Don't go barefoot! How many times have we tried to get our children to put on their slippers and not run around the house barefoot? Faced with our concern that children catch a cold if they walk barefoot, the children's fondness to remove their shoes.
And in this case our children are right. Footwear limits your possibilities and capabilities, while to walk without shoes presents many benefits for them on a physical and emotional level. It is not about taking them to school barefoot or going to play in the park without shoes, but at home, on the beach or in a garden, going barefoot can benefit them.
From an evolutionary point of view, footwear is an impediment to the development of the foot and its functions. It is clear that children need footwear to protect themselves from the cold and avoid injuries and abrasions on the foot. And it is true that we no longer live in the age of caves. But there is something instinctive in that children's tendency to go barefoot.
Parents are reluctant to allow children to walk barefoot, but the truth is that it is a gesture that favors the formation of the arch of the foot in younger children, thus avoiding problems such as flat feet. If, in addition to walking barefoot, the child performs exercises walking on the toes and on the heel alternately, the development of the foot will be strengthened.
Going barefoot also has benefits over the muscle development in the foot and ankle area. In this way the child will be more protected against the typical injuries derived from children's sports or games such as sprains or strains. As long as we have controlled the surface on which they walk barefoot, taking off their shoes is a gesture of health for any child.
There are also many emotional benefits of going barefoot, the main one being that feeling of freedom that they experience as soon as they take off their shoes. Actually, footwear imprisons the foot and women who wear heels are well aware of that liberating feeling of taking off their shoes. It is the same with children.
Walking barefoot on the beach or in a garden also helps to develop the senses of the child, who is capable of discovering more sensitive experiences with his feet in direct contact with nature. We cannot suppress the tactile sensitivity of children's feet, wearing them all the time. When stepping on the grass or another type of surface, the children will be testing sensations of temperature, textures, etc., which favor their psychomotor development. It is important that the child's foot is in contact with uneven surfaces so that kinesthetic sensations and postural and balance reflexes are stimulated.
It's not about banishing footwear from the children's closet, because they obviously need them. But we can forget about certain prejudices and attend to the true needs that are dictated by the body itself.
According to the practical guide for parents of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP), the feet of babies have a fat on the sole, which little by little disappears to form the arch or bridge of the foot. And it is from this moment around 18 months, when experts advise to start putting children on.
As for how footwear should be, the AEP gives us 6 important tips:
- that it is a shoe that leaves the movement of the ankle free. Fixing this part of the child's leg will not give him more stability, and will hurt him.
- that it is a shoe that does not squeeze the child's foot. It is not about imprisoning the foot. The back of the shoe should NOT be too hard or rigid.
- that the sole of the footwear is flexible and non-slip, with a thickness of between 3 and 5 mm. For the child's foot to have freedom of movement, the front part of the shoe must be able to be bent easily with the hands.
- that the toe of the shoe is round and wide to allow the fingers to move inside.
- That the footwear is made of a natural material such as leather or leather, if possible, since it allows the feet to breathe better, and that they do not smell bad.
- that its closure is with velcro so that it is easier for children to learn to put it on or take it off.
IMPORTANT: the use of rubber or plastic sandals, flip-flops, clogs or other fashionable footwear is not recommended, since they do not offer support to the child's foot or safety.
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