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Frozen fingers put children on the fast track to lots of tears and more time spent indoors. Fortunately, keeping your kids hands and fingers toasty warm is easier than ever thanks to a new generation of waterproof fabrics and lightweight insulations that trap air for warmth and still perform well even when they’re wet. With so many gloves to choose from, however, how do you separate the good gloves from those that may look good but only offer marginal warmth? These three tips will help take the guesswork out of buying gloves for your kids to keep them happy (and outside) longer this winter.

Gloves or Mittens?

Thinsulate-lined gloves like this are a great choice if you’re looking for dexterity and don’t want to spend a fortune. A waterproof membrane insert ensures they’ll stay dry. Amazon

Mittens are generally warmer because fingers are not separated. Gloves, however, offer better dexterity and with modern insulations, they can nearly rival mittens for warmth. What do you choose? Think first about your child’s outdoor activities. If they will be downhill skiing, where a lot of hand dexterity isn’t needed, go for mittens. For all-around use, especially if your child will be dealing with boot buckles, heavy zippers, and snowball making, gloves are the way to go. Want a compromise? “Lobster” styles join your index and middle fingers together and your pinky and ring finger together to provide warmth and more dexterity.

Which Insulation is Best?

These gloves feature 40 grams of Thinsulate insulation, so they’re very warm. Rip-stop outer material is super tough and it’s also breathable. Amazon

Down is the classic insulation for warmth as it lofts better than synthetic insulations. It’s also breathable and compacts easily. The downside to down, however, is that it does not insulate well when it’s wet. Down is also more expensive, which can be aggravating if your child loses a nice down glove or mitten outside.

Synthetic insulation is less expensive than down, it will insulate even when its wet, and synthetics dry out a lot faster—all positives for active kids who like to play in the snow. The downside to synthetic insulation is that it provides less warmth for its weight than down, it’s bulkier, and it loses insulating value when compressed.

For little kids, mittens with a waterproof outer fabric are a good choice. And consider styles that have longer extensions at the cuffs to help keep snow from getting inside and melting. Older kids may think gloves look cooler. If you need to add warmth to gloves, consider glove liners (sold separately) to add an extra layer of insulation.

A Word About Waterproofing

For sheer warmth, mittens are hard to beat. This pair is packed with waterproof and special thermal-reflective material to keep little hands warm and dry. Amazon

Most waterproof gloves and mittens these days use a waterproof, breathable membrane like Gore-Tex to keep water out and wick moisture away from hands to keep them dry and warm. Many manufacturers have developed their own waterproof fabrics that offer similar properties to Gore-Tex, but are less expensive, so read the fine print carefully when you look at the labels. And beware of fabrics that say, “water repellent” or “water resistant.” These are definitely not waterproof and will lead to frozen fingers.