Barefoot is Best

Benefits of children going barefoot in dance class

Our staff is getting ready to attend our annual Leap N Learn early childhood dance education teacher training and we’re looking forward to a new speaker at the conference this year. Robyn Papworth is the founder of Play Move Improve, is a Pediatric Exercise Physiologist and Masters qualified Developmental Educator in Australia. Her knowledge, training and resources in the area of early childhood development fit right in with our dance teaching philosophy.

One of her recent posts made us rethink our dress code recommendation for our youngest students. We never required ballet shoes for our toddlers dance classes, but we didn’t discourage them ether. That was before we learned that being barefoot can affect brain development in young children. Occupational therapists recommend letting children go barefoot as much as possible. We started researching and learned that the benefits of toddlers going barefoot are in line with our goals in our toddler dance classes. Just a few of the benefits of being barefoot include:

  • Improve motor skills. 2018 study of children in Germany and South Africa suggests that barefoot play can contribute to improved motor skills, particularly when it comes to balance and jumping.
  • Strengthen children’s feet. Conventional footwear can weaken the muscles in the foot, whereas going barefoot or minimally shod strengthens them, supporting normal gait, one 2018 study shows.  
  • Build new neural connections. Going barefoot stimulates thousands of nerve endings in the feet and activates the vestibular and proprioceptive systems in children’s brains. This helps children orient their bodies in space, and develop skills like balance and coordination.

While there is nothing cuter than a tiny pair of ballet shoes, we now know that the tactile feedback from walking barefoot is beneficial to children of all ages, but most importantly for our classes, babies who are just learning to walk. We encourage you to check out this blog post that explores these benefits more in-depth. Additionally, Play Move Improve offers podcasts, workshops, coaching and content useful for parents and educators in many areas of child development.

We can only do so much in the dance class setting, but parents and caregivers have a great advantage with access to the outdoors and nature. Comment and let us know how you’d like to introduce more barefoot sensory play into your child’s path!

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