Base layers for kids - the lowdown

Southern Europeans love a huge chunky overcoat for themselves and their kids – “Bring on winter weather!”

This is only good if your idea of a great day out is standing at bus-stops. But kids love a good run-around any time of year. And they’re on the ground much more than us – inspecting leaves and bugs, comparing puddle depths, crawling through shrubs.

The only way to guarantee mobility and warmth is a good base-layer. Not just for sports, but for normal outdoors play. Why head inside early when the right wardrobe choices keep spirits up? This is the single smartest thing to stock up on in the autumn, but amazingly still not a mainstream purchase amongst UK parents. In Scandinavia, kids literally sleep in them. They’re just bought in bulk for everyday use.

Base-layers provide unparalleled comfort – so thin and so insulating – but these are pricey materials and used to be the preserve of skiers. Luckily base-layers are gaining some traction with young footballers and rugby players. They see seniors in “man-tights” so each season you see more kids turning up at training wearing good old-fashioned long johns – available in anything from merino wool to polypropylene mixes.

If your kid is comfortable wearing merino wool, then these feel far superior the minute you pull them on. I have three kids who all scramble through their drawers to dig out their wool layers on a cool autumn morning, as they provide instant cosiness. If you rule out wool, then there are many man-made fibres which will last longer, fit more snugly and are half the price or less.

And style? Short-sleeved tops will do the job for messing around and for tennis and other sports where the kids don’t stop often (enduring the coaches’ tactics talk…).

If it’s a stop-start activity – like some team sports – or with altitude changes – like skiing and hiking – then there’s no way around the collared, long-sleeve top, and the more expensive two-layer construction is essential. You’ll find ideal man-made fibre inner, wool outer combos.

Finally, there are roll-necks and hoods which add flexibility in changeable weather or if you’re cycling – but these are hard to source for kids. Consider searching for XS women’s options.

The brands I look for are from Scandinavia or New Zealand, as they always offer higher wool content and their home markets know their stuff. If you balk at spending £20-£50 on what is effectively kids’ underwear, then consider this: You’re guaranteeing your family several brilliant cost-free days out – just happily mucking about.