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Daycare parents fight endless war with Finnish winter

Finland is shivering this week as a high pressure system brings temperatures well below freezing to the country. Small children can be particularly challenging to dress for the frigid weather, and daycare centres seem to have noticed.

piirretty pakkasmittari, jossa erilaisia säänmukaisia vaatetuksia
Charts like this one show parents how they are expected to dress their children for the conditions. Image: Paula Länsipaasi

"There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing," according to Lancastrian rambler Alfred Wainwright, and his words are a good guide to dressing children for a day out in the Finnish winter.

Daycare centres in Finland say this winter's changeable weather has been particularly challenging as they seek to keep children safe, warm and dry.

"Every week we're forced to ask parents to bring different clothes," said Anu Korjus of the Metsola kindergarten in Kotka. "Waterproof over-trousers and jackets have been in use the whole time and they solve some of the problems as they are windproof. Woollen socks in wellington boots are very important in the winter."

Over-reaction

Some parents react to the changing weather more slowly than others—and some over-react, according to Kristina Hakola of Vantaa Urheilupuisto kindergarten.

"When clothing should change, we ask parents to bring thicker mittens or thinner gloves to go underneath," according to Hakola. "On the other hand some bundle up immediately. It's also important that children aren't dressed too warmly."

In Hakola's daycare centre as in many others, there is a poster on the wall to help parents clothe their offspring appropriately. It shows a thermometer with the right number and type of layers for children to wear at each temperature.

Hakola says that parents who've recently moved to Finland can find it a big help.

"Incomprehensible" winter clothes

"Waterproof clothing can be incomprehensible to them, and in general [it takes some getting used to] the idea that we go outside even when it's really cold," said Hakola. "Children and families who speak another language than Finnish find the symbols easy to understand."

The current forecast suggests Finland will see harsh, extremely cold weather across the country in the coming days. Some parents might be surprised to learn that they should leave no-slip socks at home when it's very cold, as the plastic on the socks can get cold quickly, according to Saija Lantta of Mielakka kindergarten in Kouvola.

"We don't put on no-slip socks when we're going outside, we change them for something else," said Lantta.

According to the Finnish Medical Society no-slip socks can make feet more sweaty than usual, and that can cause coldness in the winter. Lantta recommends good old-fashioned woollen socks.

Jarrusukat
Image: Minna Kaipainen / Yle

As for gloves, there is only one solution: mittens. Preferably at least two layers of mittens when it's particularly cold, and in addition there should be a neck warmer.

Anu Korjus has another important point to remember: children's clothes should fit properly. If they're too tight, that can cause problems.

"Clothes that are too small don't keep kids warm, and you can't fit extra layers underneath," noted Korjus. "And if a child has too-small jacket or trousers, their belly button might be left exposed."

According to the medical profession, however, the most common mistake parents make is not to under-dress their kids but to make them too warm, causing sweating and thereby cold.

"If they get a sweat on, they can get cold," explained Eero Kajantie of the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). "If a small child isn't able to dress themselves, a parent should watch out for that."

Another danger is that children don't always realise when they are getting cold. The THL says that it's the parents' job to keep an eye on their kids. Kajantie recommends checking children's legs and hands. If they're cold, then more clothes are necessary—or it might be time to go indoors.

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