Teaching your children, the importance of the natural world is a key in forming positive early experiences. By encouraging them to help you with the gardening, going on long walks to explore the local wilderness, and engaging them in outdoor adventures like hiking and camping, you are helping leave a long-lasting impression that forms a positive connection between them and the planet.
Some parents are going one step further by encouraging barefoot living. A simple and cost-free way to foster a sensory connection between your child and nature, barefoot living is experiencing a boom in popularity. And here’s why.
The Health Benefits
Before we get to the nature side of things, barefoot living actually has many health benefits that aid the physical development of young toddlers. Barefoot living has proved to reduce the chances of flat feet whilst also improving motor skills like balancing and jumping, preventing injuries and building neural connections that help with orientation and spatial awareness.
Walking outdoors without shoes exposes children’s feet to uneven surfaces, awkwardly shaped pebbles and different textures, all of which aid a strong and fluid gait.
Of course, inviting your child to play barefoot throws up a greater risk of injury. Start by playing barefoot at home, making sure to move any stray pieces of Lego, toys or obstacles out of the way before.
Once your child is comfortable with being barefoot at home, take them to the garden after you’ve checked for hazardous or sharp objects, harmful chemicals or any gardening tools that might be lying around. Keep an eye on them whilst they play for the first few and then let them explore at their will.
Go Hiking Sans Shoes
Introduce your child to an abundance of different natural landscapes whilst on a nature trail. On such a trail, they can experience anything from grass, moss and leaves to sticks, stones and mud. Of course, it’s a good idea to take some shoes in case the terrain gets tricky or even dangerous, so don’t forget their barefoot shoes so they can still experience the nature whilst also staying safe.
Addressing The Criticisms Surrounding Barefoot Living
Due to some parents being somewhat overprotective about their children’s health and safety, barefoot living has attracted a lot of criticism.
A common concern is that children can pick up illnesses from all the bacteria, germs and dirt that lies on the ground. However, children are much more likely to pick up infections at school around other young children or whenever they put their fingers in their mouth. In fact, barefoot living strengthens the skin’s barrier against bacteria, making it a great way to help them build a sturdy immune system.