Wondering how to balance winter livestock chores with kids when it’s super cold outdoors?
“How to balance winter livestock chores with kids” is a topic that comes up a lot. It’s a topic with a lot of sub questions pertaining to:
- Extremely cold temperatures
- Snow or Ice
- Clothing/Covering choices
So, I will cover all of these topics. At the time this post is first written, I am a mom to a three-year-old and a nine-month-old. And I take them out with me to do chores in the winter time – Even when the weather is freezing.
I don’t really have much of a choice most days. Because I’m usually by myself with the farm and kids a lot since my husband works off the farm. It’s up to me to make sure the livestock have plenty of food and water to sustain them through the cold temperatures. So, I’ve learned how to balance winter livestock chores with kids.
The art of how to balance winter livestock chores with kids can be very simple to learn, but it can also be very difficult to know what to do.
So, based on my experience of cold Kansas winters, I’ve came up with different scenarios and I wanted to share them with you. These are scenarios that work well for me day by day. And I include products I use, too, since I have to be hands free when doing chores.
Rules of Thumb
First of all, I don’t want to be judged for taking my kids out into the cold during chores. Please note that I do have some rules I follow to keep my kids safe and sound:
- I don’t let kids be in the cold less than 20 degrees longer than 30 minutes but as long as they feel comfortable with.
- Toddlers and Up – I would talk to the kids and ask them how they feel. Kids can tell me if they are getting too cold.
- I never leave my kids in the house by themselves if they are awake. They are safer with me outside or buckled in somewhere warm.
- Cold is good for kids. It helps build their immune system.
- I always over bundle my kids. They can’t be too warm unless they are in a warm building/vehicle.
Now that you know my rules, I will explain different scenarios by age. And, I’ll start with babies because that’s the age I get the most questions about.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside!
Babies are actually really pretty easy to balance with chores. Babies under a year shouldn’t be in the extreme cold for too long. Their delicate skin gets so dry and red quickly. I really don’t like to take babies outside if I don’t have to.
So, I try to do chores during nap time. I know this could be hard if you chore later, but I set up my schedule around my baby’s nap. So, if she naps from 3-5, I can run out and do chores. I check on her in between pens.
When I leave baby to sleep, I still make sure there’s nothing nearby she can grab or choke on. And I have a baby monitor that I can take outdoors with me to make sure.
But, sometimes that baby won’t sleep. Or maybe you work full time and have the baby awake when you come home to do chores. That’s where it gets tricky – I get it!
So, if baby is awake and chores need to be done, my husband and I will take turns staying in while the other is outdoors.
But, if you’re by yourself, that could get even trickier!
And when I don’t have anyone else to help me, I warm up the truck and strap her in. Drive around for a little bit with her favorite songs and perhaps she will go to sleep. I know it’s not ideal, but it is safe as long as she’s buckled in correctly. Continue to check periodically as much as you need to. Some baby safe toys are a good way to keep an older baby entertained.
More Scenarios for Baby
If the temperature is warmer (above freezing) and baby is awake, I strap her into her Ergo and wear her. It’s basically just like farming pregnant again! I also use a stroller and a chair where she can watch the animals.
When I wear baby in the cold, I bundle her up into her warm clothes, put her into the Ergo. Then, I wear my husbands big coat and zip it up with her in it. It’s an extra covering and protection from the cold. Plus, she can snuggle her face in and protect the exposed skin from the cold as well.
Like I said, I don’t think babies should be out in the cold for very long at all. I’m very careful about what I’m doing and how long I will be outdoors if I have my baby out there, too. But, I haven’t had issues going with my gut feelings. Baby has always been warm and healthy snuggled in with me.
Near the end of this post, you’ll see a list of products and clothing I have used to accomplish the juggle of ‘how to balance winter livestock chores with kids.’ Now, on to the toddlers!
Toddlers Can Handle A Little More
Because toddlers can move around and walk, they are more able to stand the cold. Plus, they are dying to help out and feed the animals. So, why not let them?
Bundle toddlers up good. And if your toddler is like mine, he/she will want to take off more clothes than you want them to. You’ll need to make sure they are wearing more clothes than they need.
You’ll find out that keeping two matching mittens together will become impossible. A “safe place” for mittens will come in handy.
And a nice thing about toddlers is that they can start to communicate with you. You can ask them if they are getting too cold. They can nod, shake or say yes or no. Continue to ask them repeatedly.
If the toddler is too cold, strap him/her into the carseat in a warm vehicle. Or take a break in the house to warm up before going back out again. Never ever leave a toddler alone free in the house. Pack some toys/snacks/books for their warm place to keep them occupied. Continue to check them regularly.
Bundle Up Those Kiddos
Pre-School and School aged kids are able to be in the extreme cold. I bundle my three-year-old up well and she’s a super help to me. I still tell her that if she is cold, her options are to get into the warm truck or go to the house.
But usually, she can stand the cold with me very well because she is always moving to stay warm. She loves to help me and has chores of her own now that she is responsible for.
Plus, she knows how to dress warm for the cold weather. She knows that her skin needs to be covered or it will be cold. She has learned to wear plenty of layers underneath coveralls, boots, coat, hat and mittens. Sometimes even several pairs of mittens.
But most of all, she’s learned that if she just continues to help me work on the chores, she will stay warm. So, why not give kids chores?
Give Them Some Chores To Stay Warm
I mentioned that if the kids are moving around, they will stay warmer. So, give them a few chores they can do. Here are some chores by age that might be appropriate:
- Feeding the dogs
- Scooping grain into the feeders for the young goats (older goats and sheep are too big and pushy)
- Checking the creep feeder for baby goats and lambs
- Checking the chicken coop for eggs
- Do the chickens need food and water?
- Who else needs water?
- All the above toddler chores
- Counting all the animals
- Filling hay feeders
- Filling waterers using a hose (be sure to drain the hose when finished)
- Checks on Baby Sibling
- Any other chore they think they can do. Let them try. They just might be great at it.
And before you know it, chores are done! Now, here are some products I use and recommend to keep babies and little ones safe.
Products I Use For Balance
The following is a list of products I use for dressing the kids for the cold as well as keeping the kids safe and entertained. The links are my amazon affiliate links. See my disclosure statement at the bottom of this post.
To bundle up babies and kids:
- Carhartt Coveralls
- Purple Bear Snow Suit
- Thick Socks
- Carhartt Coat
- Insulated Snow Boots
- Fleece Blankets
When baby is with me:
- Ergo Carrier
- Extra Blanket
- Pack & Play (Can also be used for sleeping baby)
- Picnic chair
When Baby is asleep:
- Baby Monitor
- Swing (Set to the lowest setting)
- Baby Crib
When Babies & Kids are buckled in safely in the warm truck parked nearby:
- All in one Car Seats
- Safe Toys
- Snacks & Drinks
- I sometimes let my pre-schooler watch YouTube Kids on my iPhone.
And whichever option you choose to go by, always just take one chore at a time.
Take One Chore At A Time
When you have multiple pens and species of livestock to feed and care for, you can easily break up the time between chores and kid checks.
Simply finish feeding and caring for one pen in full before checking. That way, you can move on to the next group once you know the kids are content.
When I was learning how to balance winter livestock chores with kids, I would feed a pen of goats. Then do a check. Basically, set up a checking point in between.
Another way you could break it up is by just setting a time limit. Like, 10-20 minutes. They can also watch you out the window from the vehicle to see what progress you’re making. When the kids are in the truck, it’s parked right next to where I am.
What If Kids/Babies are Crying?
When learning how to balance winter livestock chores with kids, you have to learn how to balance the priorities. Both chores and kids are #1. Nothing overrules the other.
So, when you do the check and the baby is crying, what are you supposed to do?
This depends greatly on your parenting choices. And every parent has a different way that they parent. I’m not a parenting expert, but I do choose to console my baby/kids when they are crying. That’s my choice.
It doesn’t happen very often at all for me. Usually, my kids are content playing with their toys and eating their snack. But, occasionally, one of them will be crying and I like to find out what is the matter before I move on to the next chore.
I’ll take a nursing break with the baby and then she will be content. Or maybe the battery went dead on the iPhone for my daughter and she’s frustrated about it. So, I talk through that with her.
And then, I get back to it. Sometimes my kids just want to be with me. So, if my maternal gut feeling is right, I prepare my kiddos to come out into the cold again. Because a little bit of cold never hurt anyone.
A Little Cold Won’t Hurt Kids
As I mentioned above, a little bit of cold won’t hurt the kids. I believe it helps their immune systems to be out in the cold. However, the time spend in the cold should be limited on what the kids can handle.
The basis for ‘how to balance winter livestock chores with kids’ is preparedness. Be prepared to be by yourself with the kids when those chores need to be completed. Animals need to be cared for in winter. So, knowing how to balance winter livestock chores with kids is very helpful to not only get chores done, but to protect mom or dad’s sanity as well.
So, I hope this guide will help you to better balance winter chores as well. Or if you’re a new parent, give you a better understanding of how to balance winter livestock chores with kids.
Farmers don’t get snow days. Parents don’t get snow days either. Both jobs are immensely important! And when you learn to balance the two, you can do just about anything.