Tips for Getting Sensory Kids to Wear Winter Clothes

You’ve probably seen the kids that wear shorts all winter long. Or those that go out into 20 degree weather with only a hoodie to keep them warm. What gives? In this article, we’re talking about sensory friendly winter clothing and tips for getting sensory kids to wear winter clothing. I know I can not stand the thought of wearing an itchy scarf or (shudder) a turtle neck during the frigid winter months. So how can we support kids during cold weather when sensory needs impact their ability to even stand to put on boots, pants, a hat, winter coats, or gloves? Let’s go over this…

Sensory Winter Clothes

Before we get to the tips for helping kids with sensory needs to not freeze out there in the cold temps, lets cover a few resources that will support your needs in this topic…

These resources will help many individuals who just can’t stand the thought of wearing winter clothes!

Below, you will find information on the tactile sensory system and how tactile challenges to the sensory system can result in difficulties tolerating clothing textures. The strategies below are helpful tips for getting sensory kids to wear winter clothes. You may want to use these strategies along with our fun winter clothes worksheet to pull the theme together.

Use these tips to help kids with sensory processing difficulties to wear winter clothes.

Tips for Getting Sensory Kids to Wear Winter Clothes

The Tactile Sensory System is one of the earliest developed senses of the body. The skin is the largest and the most prevalent organ. The skin performs unique duties for the body. Most importantly, the skin protects and alerts us to danger and discriminates sensation with regard to location and identification. The sense of touch alerts us to both discrimination and danger. These two levels of sensation work together yet are distinctively important.
Tactile discrimination allows us to sense where on our body and what is touching us. With discrimination, we are able to discern a fly that lands on our arm. The second level of the tactile system alerts us to danger. It allows us to jump in response to the “fight or flight” response when we perceive a spider crawling on our arm.
This system also allows us to have tactile defensiveness when it comes to certain clothing textures on various parts of the body (pants on the lower legs, for example)
When either of these levels of sensation are disrupted, tactile dysfunction can result. This presents in many ways, including hypersensitivity to tags in clothing, sensitivities to heat or cold, a dislike of messy play, difficulty with fine motor tasks, a fear of being touched by someone without seeing that touch, a high tolerance of pain, or a need to touch everything and everyone.


The information received from the tactile system includes light touch, pain, temperature, and pressure. When the tactile system is immature or impaired, the brain can become overly stimulated with resulting poor organization and regulation of input. Children can then experience difficulty with behavior and concentration as a result.

When children with tactile discrimination issues need to wear winter clothing, meltdowns can result. The heavy winter coat is just not tolerable. Use the tips below to help sensory kids wear winter clothes.

Winter Clothing Sensory Strategies

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1. Layer! Use a compression garment under clothing. A simple lycra sun shirt can be a big help for some students when worn under clothing. Tight stockings or bike shorts can be worn under pants. Other ideas include:
  • An Under Armour shirt (this one has a crew neck to reduce a tight feeling around the neck.)

2. Utilize seamless undergarments (for girls or boys), clothing or seamless socks, or clothing with flat seams. These can be added under a layer of heavier socks or used in isolation.

3. Tighten or loosen shoe laces as preferred. A tighter shoe lace can provide compression through the feet.


4. Becoming overheated can be a big cause for a sensory meltdown or refusal to wear winter coats. Consider trying a fleece or lined sweatshirt instead of a puffy winter coat.

5. Cut labels from clothing. Don’t forget the gloves, hats, jackets, and coats!
6. Wear two layers of socks or try wearing socks a size smaller for additional compression through the feet and ankles. Try using a knee-high length in isolation or under a second pair of socks. This can help the child who isn’t able to tolerate socks slouching down inside shoes or boots.
7. Wash new clothing in hot water several times to loosen clothing textures.
8. Rub a thick cream such as aloe gel or cocoa butter on the body before dressing. Dry skin can cause itchiness during the winter months where dry heat is prevalent.
9. Provide a blanket in the car if a winter coat isn’t an option.
10. Use fabrics such as cotton, fleece, and flannel. Avoid polyester blends.
11. Wear full body zipper pajamas (made for big kids!) with or without a compression layer underneath.
12. Use a winter vest or removable sleeves to quickly adjust for temperature changes.
13. Use a poncho or a car seat poncho instead of a winter coat.
Looking for more information on sensory processing? Grab this free sensory processing booklet:
Parents and teachers will love to pass on this free sensory processing disorder information booklet.
Use these tips to help kids with sensory processing difficulties to wear winter clothes.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to