How Do I Dress My Toddler for the Icelandic Winter?

Toddlers in Iceland in Winter

Winter in Iceland began on October 26. While the Icelandic winter is relatively mild, owing to the Gulf Stream, freezing temperatures are not uncommon. This Friday in Reykjavík, for example, the Icelandic Met Office predicts that temperatures will dip well below zero degrees Celsius. On such days, layers of warm clothing are imperative.

In Iceland, dressing a toddler for the winter typically involves layers:

1. A merino wool onesie with merino wool pants.
2. A long-sleeved shirt and pants.
3. A warm ski jacket or snowsuit.

This wintry ensemble is then complemented with wool socks (preferably 70% or higher) and sturdy shoes that offer plenty of traction; mittens and a scarf; and a warm woollen cap. You will, perhaps, notice that wool is essential. For good reason. As noted on the website Iceland with Kids, wool is warm, breathable, stays warm when wet, and doesn’t absorb odours.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the streets in Reykjavík can be quite slippery. In late November, over two dozen residents visited the emergency room on account of icy conditions. Crampons may not be a bad idea for young children. If you plan on hiking in the countryside we recommend visiting for updates on road conditions, weather warnings, and more.

There are plenty of warm winter clothes and accessories available in the city: 66 Norður and Ellingsen, for example.

Rescue Teams Search for Teenager in River

extreme weather Iceland

A teenage boy fell into a river in North Iceland last night while helping a farmer restart electricity on the farm, RÚV reports. The boy, whose age has not been made public, was carried away by the stream and remains missing. The farmer managed to stay clear of the wave of slush that pulled the boy into the water. Extreme weather has been causing power outages across Iceland over the past two days.

The river in question is Núpá, located in Eyjafjörður, South of Akureyri. Superintendent of Northeast Iceland Police Jóhannes Sigfússon says the police were notified of the accident around 10.00pm last night.

Carried away by a wave

“There’s a home power station there and a reservoir and a dam which they were working to clear slush from the intake. They stood there up on the wall and one of them managed to escape from the wave but not the other and [he] landed in the river which took him with it.”

Search and rescue forces and police were then notified of the incident. All teams in the area attending to various weather-related calls were then sent to look for the boy. Travel was difficult, as roads to the farm were impassable. So far, the search has not been successful.

Weather remains harsh

More than 40 individuals were on call that night, including a ten-member group specialised in water rescue, divers from capital area firefighting crews, and police special forces. Further assistance has been called to the scene, and 20-25 others are on their way from Blönduós and Reykjavík to assist with the search. Conditions at the scene are extremely difficult.

“The weather has just remained very similar,” Jóhannes says. “It’s slightly windy weather and freezing so there’s high wind chill and hard to work for many hours under those conditions as people cool down. Then of course there is darkness, winter darkness here now, and in addition to that there’s slush in the river which makes it even more difficult.”

56% in Favour of Moving the Clock Back

moon over Esja mountain

Approximately 1,600 people submitted opinions on whether the government should move the clock back one hour to better align with solar time, RÚV reports. The government solicited opinions from residents in January of this year. 

Direct Democracy

On the website Samráðsgátt (Consultation Gateway), which the government launched in 2018, Icelanders are encouraged to comment on various parliamentary bills and policy drafts, the idea being to increase transparency and to allow citizens to participate in democracy directly.  

Few issues have garnered as much feedback as whether the Icelandic clock should be moved back one hour to better align with solar time. Iceland currently observes Greenwich Mean Time, which is a time zone to the west of its “correct” geographical time zone.

A recent summary published by the government offices states that 1,586 individuals expressed their opinion on the matter, suggesting that the issue is of some importance to residents. “Many of the opinions that were submitted were detailed and well corroborated; it’s clear that many residents spent a good deal of time submitting quality opinions.”

Participants were given three options:

  1. Keep the clock unchanged, but educate residents on the importance of retiring to bed earlier.
  2. Move the clock back one hour, to better align with solar time.
  3. Keep the clock unchanged, but encourage schools and companies to begin their operations later in the morning.

56% in Favour

37% of participants preferred not changing the clock. 56% favoured moving the clock back one hour. 4% wanted schools and companies to begin operations later in the morning. 3% were undecided. 

Most of the participants who favoured moving the clock back pointed to scientific research that has shown that the alignment of solar and clock time is conducive to better health. The upsides to the change would greatly outweigh the downsides, many argued, especially as regards the health of children and teenagers, whether physical or mental. 

Those opposed to the change referred to a report by the Ministry of Health that indicated, among other things, that sunlight hours between 07:00 and 23:00 in Iceland would decrease by 13% annually if the clock was pushed back one hour. The delay would mean less sunlight later in the day, which would increase the risk of accidents and result in residents being less active later in the day. Still others noted that an increased discrepancy between Icelandic time and European time would negatively impact commerce.

Some detractors also maintained that moving the clock back would have little impact on the sleep habits  of residents, as the modern lifestyle – lighting, screentime, smartphones, etc. – was the main reason for insufficient sleep.

The Offices of the Prime Minister are currently reviewing the results and hope to reach a decision next spring. 

A Brief History of Icelandic Time

As noted in an article on Iceland Review earlier this year, current clock time in Iceland originates with legislation that was passed in 1968 in which Iceland adopted “summertime,” or Greenwich Mean Time, the whole year-round. Prior to 1968, the Icelandic clock was changed twice a year:

“Under this new arrangement, noon in Iceland was delayed by an hour (from 12:30 to 13:30). According to a memorandum that accompanied the legislation, the twice-yearly moving of the clock was a hassle. It caused ‘confusion’ in airline schedules; necessitated the ‘resetting of clocking-in machines;’ ‘disturbed the sleep habits of individuals, and especially infants;’ and, more importantly, perhaps, given that darkness was a non-issue during summer (the sun doesn’t set from mid-June to mid-July) most Icelanders favoured brighter winter evenings – as opposed to brighter mornings.”

As previously noted, Iceland currently observes Greenwich Mean Time, which is a time zone to the west of its “correct” geographical time zone. This discrepancy between solar time and clock time may have adverse health effects. A report commissioned by the Ministry of Health states that individuals residing in the westernmost area of a given time zone go to sleep later and sleep less than individuals residing more easterly, where the sun rises earlier. The report notes that on average Icelanders go to sleep later than citizens in neighbouring countries, and Icelandic teenagers sleep less than their European counterparts:

“It’s possible that insufficient sleep may be leading to higher dropout rates among Icelandic high-school students. Research has shown a correlation between circadian misalignment and an increased likelihood of depression in teenagers and young adults.”