Why barefoot play is best for babies and young children

barefoot play

Splashing in a muddy puddle, climbing a tree, fingerprinting with your feet or walking barefoot on grass. Do you remember doing any of these as a child? How did you feel? Did you feel calm, relaxed, and peaceful? Well, this is true as scientific evidence supports barefoot exploration having a positive impact on an individual. 

We at Sydney Early Education Centres love barefoot play! As the name suggests, barefoot play is exploring spaces unrestricted and barefooted. Playing barefooted is an educational stimulant that is incomparable, extremely therapeutic, and fun! 

Experts view on barefoot play…

Paediatric Occupational Therapist Angela Hanscom has observed that children with limited outdoor experiences have weak muscle tone and poor co-ordination skills. To overcome these issues children should engage in uninterrupted free outdoor play from a very young age, preferably with bare feet. To add to this, playing barefoot will be a sensory feast for children’s optimal brain development. 

Infant specialist Magda Gerber’s Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) approach, an approach that underpins SEEC’s philosophy, emphasises respecting children’s innate ability to learn and grow naturally by providing numerous opportunities for children to explore nature. Playing in nature barefooted is challenging, pure, nurturing and provides therapeutic sensory experiences.

“Play in the river, walk barefoot on the sand, dance under the moon, sleep under the stars, and you’ll likely find that very little is needed to live a happy life.’


Dr Daniel Howell’s (The Barefoot Book, 2010) claims Barefoot Play as ‘precariousness’ as it challenges children to be creative, risk-takers and play “on the edge”. More importantly, Dr Howell states that even sensible shoes eliminate most sensory feedback from the sole to the brain; dimmish the flexibility of the foot and toes; alter the positions of the joints in the foot, ankle, knee, hip and spine; reduce the gripping/push off function of the toes; and dramatically reduces the spring action/shock absorption functions of the arch of the foot.

Australian parenting expert Maggie Dent claims that barefoot play allows an individual to develop balance and flexibility. This is ultimately linked to correct posture, gross-motor skills, eye-foot co-ordination, spatial awareness, and balancing of the chemicals that cause anxiety.

Playing barefoot is more than just fun

Barefoot play in action at Sydney Early Education Centres

  • Our natural outdoor environments provide children with an array of surfaces and textures to explore with their bare feet. Some of these include bark; grass; sandstone; tree stumps; watercourses; different gradients and surfaces like rocks and rope play; and surfaces within our sand and mud pits which change with exploration and weather. 
  • Our ‘indoor shoe’/barefoot policy provides children with more opportunities for barefoot play indoors and to experience different surfaces such as carpet, tiles and plywood stages and lofts. Adults either wear indoor shoes (educators), wear shoe covers, or remove their shoes. As well as for the benefits of barefoot play SEEC has this policy in place for health and safety reasons.
  • When sunscreen is applied for outdoor play, it is also applied to children’s feet to reduce UV exposure.
  • Our educators regularly check SEEC’s different environments for bare feet safety hazards, such as sharp objects or hot surfaces.
  • Our educators help the children wash and dry their feet. Another benefit for families is that bare feet reduce the potential for dirty shoes from mud, sand and paint.

We are always in awe of how much our children are capable, flexible and always ready to challenge themselves with the physical freedom that is entrusted to them by the adults around them.

Now that we know how important barefoot play is, let us allow our children to be children and set them free to become more resilient and sensory learners.

Additional reading

We hope that this blog encourages you to introduce your children to more barefoot play. If you would like to find out more about our centres you can book a tour or send us a message.

Written By

Sultana Thanawala, WEEC Director

Similar Posts