The benefits of going barefoot are many. In fact, it is the natural and healthy thing for the foot.
You may have already heard or read about it, but in recent years research is increasingly showing that the benefits are not only physical but also brain and cognitive. So it’s worth paying more attention to this topic, right?
In this article I would like to briefly review the many benefits of going barefoot, but above all to give you ideas to favor contexts and ways to make this possible, both at home and at school, always doing it with respect for your own decisions. of the child.
BENEFITS OF WALKING BARE FOR CHILDREN
1. Helps to restore the body’s natural energy balance : When our skin directly touches the natural surfaces of the earth, negative electrons from the earth are absorbed by our body. This compensates for the large mass of positive electrons that we absorb every day, due to all the electrical connections that surround us. Therefore, going barefoot on natural surfaces helps us regain our natural balance.
If you are interested in this topic, type “grounding” in google and you will find a lot of information.
2. Promotes optimal brain development : The feet have many nerve endings, in fact, in the first 8 months they even have greater tactile sensitivity than the hands. That is why playing with the feet and encouraging them to go barefoot allows the maturation of the nervous system, stimulating the myelination of dendrites and ultimately favoring intellectual development.
If you are interested in the subject, here you have a link to the study “Preventive podiatry: barefoot children equal more intelligent children”, by Isabel Gentil García.
3. Stimulates the nervous system and develops a sense of body awareness : Our feet have a lot of nerve endings and pressure points that transmit information to the body, allowing the child to know where his body is in space and how to move safely in he.
When we put shoes on children, the sensory information that the child receives from their own body and from the environment is reduced.
4. Strengthens joints and muscles and improves posture : Going barefoot helps to strengthen the joints and muscles of the feet, which results in better posture and balance for children.
The fact that they receive a lot of information about the ground through their feet means that children do not have to constantly go with their heads down and, therefore, their posture is more appropriate for a longer time.
5. Develops a healthy gait and prevents injuries : If the feet are enclosed in inappropriate shoes for too long, the correct development of the foot is impeded and the toes cannot extend freely. On the other hand, going barefoot strengthens the feet, the lower part of the legs, the ankles … The knees bend more to cushion each step better … In this way the body is more agile and less prone to injuries.
6. Develops the senses and favors a greater connection with nature and the environment : Going barefoot helps to better understand the environment and be more aware of it. How does the floor feel? What do you notice when stepping on dry leaves? And the tender grass? Are there nice soft rocks and others that are annoying? Going barefoot activates all the senses and makes children pay attention to the surrounding circumstances, evaluating it and adapting to it.
7. Promotes a direct connection with the natural world
Walking barefoot provides a direct connection to the natural world that children are going through. This not only awakens the senses, as we saw in the previous section, but also promotes a greater affinity for nature, the connection with it … Which is not only good for the feet of the little ones but also for their own emotional health.
HOWEVER, THE CHILDREN JUST GO BARE FOOT
Despite having this knowledge, do we allow children to play barefoot? The reality is that we provide very little for them that direct contact with the earth and other surfaces. And, on the other hand, in other situations we force them to do so, as if after putting shoes on them at all hours they should all be enthusiastic about taking off their shoes.
The key to everything is to favor contexts, situations and, from there, respect what the child freely expresses and decides.
Throughout this article I will try to explain my position in a little more detail.
WHY NOT FORCES THEM TO GO BARE?
Some time ago, after a workshop, a mother told me about the school she took her children to and what the playground was like. He told me that barefoot was mandatory in the sandbox because he wanted to promote precisely that sensoriality. I understand that the substance of this rule has good intentions, but it generates many doubts in me. What about children who do not want to take off their shoes? Should they choose between not playing in the sandbox or feeling uncomfortable about having to go barefoot?
As I already told you in the article about respecting the sensory and tactile system of children, we must respect the threshold of sensoriality that each child has. Forcing them to do what they do not want or are not prepared for can lead to overstimulation for that child.
We have to think that each little one knows what he needs. The sensations in the own body are very personal and must be respected and cared for. So it seems fundamental to me, as I was saying, to favor the context, the situation so that they take off their shoes, but without forcing or establishing it as a norm.
But how to favor these situations at home and at school?
HOW TO MAKE IT EASY FOR CHILDREN TO GO BARE FOOT AT SCHOOL
Shortly after I was told about this school in which it was mandatory to take off shoes in the sandbox, I was talking to Marta Secall, the director of a beautiful municipal nursery school (0-3), the Xiquets i Xiquetes de Valls school, which has a space Amazing exterior, a very well thought out and cared for garden. And he told me that they had decided to make it possible for children to take off their shoes in and out of the “classrooms”. I thought that his experience was very interesting so I asked him if he wanted to share it with all of us and this is what he has told us:
We have always experienced the need that a boy or girl has to take off their shoes at school. It is not a new situation, but a reality. It is a demand that children make on us and that adults do not stop to listen. Perhaps because we do not know how to organize the space where to leave the shoes? In the middle to families? Because of the work that can involve controlling children who go barefoot?
But that reality lives on at school: boys and girls ask us to take off our shoes. So as a team we decided to respond to that demand. How?
1. Transmitting that need to go barefoot to families : we talk with the family of each child who asks us to take off their shoes and go barefoot through the classrooms, the garden … We do it individually and naturally, because that is the fact, Going barefoot is very natural.
2. We propose a new organization : Based on the response of the families, which is very good, all you need is a good organization of the team, have the space planned and prepared so that the children can put on and take off their socks and shoes comfortably and a space where to place them (boxes, baskets, shelves …).
In the image above you can see where the children place their socks and in the image below how the corner is prepared to take off their shoes and leave the shoes in the basket. Both photographs are from the EBM Xiquets i xiquetes, from Valls.
3. We work with a new perspective : As a team, we are not left alone with the decision that we have made together with the families or with the organization that it implies, but we stop before the children with a new perspective. New questions, new game situations, travel …
The conclusion after many days of observing is that for us the fact that children go barefoot is not a FASHION but a MUST . A need that not all children have . Many took off their socks and shoes by imitation, because it was a new situation, but when everything normalized, we naturally saw that not all children like to go barefoot , that not all of them feel comfortable without shoes.
This is one more moment of daily life, of respect, where they decide if they want to go, or not, barefoot .
As you can see in the image of the EBM Xiquets i Xiquetes de Valls, some go barefoot and others with shoes. Each child freely decides what feels best for himself.
HOW TO ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO GO BARE AT HOME OR WITH FAMILIES
From the hand of Marta we have been able to see how it is possible to facilitate in school that children take off their shoes, if they want, and how to favor and respect …
How can we accompany that need from the families?
1. Start inside the home . Lots of children take off their shoes just when they enter the house. In fact, it is usually a “struggle” for many families to get them to put on slippers… We tried it in winter until we realized that it was very uncomfortable for him to put something on his feet, so we opted to have thick socks and slip resistant the coldest months and that’s it.
2. Progressively take off your shoes outside : For children who are not used to going barefoot outdoors, you can propose a new activity from time to time to do barefoot. Of course, as I try to convey throughout the article … always respecting their decisions.
But sometimes, for example, it is difficult for them to climb a tree and we do not even fall because footwear makes it very difficult. This was taught to me by my favorite Star, who always took off his shoes (and continues to do so) to climb a tree. And the truth is that being able to use all the joints of the foot helps a lot to climb and climb the trees.
Other simple proposals … walking barefoot on the sand (I often see children with sandals in the sea …), on the grass … If they don’t want to, nothing happens, that’s fine. It takes time to get used to new sensations … and also to strengthen the foot and the skin that protects it.
There is no rush or obligations, it is only about favoring occasions and contexts.
3. Encourage yourself to discover new textures . We live in a world so paved (and with parks so retreaded) that sometimes it is not easy to find a plurality of textures to tread … But everything is to look for or create them. In some Nordic parks there are what are called sensory paths, which are paths or paths in which you can try different natural materials with your feet.
It is an idea that can also be proposed at home or at school, without the need to do construction work, offering the materials in assorted containers, as in the image below.
4. Respect their feelings and decisions and start leading by example
And to finish, I want to insist once again on respecting the decisions of the little ones and the feelings they have without forgetting that the best way to transmit and “teach” children is by leading by example. Do we take off our shoes? We enjoy it?
WE PUT THE WORLD UNDER YOUR FEET?
Walking with bare feet has great long-term health benefits, as I mentioned at the beginning. However, many children do not need to know about these benefits or studies to be aware that going barefoot is much better. They do it instinctively, for pleasure, because they see that they are more agile without them … Let us allow them that rewarding experience and make it possible for everyone, whether they want to take their shoes off or not, feel respected in their decisions.
I am convinced that if we go out often to environments where going barefoot is possible… before long most of the children will discover that feeling the world under their feet is an unequaled sensation and that it helps them in the deployment of their abilities.
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