Why giving your baby time with socks off is a good thing.
In working with babies and young children, I’m often asked what parents can do to support their child. And time for babies with socks off and bare feet is one simple way parents can offer many benefits to their child.
In terms of babies getting what their sensory-movement needs met, babies instinctively know that bare feet is good. Aren’t they always pulling their socks off! In these early days the feet can be doing as much exploring as the hands.
Early movement supports brain and neurological development, sensory, social and psychological functioning. Small changes can make a difference.
Here are some reasons to get those toes out!
It enables babies to find and feel their feet.
As your baby grows and develops, they need to find out who they are. Where they start and end. The feel of themselves. When a person can feel themselves, who and where they are, a subtle but significant body-confidence can be established. Getting hold of their own feet is a first stage. And as they then explore the feel of their feet against the floor, they begin to know their ground, get to feel their power and will. They can get a grip, and push. They learn to regulate the level of force they need to exert, to do what they want to do. It is through how we meet the floor or what ever we push against, that we build a sense of our selves.
The feet are related to many reflexes.
Reflexes kick start our movement system. The plantar grasp, babinski, flexor withdrawl and extensor push are a few involved. Reflexes are located in our spinal cord and lower brain. They are more likely to be triggered when the foot is open to stimulation rather than wrapped up. In simple terms, reflexes that are stimulated become integrated. If our reflexive movements can settle, and be handled by our lower brain, it leaves our higher brain to get on with all the other clever stuff.
Feet support our stability.
Obvious, yet often overlooked. This is fundamental to all our movement. We need stability before mobility, support before movement. What stability the feet can get, impacts on the knee, hip and back. If we can’t find stability in our feet, this can lead to other muscles in the knee, hip and back over compensating. Patterns can be set up for later life, of tightness and holding, rather than ease and flow.
Bare feet provides movement that is rich in sensory ‘nutrients’.
Getting hold of their own feet.
Babies are first learning about gravity, then space. So when a baby is on their back, and gets hold of their feet, they are changing their shape, shifting weight. They can roll and experience and begin to control the small shifts in balance that they’ll need to manage as their ability to move increases.
The push from the lower body.
Have you noticed babies that go backwards before they go forwards? This is because our upper body develops before our lower body. With fleshy pads of opening hands on the floor, a baby can push themselves backwards. So if they have similar non-slip toes and feet, they can find the push from the lower body.
Belly crawling and then, when your child is ready, walking.
We each have our own unique journey of movement that enables us to eventually find our feet and walk. Early movements, the rocks, rolls, shuffles and slides are all significant. If a child is able to belly crawl, this grounded tummy contact, supports side to side movement patterns. The push from the foot, transferring the power through the ankle, knee and hip, through the centre of the body, and out into the reach of a hand. A strong and supported push, enabling a confident shift in weight. And the push from grounded toes and foot, supports knees and hips coming into alignment, ready for walking.
Just try it.
Get the socks off and watch. You’ll see so much more.
But my baby will get cold.
It is overall body temperature that is important. In bare feet your baby is going to gain the rewards of more movement. If you spend any time moving how your baby moves and you’ll realise what a work-out it is, and what heat is generated.
The floor isn’t that clean.
As long as usual hygiene practices are followed the risks are minimal.
They’ll hurt themselves.
Babies learn about themselves and the world through contact. We still need to be close by to keep them safe, and in socks/tights, they are more likely to slip than the natural grip of bare feet.
They wear socks/booties that have grippers on the sole.
They still cut down all the sensory and reflex stimulation that bare feet offer.
In response to all these concerns, it is about benefits ‘v’ risks. In giving babies the maximum sensory and movement diet we can, that provides for a strong foundation, having time with bare feet offers many benefits for minimal risk. And older children can benefit too – revisiting early movement patterns that they may have missed or need more experience of.
So get those toes wriggling! and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.