Lose the Shoes
How children can benefit from barefoot learning
Children love going barefoot and there's a reason why – it's good for them. While it can be a worry for adults with regards to risk of injury and concern over what others might think, research shows that it's beneficial for young children's development and wellbeing.
Instead of doing daily battle with children who keep wanting to take their shoes off, why not ditch the footwear and embrace barefoot learning. Here's a closer look at why it's beneficial, and a few tips for how to safely manage no shoes.
The science behind barefoot learning
There are many scientific reasons for children to go barefoot for much of their day:
Development of the brain and nervous system The feet are the most nerve-rich parts of the human body, which means they contribute to the building of neurological pathways in the brain. Covering them in shoes hinders all kinds of opportunities for children's brains to grow neural connections.
Allows the correct growth of feet Many podiatrists claim that shoes can be much more harmful to little feet than nakedness can. Feet should be allowed to develop naturally, not conform to the shape of a shoe.
Aids in walking and balance Shoes can constrict foot movement and negatively impact walking, balance, sensory development, and proprioception (the understanding of our body's orientation in the space around us). Walking barefoot can also help children develop a natural, healthy, gait. Strengthens the feet and body When barefoot, we grip the ground more easily using the muscles of our feet and toes, strengthening them and reducing the risk of trips and falls. Walking barefoot allows us to maintain the full function of our feet.
Improves safety Walking barefoot teaches children to assess a situation and adapt to it. If there is a rocky surface, children quickly learn to slow their pace and seek the most stable surface. When barefoot, children tend to step with less force and are more likely to notice if they are putting their feet on something sharp, therefore avoiding an injury. Research also suggests children who go barefoot tend to be less clumsy.
Provides direct connection to the natural environment Not wearing shoes allows us to blow off steam, relax, and reawaken the senses. Research also tells us that children thrive in the outdoors and natural environments, so not having shoes as a barrier between our feet and the natural world increases the health promoting effects of spending time in nature for social and emotional wellbeing.
Other practical benefits of removing shoes
In addition to aiding growth and development, being primarily barefoot when in care can have other advantages: Shoes are less dirty No more taking home piles of sand and dirt in their footwear, wet shoes from toilet training accidents, water play, or marks and playdough from craft and other activities. Simply wash their feet!
battles With some children it's impossible to keep their shoes on, so if they're able to be barefoot for the majority of the day it will make your job easier and the child less distressed. Potentially fewer injuries Walking barefoot allows children to be more balanced and less likely to trip over surfaces or their shoelaces.