Winter Wonderland Hacks: 10 Tips to Conquer the Cold with Ease

Stay Cozy and Prepared When Temps Drop

By Sara Yaniga, Macaroni KID Chicago January 20, 2024

The winter chill has set in, and these days can bring unique challenges, stressors and concerns for families. I would like to share a list of tips and hacks that I have discovered over the years, because I can still remember my first Chicago winter, my first winter with a newborn, with a toddler, and as a car-free parent with school-aged children. This year I am experiencing my first Chicago winter as a car owner. No matter what stage or "firsts" you are experiencing - there may be a tip or two here that can help you when winter comes to town!

  • Designate a drop zone for winter gear. If you already have a mud room, then you can skip this! Often city living floor plans don't make space for a drop zone, especially one that can accommodate bulky winter gear. Some plastic shoe trays, or inexpensive floor mats, near a door, are perfect for wet shoes & boots, and umbrellas. (check Dollar Tree, they have options!) Hooks can be placed above, at child height, for hanging coats and scarves.  Removable hooks can work well here if you don't want to, or can't, drill into the wall to hang something more permanent. Also nice to have would be a stool or bench for putting on or removing boots and a bin to store hats, gloves/mittens, etc.

  • You can use newspaper, or newsprint paper from packages, to help absorb extra moisture from boots.  Just stuff the paper into the boots and let it help dry them out. If winter boots and gear are extremely wet after some outdoor play we will use a small space heater near the drop zone to speed up the drying process.

  • Keep hands warmer by layering mittens over gloves. I try to stock up on the multi-sets of knit gloves and mittens in adult and kid sizes (look for those sales as spring approaches). "Fingers together" are warmer than "fingers apart", so by putting a glove on first and then layering a mitten over you are helping to keep those hands cozy and warm!

  • Have a kid who just doesn't keep their gloves or mittens on? I think most parents of toddlers are familiar with this "game" and it can be frustrating. When my kids were younger I used to put a long knee sock on each hand before bundling them up in their coat because it's much harder for them to get them off. You can then layer a mitten over the sock for an extra layer of warmth (and an extra layer for them to try and remove!) You can also purchase mittens with longer arms, or that cinch at the wrist, which are especially great for older kids who are ready to play & explore in the snow because these are usually waterproof or resistant.

  • DIY way to add warmth to strollers and pockets by making hand warmers that you can heat in the microwave. Fill an old sock with rice, tie it off, and warm it up for a few seconds before heading out for a walk. This is a great way to repurpose those socks who have lost their mates. If you are going to be out for a while then you may want to opt for the store-bought hand warmers which will last hours. You can stash these in a sock or mitten for an extra layer of protection if tucking into a stroller with a little one.

  • Frozen locks or door handles? You can use hand sanitizer on a key to help melt away ice from frozen locks. WD-40 works as well, but most of us probably don't carry that around in our bags or pockets.

  • Zip ties on stroller, or bicycle, tires can help add grip when navigating slippery sidewalks and streets.

  • Prep your stroller for winter by adding a bike light, reflectors or reflective tape. Winter months mean shorter days but don't let the fading sun drive you back inside. Keep safe by making yourself more visible in the dark.

  • Prep your car for winter with more than a snow & ice scraper! Use inexpensive rag rugs to help protect your floor mats, but these are multipurpose! If you ever find yourself stuck in the snow you can use them under tires to add traction. Kitty litter is also helpful in the winter months.  Not only will a bag of it add weight to your car, but you can prevent foggy windows by filling a couple of socks with it and leaving them there to help absorb extra moisture. Kitty litter sprinkled near your tires is another great way to add traction if you are ever stuck in the snow.

  • Protect your skin! Exposed skin is at risk for windburn and chapping so a little prep can really go a long way to prevent later discomfort. 
    • Stay hydrated! Water helps regulate body temperature so it helps you stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
    • Use sunscreen, especially on those sunny & snowy days. Snow can reflect the sun and make sun protection necessary
    • Apply a thick cream or ointment to cheeks, lips, nose, and any other skin that isn't covered. Two that are great for most skin types are Vaseline and Aquaphor. These are also sensitive enough to apply on skin that may already be chapped, dry, or windburned. (Note: Aquaphor  & Vaseline are safe for Fido too! A little bit of the healing ointment can help soothe dry paws and noses) 

Hopefully, these tips help you out as they have helped me over the years. It doesn't matter how long I have lived here, I am always learning something new - especially in extreme temperatures. Looking for more? Here are some great maintenance tips for further preparing your home, car and family for the winter season.

Have a tip to add? Send me an email at