Wandering the World: Barefoot Kids
My kids have dirty feet. No, it isn't because they don't take baths. It is because they rarely wear shoes. While that may seem strange, it is actually hugely beneficial! Let me tell you how it started...
I saw no need to put shoes on a baby. It was so weird to me! Zach was so cranky when he had clothes on as a baby that I couldn't imagine putting on shoes. Plus, diaper changes, clothing changes, etc. Why?!?!
They start walking... put on shoes, right? No. I found that he couldn't tell what he was doing! He would trip and fall or not know that something was slippery. It made sense to keep him barefoot.
Zach happened to have Sensory Processing Disorder. He HATED shoes. Plus, when we started Occupational Therapy, the first thing they told him to do... take off his shoes! So I stopped fighting it. When he played outside, in the dirt, on the concrete, in the water, on hot and cold surfaces, his brain processed sensory input differently. The same was true when he wasn't wearing a shirt and he was climbing tress. It was just more body surface to get input that he desperately needed.
From that point on, it was hard to make everyone else where shoes when Zach didn't. And quite frankly, I hated them too! So we didn't. We are fondly known at church as "The barefoot family" because most of the kids go in their suit/dress with bare feet.
So why does it matter? What about safety? Ew!
Yes, we know. It may be unsafe. But so is driving a car. Or breathing. Honestly, if the area seems unsafe, we make them where shoes. State Fair petting zoo? Super hot pavement? Snow? Glass or broken things? All shoe worthy. However, when we are out walking the neighborhood or even better, hiking or camping, they are likely without shoes.
Their bodies connect to the earth in a different way. They feel things they would miss. When you walk barefoot from the hard warm dirt to the cool dewy grass, your brain changes. You know your world in a different way. Your feet tell you things are changing.
So while sensory play is great and beneficial, it may be as simple as allowing your kids to shed the shoes. They will explore in a whole new way.
And for the gross factor... just use a warm washcloth on those dirty feet before bed. I bet they will even sleep better for you!