When are children are born the bones in their feet have yet to fully develop. In fact, they are just balls of cartilage that as the age will grow into 28 distinct bones of the adult foot that will be the root of their bodies movement. Today, kids are put in shoes all to often and they are put in shoes that allow no movement or growth impeding their foot’s natural development. Improper footwear will alter the child’s natural gait and make it harder for the children to improve balance and learn how to walk, run, jump, and do other natural movements as the age. More and more parents today are putting children in cute shoes that offer no movement or bending in the sole whatsoever allowing for no movement in the forefoot. In order to prevent problems later on, we need to start being more aware of what footwear we are putting our kids in. Going barefoot more is one option that is easy to accomplish and the best way to promote a more natural development for your child’s foot.
Kids going barefoot is essential for the arch development. The critical period of the development of the arch occurs before the age of six. Walking outdoors offers natural messages to children’s feet as they walk on different sizes pebbles and uneven ground. The resistance and inconsistency nature offers integrates reflexes in the foot and forms strong arches. Going barefoot out in nature helps to develop normal gait patterns, balance, and tolerance of touch in the feet, all of which provide a strong foundation for confident and fluid movement. According to Katy Bowman, “Shoes alter human movement. Many of the ailments we suffer from, musculoskeletally speaking, are a result of our dependence on footwear and the strain on the ligaments and plantar fascia from decades of muscle atrophy. If you can start a kid off with a preference to minimal footwear it saves time and degeneration.”
Nervous to let your kids go barefoot? Try minimalist shoes instead so that the arches of the feet can still receive sensory input. A great, cheap option are water shoes. (Not a bad idea for you to try it too, because it is beneficial for everyone😃) Additionally, minimalist shoes are great to wear when you are not in the comfort of your own home and are worried that you kids will step on something sharp. Vivobarefoot offers some great toddler shoes starting at 18 months. What about shoes for kids that are not on 2 feet yet? Shoes then are basically just for warmth, but other than that they shouldn’t be wearing any. Crawling becomes more difficult to master when shoes are on. It is very important for children to master the art of crawling before walking because according to Tracey Byrne (a podiatrist specializing in podopaediatrics) “Crawling stimulates the brain to develop convergence of vision; people who skip this phase as babies may find it extremely difficult to learn to read and write as children. And in the case of children who crawl backwards to begin with, shoes can put extra pressure on the structures of the foot and leg.”
Here are some great books to learn more about it:
1.) Balanced and Barefoot, by Angela J. Hanscom
2.) Whole Body Barefoot, by Katy Bowman who you can follow on Instagram @nutritiousmovement and her website is www.nutritiousmovement.com
Kids today are growing up in a world of technology, and it is affecting their health. How you may ask? Well if you look around you can see it walking through the grocery store or mall. No one looks up anymore. No one speaks to one another. Everyone, adults included, are so involved with their phones or electronic devices! Unfortunately, not only are we increasing screen time, but we are seeing decreased play activity outdoors and lack of socialization. Now, we are hearing a lot more diagnoses of ADHD and autism. Scary stuff right? The American Medical Association guidelines recommend that children ages 3-18 should be getting no more than 2 hours/day of screen time! Today, children have way surpassed the recommendation and are spending most of their day, even at school now, in front of a screen. Who would of thought when we were growing up that there would come a time when kids not getting outside enough would ever be a topic of conversation? Kids are leading too structured lives with little to no time to be creative and imaginative outdoors. We need to make a change for our future, our kids future.
There is one simple answer to combat this activity deficiency, and that is to get not only our kids but ourselves outside more. There are many benefits to getting your children outside. Not only will it give them room to play without worrying about getting the house dirty or allow them to run around uninhibited, but it will provide these benefits as well:
- Improved Vision – research done by Optometry and Visionary Science reported that the more time children spent outdoors increased their ability to see distances compared to children that stayed primarily indoors.
- Promotes Social Skills – Kids learn to take turns, share, problem solving, and motivation.
- Increasing attention span – studies have shown that children with ADHD had far less symptoms when they were given the chance to play outdoors, and had more outdoor activity. The more active the child the less the ADHD symptoms appeared.
- Reduces Stress – I am sure you have all experienced the stress relief being outdoors gives us, especially after a long day at work. I always look forward to that first breath of fresh air and instant relaxation when I leave the office. One author states that some studies, “…also support the theory that green spaces might help restore children’s ability to focus their attention, thereby bolstering their cognitive resources by allowing neural inhibitory mechanisms to rest and recover from use.”
- Provides Vitamin D – although it is tough here in the Northeast, especially in the winter months. Any time outside spent in the sunlight helps your body naturally produce the Vitamin D it needs to function properly.
One thing you may be thinking is how do I pry my kids away from the screen? If you children see you being active, it is only natural for your children to follow. One way to deter screen time is to keep a basket of toys by the backdoor and every time they go to pick up their IPAD, watch television, play video games, or go on the computer take one of the activities out and head outdoors. 9 times out of 10 your children will follow because they want to hang out with you!
Another way to get the kids outdoors more would be to take them out of the house and to a local park. Some parks are great to play on the swingset, but others are great for Hiking! If you are looking to try out hiking for the first time try Cattus Island’s blue trail. It is a very simple hike and it gets you all outdoors! Allaire state park is also a great place to go and explore! Here is a list of local parks in the area and how close they are to our office:
- Wind Ward Beach Park – 3.5 miles
- Mantoloking Bridge County Park – 3.3 miles
- Cattus Island Park – 6.9 miles
- Silverton Park – 3.9 miles
- Castle Park – 6.6 miles
- Allaire State Park – 15 miles
You can also take the kids to the beach or boardwalk which is just a quick 10 minute ride from our office. Even during the winter months, it is always found to find treasures on the beach and make a game out of it! Let your kids use their imagination and grow outside of the classroom!
Do yourself and your child a favor, and get off those electronics and get some fresh air!