How to Dress your Kid for Winter in Germany

Photo: Erin Porter

Is this warm enough? Photo: Erin Porter

When writing my post on “How to Dress for Winter in Germany”, I felt like I could complete another full post on “How to Dress your Kid for Winter in Germany”. Germans take winter clothing seriously and double down when it comes to the kids.

I tried to cover the basics of kid wear in Germany with Dressing your Kid for German KiTa, but – as I said – winter is a whole new deal. So here is an updated Guide of How to Dress Your Kid for German KiTa – complete with special information for the winter.

How I did it Wrong

When my baby started Krippe, I thought I was ready. We had waded through the paperwork, got the almighty KitaGutschein (subsidy) and been accepted to a great KiTa. We had steeled ourselves for our baby spending time away from us for the first time. We thought we had this.

However, suggestions from the Erzieherin started coming in slow and haven’t stopped.

Maybe, you think, she might need boots? See, there is a gap between her shoe and sock and her pants. She needs a warm winter boot to keep her warm.

I was off to pick up boots. Success! Crisis averted. Until…

She has so many hats, but all of them are a bit doof (dumb). They need a tie to keep them on. Better yet, get a balaclava.

What is a balaclava? Aw, this thing. And she really needs a hat…all year-round?

Clearly, my American, new-mom standards of how to dress my child weren’t meeting the German, pro-childminders expectations. I am now 2-years in and still feel as if I am getting it wrong half the time. I even had a laughing chat with the Erzieherin about how American and British parents don’t bundle their kids up as much as the German. They’ve come to expect that my little American in Germany won’t be as packed tight as her counterparts, but they’ve also admitted she doesn’t appear cold. We’ve compromised.

German kids at KiTaHow to properly Dressing Your Kid for Winter in Germany

I just pulled out my daughter’s snow suit today as the thermometer dropped below zero, but I’ve seen kids sweating through their snowsuits at KiTa from the first signs of Herbst (fall). I may be just a crazy American, but I implore you to hold off on the full suit til it is near freezing. Your kids’ sweaty pits beg you.

Onesie (Bode)

A Bode (short or long-sleeved bodysuit that buttons at the crotch) is essential for KiTa. At my daughter’s KiTa, they are stripped down to this base level to sleep and it must be worn until it is potty training time.

No matter how many layer I put on top, I’ve also been told that only long-sleeves are acceptable in fall and winter.

Tights (Strumpfhose)

Tights are another foundational piece of clothing for little German boys and girls. Worn from fall until spring, they come in a rainbow of styles, thicknesses and prices. Among the many options are tights that come with stickies on the feet that prevent little feet from sliding.

In warmer weather these can go under dresses or substitute for pants during indoor play. In colder weather, they are worn beneath sturdy pants, which are worn beneath bulky snowsuits. It is impossible to overdress a German child.

Snowsuit (Schneeanzug)German Child's Snowsuit

Snowsuits are serious business. I bought my first  from another expat mom for just 15 euro, but they can run to the hundreds of dollars. Deluxe models come in sleek, super-warm materials with expandable options, mittens and boot coverings. Winter is a tricky time for crawlers and these attached parts help protect them.

For my one-year-old, I chose the full suit, but for my two-year-old (because of course you need to buy a new one of these every year) I chose a two piece. This is vital for potty training and allows you to use just the coat when it is freezing, but not ice-in-your-veins cold.

Another option to consider for rainy – not cold – days is rain pants, known as Matschhosen or Regenhosen. They can be lined to offer further insulation.

Hats (Hüte)

After receiving 8,000 adorable hats, I am dismayed to find how many don’t fit the KiTa standard (and how quickly my daughter’s giant head grows out of them). Apparently, you need different hats throughout the year for German KiTa.

  • Spring/Fall – A cotton hat providing light covering. You will find that Germans prefer to have kids’ heads covered at all times.
  • Summer – Yea summer! Warmth! Kids’ no longer need hats…right? FALSCH! German kids must be protected from the sun. Sun hats should be worn at all times, even in the water.
  • Winter – Bring on the heavy artillery! Woolen hats top KiTa kids’ heads, ideally tying/buttoning/velcroing beneath the chin. As I mentioned above, a balaclava is the best option. I’ve been told these were the norm back in the day, but they are retro chic now and can be quite expensive.

Mittens (Handschuhe)

This is another item my girl hates. And must wear. German heads wagged as they scolded me for leaving her hands uncovered, her thrown-off mittens clearly clenched in my hands.

This year, I bought mittens with connecting strings, gloves with velcro closures and mittens with happy monster faces that go all the up to her elbow. I might have to resort to duct tape if she won’t be reasonable. Press your thumbs for me that I am able to avoid the shame of a German lecture every day this winter.

Scarfs (Schals)

Germans are crazy for scarves and the obsession doesn’t end because they are children. As you can imagine, keeping a scarf on a kiddo can be tricky so the infinity scarves that are in a loop are best. Scarf/bibs are also quite popular and come in a charming variety of colors and styles.

Winter Shoewear for Kids in Germany

Within the KiTa, shoes are verboten. Every morning we undue all my hard work getting my girl dressed by undressing as soon as we arrive in the Garderobe. She has her own hook and cubby and all that warm outer wear is packed away til they have an outing or the end of the day. We also trade regular Schuhe or Winterstiefel (snow boots) for Hausschue, cute little slippers.

I have been able to do the inherit/buy shoes from other expats method so far, but it seems that buying shoes in Germany can be quite a process. Former GW Blogger Sarah told us all about it.

So there you have it! How to pack up your little German for winter without (hopefully) getting the German lecture.

This edited GW Expat Blog post was originally published on April 20th, 2016.

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