Parents spend their time making sure the little ones are tightly and safely wrapped up in their clothes and gear. But sometimes, as soon as backs are turned, off go the jackets and shoes — and off go the children, too.
Socks and shoes feel like a jail cell to little feet that like to jump, skip and pounce on unsuspecting siblings and every puddle, jungle gym and patch of grass they see. Uncovered toes have more freedom to move and grip and dig in the soil, but it’s kind of like going barefoot on the beach — you have to watch where you step.
You may think that the days of children going barefoot to explore are over, but they don’t have to be. Here are four reasons to let your kids go barefoot this summer:
- Barefoot Fun Encourages Healthy and Strong Feet
Freeing your children’s feet from shoes for a little barefoot play will help them build more strength in their legs and feet. Supervise, but let your kids climb and explore with their bare feet.
Their body awareness will develop. As kids understand of their body and corresponding movements, they’re less likely to fall. Think of it like rock climbing: It helps climbers to be aware of the relationship between parts of their body and the flexibility and strength needed to move those parts from place to place so they too don’t fall. Your little one can develop a similar sense of balance.
- A Few Scrapes Develop the Immune System
In modernized countries with plumbing and colder climates, pathogens and parasites are less likely to enter the body through the foot. Kids and parents have to worry about ticks and mosquitoes more than anything else. Unfortunately, shoes can provide the perfect environment to trap moisture, fungus and bacteria — all of which are trapped to rub along your feet.
In the summer, it may be safer for your child’s feet to brave the elements. It’s okay if they scrape their knee or get a splinter in their finger, and the same thing will likely happen to their feet at some point.
A few scrapes will develop the immune system, as your skin is on the front lines of defense and acts like a “plastic wrap” to seal off infection. Saliva and mucous membranes serve similar roles in the body, and the immune system builds through healthy exposure to germs.
- Being Barefoot in Nature Relieves Stress
With increased testing in schools and demands on their time, kids are stressed these days. When do they have time to play? Do they play at all?
Feeling their toes in the grass is a wonderful way for children to feel connected to the world at large. This type of interconnectedness reminds them that the world is a big place, and that worries pass and beauty and joy is abundant. A barefoot connection to nature will help to relieve the stress in your child’s life, because green spaces are calming to kids through multi-sensory engagement.
Respect for vital life and physical activity increase in these environments, as children use their five senses to engage with the planet. Being barefoot heightens this feeling.
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- Barefoot Fun is a Great Family Bonding Activity
When was the last time you kicked off your shoes and had some fun with your kids? Chances are the last time those shoes got kicked off was at the end of a long day, and you only wanted to let your face meet a pillow. It’s understandable, but showing your kids that you’re not afraid to let your inner child out to play barefoot in the dirt encourages their spontaneity and creativity.
Playing barefoot together also encourages them to open up to you more on multiple levels. Plus, you don’t always have to worry about cutting your heel on a broken bottle on a playground — go indoor climbing or swimming in the river. There are many activities that can be done safely while barefoot as a family.
Barefoot fun is a great way for children to develop their senses, relieve stress and increase levels of physical activity to boost their immune systems. Toes can and should stretch and bend to become hyperaware of the surrounding environment.
Children will also develop a deeper connection and appreciation with nature by going barefoot. If parents take the time to kick off their shoes and dig their toes in the soil, too, it becomes a wonderful time for the family to bond.