Children’s Chiropractic Centre Blog

3 Benefits On Why Your Child Should Play Barefoot

Posted by Dr Amanda Watson on 16-Nov-2020 16:44:42

The Benefits Of Playing Barefoot

Remember back in the day when you were playing outside barefoot as a child? Can you remember how it felt when you were connecting with the earth?

Do you remember the feeling of the sand submerging your feet, the tickling of the grass blades or the soft gooey mud squelching between your toes?

How did that make you feel...happy? calm? connected? If it did... you'd be happy to know there is lots of scientific evidence supporting this to be true! (A great reason to kick those shoes off).

Here are some benefits and tips to help you and your child get back to basics and go play barefoot or as they say 'earthing'. 

1. It’s good for little feet! 

There is so much strengthening and aligning to be done with little feet over the first several years of life. Barefoot play enables optimal activation of all the little muscles, ligaments and nerves in a child’s feet. There are so many tiny structures in a child’s foot and the more stimulation the foot, ankle, knee and leg receive in the early months and years of walking the greater these areas are to strength and work at their best. Arches, bone and muscle strength, ligament flexibility and stability all increase as a result of the use of feet without shoes or ridge supports on. It helps support your child's feet in avoiding developing flat feet. 

The comfort of our own homes is the perfect place to maximise barefoot time. Carpet, tiles, floorboards, climbing furniture  are great indoor surfaces to explore. Outside is even better to go barefoot. Grass, gravel, decking, sandpit, cement, dirt - so many options of barefoot play and brain stimulation! If there’s bindi’s or my kids don’t want to get wet feet at times then gumboots are by the door however their use is very minimal. 

2. It’s good for little brains!

Little brains develop based on input - and going barefoot ramps up the quality and quantity of input to all areas of the brain, driving optimal development. Being able to properly feel our environment through our feet helps develop appropriate spatial awareness and therefore safe body control/movement, optimal balance, postural stability and coordination. The greater the amount of time barefoot combined with a wide variety of surfaces enhances the input to the brain supporting a child’s development throughout childhood. 

3. It’s good for little bodies!

Planting little feet on the Earth without anything in between allows little bodies to soak up all those delicious negative ions on offer. Earthing or grounding is an effective tool to support nervous system regulation by increasing the ‘calm rest and digest’ part of our system (parasympathetic nervous system). Good for shifting a bad mood, a ‘wound up’ child (or mum!) or to increase the feel good vibes, going barefoot is an incredible tool to have in the self-regulation toolkit. Bonus points if it’s on the sand by the ocean or large body of water.


3 Tips Going Barefoot Beyond The Home

Most kids prefer to be barefoot. I know a lot of mums struggle to get and keep shoes on their child's feet (however at times this is due to a persistent plantar grasp reflex). With this in mind, I have 3 tips for allowing barefoot play beyond the home:

1. Scouting out the location!
Wherever you’re planning on playing barefoot before the kids go outside, make sure you scout the location for any potential hazards or sharp objects. This will help give you piece of mind about the potential for injury to little feet.

2. Do a mini tour of the location and point out ‘sharp’ or ‘spiky’ objects!
Even little toddlers can understand these concepts, and if shown what to avoid, are likely to watch out as they’re playing, or naturally avoid certain areas.

3. Surrender to trusting your child is safe!
All that is left to do is for you surrender to trusting that your child is safe, that they will ask for help, or will learn from their experiences if something hurts them during play (little brains learn super quickly!).

Supporting your child with the right shoes

Not all situations will allow for safe barefoot play. Here at Australian Children's Chiropractic Centre we highly recommend when wearing shoes, you ensure they still allow the natural movement and flex of their developing feet.

The three shoe brands we love and recommend are Vivobarefoot, Attipas and Old Soles.

Follow the link here to our Instagram to see a video of Dr Jacey explaining this in more detail. 


What if my child has had little to no barefoot play?

If you feel your child has little barefoot play and it is effecting their development or perhaps you have noticed they have flat feet. There is lots of little ways to help Improve foot strength and proprioception at anytime.

Some easy ways to do this with your child are:

  • Rolling the sole of the foot over a tennis ball, rolling pin, or spiky ball.
  • Picking up small objects with toes (in the bath is great to do this too!). Think LEGO, marbles, Ooshies (Yes, there can be a useful purpose for these things).
  • Scrunching fabric (t-shirt, silk pillowcase, calico/hessain fabric) along under the foot like a ‘hungry caterpillar’. 
  • Balance and wobble boards are brilliant for strong foot, ankle and low limb brain stimulation and resulting body control.

Do you have some questions about your child and how they move and use their body?

Learn more about your child's physical development, such as with their balance and proprioception. Follow the below link to book a free 15min phone call with Dr Amanda.

This is the perfect opportunity to ask any questions you have about your child's development and see how Chiropractic care may be the right fit for your family.

Book 15min consult with Dr Amanda  

Topics: parents, Australian Children's Chiropractic Centre, families, Toddlers, Physical Development, Preschool Children, barefoot

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