I recently visited a fellow blogger's site and enjoyed the pictures she had posted of children playing barefoot in her child care program.
As a Early Childhood Professional who's worked in this field for eighteen years, I contemplated the most popular rule in schools and childcare centres... shoes must be worn at all times. Why? Fire regulations? The possibility of hurting one's foot? At what point do rules such as these take away from a child's sensory exploration of their world? Moreover, at what cost to a child's development do we impose such rules?
Upon searching for the article that the previously mentioned blogger cited, I came across an interesting article that proclaimed that barefoot is best for children. The claims made in the article are based mostly on the physical ramifications of wearing shoes at too young of an age. However, there is the sensory side of going barefoot. The freedom and to feel the earth beneath you is a grounding experience. In addition, to decipher feelings and textures with one's feet is a unique experience in and of itself.
Just think of all the activities that are done barefoot... martial arts, yoga, swimming, walking on a beach, gymnastics, balancing on a beam, dancing, and the list goes on and on. Imagine forcing someone to wear a pair of shoes while doing these activities. The activity itself wouldn't be as enjoyable would it? So why do we force our children to wear socks and/or shoes when they don't really have to?
What about the other senses? A couple days ago my daughter was making "cookies" with her homemade play dough. I suddenly realized that she was really eating pieces of the "cookies" that she had made. My instinct? I told her to stop. Why? Wouldn't it be best for her to realize that it's not the tastiest thing available? Couldn't one argue that she's learning something about the play dough by tasting it?
Infants and toddlers are especially sensory beings. It's up to us to make sure that they get the opportunity to use their senses rather than stifle them! Isn't this why we buy the non-toxic crayons, we make our own play dough, and we make goop out of cornstarch and water?
What are we teaching our children about the world when we impose so many rules and restrictions? Do you let your children play in mud, splash in puddles, play with insects, and climb trees?
Overprotective care within the parameters of parenting, schooling and child care seems to be escalating. I'm not saying to let children play on the highways but what harm could really come of playing barefoot in the backyard or eating a little dirt?