Connecting with the world through our feet
The foot is the foundation of our body. It is a complex structure of 26 bones and 35 joints, with ligaments and muscles crisscrossing to support and hold it together.
This little piggy went to market, this little piggy went barefoot!
Behind their tough exterior, feet are extremely sensitive and naturally wired to our brain. By giving children lots of opportunities to play and explore with bare feet, on a variety of ground covers – soft, hard, squishy, uneven, bumpy – as they run, jump, walk, crawl, skip or balance, they all work to connect your child with the ground.
Your baby’s foot, padded with fat, is highly flexible, usually flat-footed and may turn inwards. As your baby learns to walk their foot muscles, ligaments and bones start to develop and strengthen.
Walking barefoot is what will help these important systems in the body develop to their fullest. Being able to tune into your body and connect with your mind, being aware of the position and movement of your body simultaneously helps your little one move properly from the inside to the outside of their body.
The sensory feast of going barefoot
Even the simple act of playing in the backyard with bare feet can be a sensory feast for your child. The feeling of cool prickly grass in the shade, the warm soft grass in the sun, the gritty concrete path, the stones that prick their toes, expanding and bending their toes to grip to run faster.
All this sensory information about the body and their environment would be missed with shoes.
In the words of Maggie Dent, Australia’s favourite parenting author, educator and our “queen of common sense”:
There is so much going on in our babies’ and toddlers’ feet that actually help them develop physically, emotionally and even psychologically.
Let’s look at how simply losing the shoes during your child’s day can play a significant role in their development, and how it teaches them so much about themselves and their environment.
The benefits of going barefoot
Barefoot for physical development
As your child learns to walk in bare feet, their brain also learns the normal pattern of movement. How the muscles shorten and lengthen, how the joints adjust and move. All these movements work to strengthen the foot muscles and ligaments, while ensuring the complete function and development of the feet and body.
Uninhibited by shoes, they continue to develop the complete range of movement in the foot and ankle joints. Strong feet and legs will aid their stability (preventing falls) and will further support their hips and back, improving their posture and body growth.
Barefoot for motor development
When your child has more control of their feet, their movement during play and running boosts their balance system. A good sense of balance enables your child to climb and pivot on different surfaces, trying to adjust to changing environments below their feet. Each movement becomes more stable, so skipping, running, climbing and jumping are safer.
When balancing on stepping stones with bare feet, your child will learn exactly where to place their foot and toes on each stone, to not only balance on the stone safely, but also so it does not hurt their feet.
A well-formed balance system is great for your child’s posture. It also improves their supporting centres for spatial awareness, eye movements, and even their executive sense of time.
Barefoot for emotional development
As your child’s feet feel, move and balance on the surface they are exploring, the brain registers this tactile and sensory input. Being aware of their environment, the ground and their spatial awareness allows your child to move freely throughout it. Stimulating and building healthy brains working at optimal levels.
Going barefoot provides a quantity of information for your child to process, utilising the many dimensions of attention and further improving their concentration.
For example, as your child climbs a tree barefoot, they focus their attention on adjusting their feet and curling their toes around the trunk, giving them the support they need to hoist their body. Walking along a sandy beach with bare feet, allows your child to balance on the soft, uneven sand. Your child’s attention is also drawn towards the feel the sand – hard or soft, hot or cold, wet or dry – between their toes.
Going barefoot provides the foundation for brain development responsible for emotional control, social skills, language development, and confidence. The better the foundations laid in their early years, the stronger their brain will develop.
Going barefoot and the Reggio Emilia approach
The Reggio Emilia Approach is an early childhood education approach and one that Grace Village subscribes to. It is based on valuing your child as a strong, capable, and resilient person, rich with wonder and knowledge. This philosophy emphasises a hands-on discovery learning that allows your child to use all their senses to learn.
We believe playing in bare feet enriches your child’s opportunity to immerse themselves in activities as they connect more closely with the environment.
At Grace Village, we also subscribe to a barefoot play policy to enhance your children’s discovery and exploration of our world!
Learn more about Play-Based Learning at Grace Village
Grace Village’s barefoot policy
To support our Reggio Emilia Approach, Grace Village has implemented a ‘no shoes’ policy in all our indoor spaces.
We believe there is a place for shoes in your child’s everyday life, but if you intentionally ensure they spend time without shoes, you are creating ample opportunities to expand and enhance their development.
No shoes are worn into the Tiny Humans rooms so that your child can explore and play on the floor. For peace of mind, knowing that it is a clean, safe place to crawl and move around, everyone must remove their shoes before entering.
Children are given the opportunity to play inside and outside barefoot with both play spaces fitted with the highest quality synthetic grass to provide a cushiony place to land for those we are still unsteady on their feet, and a safe place to play for those of us who are just learning to crawl and walk!
Gumboots are used outside and depending on the play experience and if it is safe, each child has the choice to remove their gumboots or are encouraged by the educator.
Come see for yourself, how fun it is to play in bare feet at Grace Village!
The simple practice of allowing your children to play in bare feet can be so beneficial for them. So, lose the shoes and let the thousands of nerves in our feet provide an amazing sensory experience for everyone, not just our children!
Learn more about our barefoot policy on your own personal tour
Join our Centre Director for a 30 minute guided tour of Grace Village Early Learning