Updated: Apr 27, 2021
Parents struggle with making decisions for their children at varying phases of their lives. Some find it easy, just following the playbook of their own lives, while others are determined to not make the same mistakes their own parents made…etc. One thing is certain, new parents are faced with new choices that will impact their kids lives forever. The weight of those decisions can be unbearable at times. But life moves forward, and the choices we make for our kids happen daily, and never seem to end.
My own experience as a father has taught me that many of the things I fret about related to my kids, really never materialize. It ends up just being worry for worry’s sake. Our kids are going to grow, change, grow, change, talk, change, and eventually not listen to anything we say, change, move out, change, get married, have kids of their own, change, and call us with that voice of understanding that lets us know the choices we made weren’t all that bad. Basically, we have some time. We have nature on our side. And growth and change will be a part of the process for their entire lives.
A common question I get from new parents has to do with when to encourage walking, crawling, etc. Developmentally, we crawl before we walk so that we can develop the required motor patterns and balance needed for walking. We’re not horses. We don’t come out of the womb ready to walk and run. We need the extra time to develop our motor patterns. This time is used to set us up for success as we continue to grow and move through our adolescence. It prepares us for a life of hunting and gathering. No wait…I mean a life of sitting, driving, and computing.
Regardless of what we end up doing with our lives, physically our bodies need to be able to handle normal healthy movement, and endure the environment we choose to live in. That means, we should probably follow the normal rules of growth and development. In the first couple years, our children should be encouraged to crawl. They will get dirty. They are supposed to get dirty. Shoes are actually engineered to make walking easier for children. This is the exact opposite thing they need for good development. At this point in a Childs life, easy is bad. The foot needs to develop its arch. The ankle, or the leg in general, needs to develop with the struggle that shoes are meant to eliminate. Even stubbing our little toes is a good lesson. We also need to develop our sense of balance and proprioception. Proprioception is just the understanding, connection, and awareness of our bodies in space. Feeling the ground beneath our feet is critical to developing this ability. It’s because of these issues, that I usually encourage new parents to let their children crawl as long as they can, and keep them out of shoes as long as they can.
Now, I'm not "anti shoe". I'm just "pro develop at your own pace". Our kids tell us when they’re ready to walk, by walking. We don’t need to encourage it. And if we need to put shoes on kids because they’re going to be out in public or at a place that requires them to wear shoes, then go for it. Or if you are putting them in little outfits for photos, or Grammie has bought the little one some shoes, and you want to show them off when she comes over, then go for it. Just try and let them walk around with no shoes when they are home, or when its safe, or even use a shoe with the flimsiest sole ever made. Anything that can resemble a barefoot experience, will only help them develop physically for the long term.
They have their whole lives to wear shoes. And only a short time / window, by comparison, to develop the physical skills necessary to move and be healthy. It’s a good time for us parents to learn our own set of skills that will serve us well through out our children’s lives. Patience.
The more movement our children can get, the less they will need programs like Ouch! when they are older.