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January 19, 2023  |  Baby & Kids

How to handle bundling up for winter when your child has sensory issues

While the changing of seasons is a magical time for many, those with sensory issues often struggle with the transition into winter. From dry and itchy skin to feeling uncomfortable in a bulky coat, a new season also brings new feelings and sensitivities. Fortunately, parents can employ many steps and tricks to minimize the effects of this seasonal transition. 

BestReviews baby and child expert Dr. Aimee Ketchum is a pediatric occupational therapist and ​​assistant professor of early childhood development. To help kids with sensory issues feel comfortable during the winter, we asked her for advice on bundling up for the winter.

In this article: Nautica Sensory-Friendly Fleece Sweatpants, MaberryTech Direct Sensory Chew Necklace and CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion For Dry Skin.

How to know if your child has sensory issues

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition in which there are "differences in the perceptions of sights, sounds, textures, smells, and pain." People who struggle with sensory issues may be more sensitive to these things than other people are.

If your child has an extreme reaction to sounds, clothing or food texture, that may be a sign they struggle with sensory issues. Other signs include thinking clothes feel too scratchy or itchy, lights seem too bright, sounds seem too loud or soft touches feel too hard. In the winter, children with sensory issues often have difficulty wearing bulky coats, scratchy hats and uncomfortable gloves.

Expert tips to support children with sensory issues in the winter

  • Avoid scratchy fabrics, such as wool. Choose fleece and cotton and softer fabrics against the child’s skin. Even coats, hats and mittens can be fleece-lined.
  • Keep fidgets or other sensory toys nearby and even attached to the zipper of your child’s coat to help give them something to divert their attention while wearing heavy clothing. 
  • Pack a second set of warm clothing in case you are away from home and your child needs to change into something else. If their clothes get wet in the snow or rain or they become bothered by the fit of the clothing, you will have another option.
  • Use hand warmers instead of gloves or mittens.
  • If the child will not wear gloves, make sure they have deep, fleece-lined pockets with nothing in them to keep their hands warm.
  • Sometimes the issue during the winter months is actually dry and itchy skin. Put lotion on children’s skin every evening and morning. The skin-on-skin contact of rubbing in the lotion is great for stimulating and regulating their tactile sensory processing and keeping their skin hydrated.
  • Cut tags out of clothing so they don’t rub against the child’s skin.
  • Deep pressure can help children modulate their sensory processing issues. Provide this with bear hugs, wrapping the child in a blanket (as if swaddling a baby) like a burrito or sandwiching the child between pillows or beanbag chairs before getting dressed. This deep pressure helps to relax the child and balance their sensory system.

How to bundle up for winter when your child has sensory issues

Preparation is key to helping children with sensory issues bundle up for the winter. For younger children, Ketchum recommends distraction, such as playing games while dressing the child or singing songs together. When children are older and cannot tolerate the sensation of clothing against their skin, Ketchum mentioned that it may require a lot of trial and error.

“Some children tolerate tighter clothing that is snug against their skin, while others prefer looser fitting clothes,” Ketchum said. “Usually, children don’t like snaps or zippers or adjustable waistbands. Try to choose clothing that can pull on without these closures, such as sweatpants and leggings. Some children cannot even tolerate seams, so you may have to find clothes without seams on the inside, including seamless socks and underwear. Also, puffer jackets are lighter on the child’s body, so they give less input and can be easier for children to tolerate.”

Best winter products for kids with sensory issues

Nike Full-Zip Puffer Jacket

Light puffer jackets are often more manageable for children with sensory issues. This Nike jacket is also lined with fleece, which is a comfortable material that will feel good against a child’s skin.

Sold by Kohl’s

Nautica Sensory-Friendly Fleece Sweatpants

Since it is tag-free and has no zippers and flat seams, these sweatpants are ideal for those with sensory processing disorder. Plus, it comes in multiple colors and sizes for toddlers up to preteens.

Sold by Amazon

Zelda Matilda Children’s Fleece Lined Mittens

Being wet is one of the biggest triggers if a child is overly sensitive, which is often a problem in the snow. These mittens are waterproof to keep hands dry and lined with fleece for comfort.

Sold by Amazon

MaberryTech Direct Sensory Chew Necklace

Attaching a chewable fidget necklace to a child’s winter coat or keeping it in their pocket will help divert attention when wearing bulky items or anything with a unique feel. This set of four sensory toys is made of food-grade silicone and can be cleaned in the dishwasher.

Sold by Amazon

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion for Dry Skin

The winter months are drying for everyone’s skin, especially those who experience sensory issues. So, keep their skin hydrated and itch-free with this moisturizing, nongreasy lotion. It has the seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Association and is gentle enough for sensitive skin.

Sold by Amazon

ZooVaa Kids Compression Sensory Jacket

The compression in the jacket is designed to put pressure across the torso and back to simulate a hug, and the weights are removable when they’re not needed. Plus, the fleece material is soft and lightweight.

Sold by Amazon

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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.