Five reasons why it’s good for children to take their shoes off
Sand between your toes, a warm path on a sunny day, prickly grass, cool water, squelchy mud —What experiences are we denying children when we insist that they “keep their shoes on”? Here are five good reasons to lose the shoes.
1. Neural pathways and sensory information
Children’s brains are developing — being barefoot provides opportunity for sensory input — which in turn helps stimulate neural or sensory pathways which are important for the development of motor skills, and for the development of proprioception (which is the unconscious capacity to understand where the body is in space and where/how it needs to move). When children wear shoes all the time — and particularly when they are playing — they are receiving less stimuli to their feet — and therefore less information to the brain. They need this sensory input to help them balance and to help further develop their gross motor skills and their understanding of their environment.
2. Building healthy muscles in feet and toes
When children walk barefoot, they are exercising their muscles and using their feet in a different way from when their feet are protected and enclosed by shoes. Without shoes, children are using their toes to grip more carefully and also supports the development of a greater sense of balance. Falls are reduced when children develop these skills.
It also increases flexibility in the feet and helps give children a wider range of motion.
3. Increases an awareness of safety
As children go barefoot — they are developing a greater understanding of rough or uneven surfaces, of different levels, — which in turn helps them develop a deeper understanding of the world around them. This actually leads to pre planning and safer ways of moving.
4. Skin hygiene
Fresh air helps feet to ‘breathe’. Feet usually only start to smell after being closed up in shoes for a while.
5. It feels good — helps emotional regulation and can be soothing and calming
In a world where many children are less and less connected with nature — it is important to ensure we make time for them to literally feel the earth beneath their feet. This sensory input and connection with the earth helps foster an affinity for the natural environment as well as stimulating a lot of the “feel good” senses.
So why not head outside with your child today and lose the shoes? — it’ll do you both the world of good.