Updated: May 11
A baby’s development is so rapid within the first 3 years of life, the neural connections within a baby’s brain has twice as many connections as it will in adulthood.
For a child to learn to walk, a series of new neural connections in the brain must take place, in particular new neural connections are needed in the sensory system of the brain. The sensory system is what sets the foundation for higher brain centers to grow upon, which is why sensory play is becoming more and more popular among parents and occupational therapists that work closely with children.
Feet are sensory-rich in the human body and the soles of the feet are extremely sensitive to touch. There is a large number of proprioceptors in the joints and muscles of the feet. Proprioceptors are the nerve endings, which tell our brain where our body is, also known as spatial awareness. In fact, the feet alone have as many proprioceptors as the entire spinal column! It is through the sensory pathways that babies create neurological connections and the perception of life in the outside world.
Consider how tricky this neural development could be in a child that is constantly in socks and shoes, particularly those that are thick-soled and overly structured? They limit the natural movement and development of the arches in the foot, as well as the sensory input of the feet.
The more exposure your baby has to the ground in bare feet then the better their brain development to sense the world around them and the more likely they are to have good balance and spatial awareness.
So, if your child is more than 2 years old and still crawling, toe-walking, or has a “wobbly” walk etc. try some of these tips below.
Some take home tips:
Get their socks and shoes off – get your child to play in different textures: sand, dirt, carpet, tiles etc. (always make sure environment is safe from sharp objects).
Avoid thick-soled shoes – Opt for the flexible, lightweight and soft shoes, if shoes are needed.
Massage – firm massages calm the nervous system and stimulates different areas of the cerebral cortex.
Gentle chiropractic care and cranial therapy – can make a huge impact on your baby’s development, by ensuring their spine and nervous system is balanced.
Baby’s Brain Begins Now: Conception to Age 3. Available at: http://www.urbanchildinstitute.org/why-0-3/baby-and-brain
Corel, JL. The postnatal development of the human cerebral cortex. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1975.
Flegal K, Barefoot Babies, Natural Child Magazine. Available at: http://www.naturalchildmagazine.com/1210/barefoot-babies.htm