Shoes for your Child’s Growing Feet

sneakerI was looking at our new Gallery show called “Art for Your Feet.” As I was looking at so many sneakers, I was inspired to write about children’s shoes and foot care for this month’s Tasty Tuesday’s handout and blog post.

Shoes come in different designs, sizes, and shapes, and it’s sometimes hard to choose a pair for your very small child. Even getting kids to wear shoes at all can pose a challenge. But wearing the right kinds of shoes is very important for the healthy development of your child’s feet, their developing ability to walk or run, and their overall health.

Come to Tasty Tuesdays with yummy snacks and your favorite shoes and share your own tips and experiences about choosing children’s shoes.  Maybe some of your own tips are similar to these:

  1. Go barefoot!

Babies who are not yet walking do not need shoes. For the purpose of keeping their feet warm, you can use nonrestrictive socks or soft baby shoes, instead of real shoes. Even after they start to walk, you can have your child go barefoot unless it is unsafe for them to do so. Children learn best to walk and balance by feeling the floor and ground under their feet. The unrestricted movement of the feet and toes helps children’s feet to develop more naturally. So as long as it’s safe, you can let your child experience different types of surfaces such as grass, smooth floors, bumpy ground, sloped hills, etc., in their bare feet.

  1. What kinds of shoes to pick for a child?

Hard-soled shoes work when your child is walking on surfaces that are not safe (too sharp, hot/cold, rough, etc.). When choosing a pair, make sure the shoes are breathable, lightweight, and flexible. Stiff shoes can hinder the development of your child’s feet and mastery of walking. There should be just enough room to wiggle toes. You should be able to squeeze the top of the shoes, and your pinkie finger should fit snugly in the heel when your child is standing.

  1. Practice tying shoes. 

Tying shoes is an important milestone for children – but it’s not as intuitive as walking, and it can be hard to teach. Some children can learn how to tie their shoes as young as 4 years of age, but other children may not master it until a little later. Most children can tie their shoes by the age of 7 or 8.   The difference in the age of mastery occurs based on each child’s fine motor development and coordination skills. It does not mean that the earlier your child is able to tie his/her shoes the better. Every child learns differently and at his own pace!

There are so many ways to teach children how to tie shoes, including the commonly-used “bunny ears” technique. If your child has difficulty following or remembering the steps, you can make a gigantic shoe with cardboard and long, thick ropes. It’s even more helpful when you use ropes in two different colors so that children can see the process better. You can also break down the process in small steps and visualize it by drawing/taking photos of each step. Your child can learn just one step per day or per week. If your child is having a hard time focusing, you can try the ”backward” learning method. Instead of starting from the beginning, your child can first practice to complete the final step (you do the prior steps).  Once your child masters the final step, she can move on to the second to the last step. This way, your child can always complete tying the shoe laces, which gives her a sense of accomplishment and mastery.

For more information, particulally about how to pick shoes for children, please visit the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society’s website at http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/footwear/pages/how-to-select-children%27s-shoes.aspx.

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