If you're interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Whole Body Barefoot. If you'd like movement instruction via video, start with Schoolhouse Series Snacks: Your Toes and Calves.
This morning, I cut all the feet off of the Boy’s pajamas. I couldn’t take it anymore. He was already shoe and sock free most of the time, but every morning I had to watch him lose traction on the linoleum or falter when walking because the grip between the floor and his feetypajamas was too much.
I’m not a big crafty lady, but give me some scissors and a math equation and I’m there:
Feetypajamas - feety = pajamas.
If you have a kid, you’ve probably witnessed the way each finger moves in a slow-yet-definite manner when trying to pick up an object big or small. Kids are working hard to wire their muscles to their brain. To do this, they need full use of their sensory and motor nerves. Footie pajamas allow foot movement, but they completely minimize the ability for the foot skin to read the environment. This data, when collected, helps establish a relationship between the foot and every other body part that lasts a lifetime.
The feet have the same amount of motor potential as the hands, yet we don’t think much about slapping on a big fuzzy slipper when babies are learning their very first movements. This is why we all have the foot problems we do. This is also why my foot-writing is distinctively less impressive than my handwriting. And to be fair, my handwriting is not great.
In children, motor programs are being set every day and it is very (very) hard to undo the deepest (read: earliest) motor programs we acquire. If kids take their first steps in socks on a slippery floor, they’ll tense a bunch of extra muscles and that gets put into their “walking” mental file. If you want to try it, put on some fuzzy socks while on hard wood or check out how you tense various parts of your body when negotiating an icy part of your sidewalk. Bracing against slipping is a reflex. What you don’t want is a child to learn bracing and put it into their walking file. This overrides their natural reflex for gait development.
Even if your kid isn’t slipping about the place, putting a wrapper around one of the most sensitive parts of the human body has a nerve-deadening and muscle-atrophying effect. Would you put mittens on someone trying to learn the piano? Force a baby to wear gloves when they’re trying to pick up a tiny pea off of the floor to eat? Of course not. These seem ridiculous. Yet we cover up a child’s foot without thinking about it. Isn’t that weird?
At our house we don’t have a lot of clothing with feet, obviously, but I kept putting the Boy in pajamas with feet to “keep him warmer”. Boo. Off with my head. I mean my feet. His little tootsies are perfectly warm under the covers. We go barefoot in the house as does he. And, plus it’s kind of fun to cut up stuff. Aversion to cutting up “perfectly good clothing” for the sake of a child’s brain development, is a strange reaction isn’t it? We’re a weird breed.
So, I get a lot of emails after posting stuff like this. I know you’d like to read some of the emails that make their way to my in-box. These are slightly exaggerated, but trust me, I get a lot of stuff like this:
I just read your blog post on letting babies go without socks or covered feet. It’s very cold where we live. We live in an igloo actually. There is no floor, just snow. I really want to make sure my child’s feet develop properly, so do you think that he should be barefoot even though, as I said, the floor is below freezing?
I’d appreciate any help in figuring this one out!
And, I really like your blog!
A concerned mom.
I love your blog! Thanks for writing such helpful information. I just read your post on letting babies go without socks or covered feet. I’m unsure what to do at our house though, and am hoping you can help me figure it out.
I am a mosaic artist and my husband is a carpenter. We live in a hardware store that has nails instead of regular flooring. And in between those nails are huge shards of glass from my pieces. I really want to make sure my child’s feet develop properly, so do you think that she should still be barefoot even though our house is very dangerous for bare feet?
What would you suggest?
Thanks again. I know you’re very busy, but I just can’t figure this one out.
A concerned mom.
See, don’t you wish you were me? I suggest, concerned moms, that you use common sense. If your feet can be bare, so can your kids'.
Now, if only I could figure out what to do with all these pajama feet!