Barefoot Babies: Happier and Smarter?
Your little child took off their shoes and there you are again, denying them what is one of their most frequent fixations and also the bane of mothers. Still, science contends that your nightmare stifles children’s growth. But what does research say about barefoot babies?
We usually talk about three basic principles: freedom, happiness, and intelligence. In this sense, this controversial study that made its way around the world confounds the tendency to cover children’s feet from a young age, and debunks myths about colds, etiquette and physical issues.
The study is titled “Preventive Podiatry: Barefoot Babies Result in Smarter Children” and was conducted at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain. If babies feel comfortable and happy, and can explore and develop properly, why not leave them barefoot?
What Does Science Say?
“For babies, physical movement and sensory stimulation through their bare feet is an accelerating factor for the maturation of the child’s proprioceptive and intellectual development,” stated Isabel Gentil García at the beginning of the report.
Also, throughout the study, the sale and advertising of footwear for “pre-walkers” is criticized, in the same way that the excessive pediatric recommendation to keep shoes on babies is challenged, an act apparently necessary only for keeping their feet warm.
Gentil García warns that covering the child’s feet deprives them of all tactile information and the perception of their body’s position and movement in relation to space. According to the expert, barefoot babies’ motor skills mature faster, in addition to their visual and manual coordination.
Thus, through an interdisciplinary approach, they emphasize the importance of leaving babies barefoot and maintain that the feet represent a pathway which informs the baby about the outside world, through which they become familiar with different surfaces and textures.
The Role of Feet for these Barefoot Babies
In the field of neurology it is believed that babies’ feet are more sensitive to touch than their hands until they are ten months old, so during those first months of life, the feet carry out an essential function: for the baby to experiment and learn through tactile contact.
For this reason, the article published by the Madrid university strongly advocates for leaving babies barefoot. When shoes are put on them, they are deprived of useful perceptual information which can play a prominent role in their central nervous system.
According to Piaget’s stages of the development of intelligence, in the sensory-motor stage manipulation, movement, and the organization of sensory information are all important, since they provide the child’s first conceptualization of themselves, space, time, and causality.
For this reason, feet are considered preferred receptors which contribute to the development of the baby’s intelligence. This is a result of a complex interaction between their body and their environment as one of the most involved environmental factors is their knowledge of their own body.
In addition, barefoot babies who place their feet on all types of surfaces – even those that are irregular – have better muscular development, because they’re not bearing extra weight on their bodies and can move freely, which ensures more control of their body.
Benefits of Being Barefoot
All children love to walk around barefoot, as well as be naked, regardless of the consequences that this may cause for their health, which is their parent’s primary concern. However, this custom not only contributes to the child’s comfort but also offers many benefits:
- It increases their self-knowledge when they are able to see the movements of their toes, feel them, and smell their feet.
- It aids in the development of the arches of the feet, preventing flat feet.
- It facilitates and encourages walking as children.
- It provides sensory experiences to the little one.
- It prevents bacteria and sweat, which can cause fungus, calluses, and bad smells in the feet.
Barefoot Babies, Freer, Smarter, and Happier Children
Adults tend to feel nervous when they see barefoot babies, even though children love and prefer to go without all kinds of clothing. Precisely put, this study calms this concern by showing that these children are happier walking barefoot.
Research claims that barefoot babies have a deeper connection with their environment and perceive the world in a different way. At the same time, these children get to know their body in a different way the more they use it to sense their surroundings.
“At the starting point of children’s development of their intelligence they see no difference between themselves and the external world, it is all stored together in one chunk,” specialists say. But, as part of that “chunk,” the pre-walker must explore and directly feel textures as part of their learning.
And how about you? Did you how important it was to allow your child to stay barefoot? Knowing this information, will you set aside those beautiful shoes you were planning on them wearing at such a young age? What is your opinion on this scientific study?