low setting, then present it with comments like “Ooo, this feels so cozy!” and “See if you can put it on while it’s still warm!”

Beat the time. I avoid having siblings race against each other, but I have pulled out my trusty stopwatch and made a time chart to encourage beating one’s own personal best. This tactic suits kids who are into numbers and can appreciate the concept of setting a new “world record.”

Get warm gear that’s cool. It may sound silly, but the added expense of a toque or hat emblazoned with a favourite character, brand or sports team is worth every penny if the kid eagerly puts it on.

Zip it. One of the pitfalls of our morning routine is losing time to silly chatter. Somehow, the request “please get ready to go” triggers my kids to start telling decidedly unfunny jokes and asking non sequitur questions. I now firmly say, “I will answer all your questions once you are dressed and sitting in the car.”

Find a goofy incentive. Let me be clear: I do not recommend bribing them with candy, toys or screen time. In fact, the best reward is something immediate and no-cost. Encourage them to hustle because you’ve got some new music to play for them in the car. (It’s just your old NSYNC CD, but they’ve never heard it, right?)

Interestingly, the best my kids ever did at getting ready in the morning was when our local radio station had a daily “bag of cash” type contest where callers could win random amounts of money from a robotic-sounding bank machine. It was very suspenseful as the person tried to decide whether to take the existing cash or go for another round. Luckily, the contest happened every day at the exact time we needed to be getting into the car. My kids leapt into their jackets and flew out the door so they wouldn’t miss it. It was astonishing.

The contest ended after a few weeks, much to our disappointment. Still, it was reassuring to know that my tortoises can be hares, when they want to be.

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Author: Kristi York

Kristi York is a freelance writer and mom of two sports-loving boys. She is a regular contributor to ParentsCanada magazine, Running Room magazine, and the ParticipACTION website.

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