Barefoot play: the benefits of letting your child take their shoes off

I’ve been thinking lately about bare feet and how our children are often without shoes or socks. Made easier by the lovely warm weather we’ve had recently.

I know some parents worry about their child stepping on something and hurting themselves if they are without shoes. We’ve had our fair share of mighty splinter extractions but it has only ever been as bad as that. The likelihood of stepping on something sharp or dangerous is very much about common sense and assessing your child’s surroundings and giving your child the opportunity to do the same. Slinging off the shoes gives you the chance to talk about where the child is and the sort of surface they will encounter with bare feet. With this in mind, repeated barefoot experiences leads to your child doing this automatically therefore increasing self awareness and safety.

Babies and children can learn so much about their own bodies when they are barefooted. They have a greater sense of their surroundings as their feet can help to determine where their bodies are in their environment. There is so much sensory input available from walking without shoes across grass and removes the need to keep looking down to check where their little feet are heading. This in turn leads to less falls and loss of balance.

This direct connection to nature is so often barred by footwear so taking off shoes reestablishes closeness to the natural world. We all know the health benefits of being outdoors, within natural environments and for a child, taking that one step (pun intended) closer to nature is important. It can encourage a calmer, relaxed yet alert sense that is so vital to brain and body development. It taps in to physical, mental and social growth.

For more benefits of bare feet this is a good website.

As much as possible we allow our children to kick off their shoes when the mood is upon them once we’ve assessed the areas they are playing. I find that the major barrier is social acceptance and that many people link bare feet with poverty. Although they may not consciously make that the connection that is often the image that comes to mind. Adults are often worried or slightly horrified to see a child without shoes or socks when running about. As much as we can, we recognise this and make some statement about enjoying the freedom when we get funny looks or remarks.

Bare feet play is not just for children either. Adults receive all the same benefits and I love the summer for ease of no socks and sandals. My husband often frees his feet (actually at the library today…) and is a good role model to our children about assessing safety and enjoying freedom.

So as much as possible we say “yes” to shoes off and allowing our children to feel the ground under their feet.

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