“Aren’t those little shoes absolutely adorable?” are words all moms have uttered while shopping for clothes for their little ones. But does the adorable completion of an outfit outweigh the benefits of allowing our kiddies to rather play barefoot?
As cute as these teeny-weeny shoes are, it turns out that modern toddler shoes can interfere with early childhood development.
Walking barefoot can help develop muscles and ligaments in the foot and strengthen the foot’s arch. When toddlers walk barefoot, it also helps improve their proprioception, which is extremely beneficial for their motor development. Shoes can also affect posture and walking barefoot contributes to good posture.
Below we highlight a few benefits of encouraging children to have more shoe-free play time and to rather wear shoes only in public spaces, uncomfortable terrains, and on freezing winter mornings.
Feet development and growth
Footwear can slow the natural muscle strengthening that is required for arch development and foot function. Wearing closed-toe shoes is more likely to cause flat feet than sandals or walking barefoot might.
From the feet to the brain
The soles of the feet are rich in nerve endings and send sensory information to the brain. This sensory stimulation increases and strengthens proprioception, which is an essential skill for toddlers to master so that they understand how their bodies function and move within space related to them.
Bare feet encourage better walking posture
Walking barefoot allows the brain to learn how the feet’s normal movement works and in turn strengthens the neurological patterns.
Feet and endorphins
Feeling the earth on the soles of your feet and the grass between your toes releases endorphins, the happy hormones our bodies need to feel content. Once those feet and toes can play “free”, your little one’s senses are heightened, and they become more receptive to the environment around them.
Practical tips to promote more bare foot play
- kick off those cute shoes when you are at home
- splash in muddy puddles after the rain
- create a barefoot sensory path
- practice different kinds of animal walking styles when barefoot
- paint their toenails
Contributed by Carolise Miller of Clamber Club Toddlers – Lynnwood
Tel: 073 963 9975