Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Little Shoes for Little Feet

I've found that purchasing shoes for 20 month old K is stressful to say the least.

As a pediatric PT, I know that it's really important for shoes to be flexible so that our little ones use their little foot muscles (the intrinsic muscles of the foot), and also help to maximize their balance reactions. In addition, thin flexible soles help to maintain the sensory stimulation of the various surfaces that are tread upon. The goal is to mimic being barefoot while protecting little tootsies from the hazards encountered by walking outdoors...shards of glass, bee stings, sharp sticks etc etc.

But walk into any children's shoe store, and you'll find the majority of shoes have stiff, thick soles. A long time ago, it was assumed that children 'need' supportive shoes with minimal give, and this erroneous advice is still dispensed by pediatricians everywhere.

I'll put a bag over my head and admit that I am not a big fan of Robeez, the leather soft sole shoes that are the ubiquitous footwear of the toddler set. There are two reasons. The first, is that I'm simply not crazy about their design, but then again, I've never been into things that are overly 'cutesy'. The other less superficial reason is that they are made of leather. As a (mostly) vegetarian (for those who are sticklers...i would officially be under the pescatarian label), I try to minimize leather in my life. HOWEVER...leather is actually a really great material for children's shoes, because of it's properties of being breathable yet soft and pliant. The biggest issue with Robeez, though, is that with normal wear, the suede sole ends up becoming slick as ice-skates, which is NOT a good quality for footwear.

When K was still itty bitty and as a crawler and new walker, I was head over heels about Isabooties. They're soft soled, cute as can be, and vegan. The sole is made of the same materials as the booties used for search and rescue dogs, so they have great traction and are also impenetrable, which are both really great qualities for footwear.

Now as an experienced walker, runner and climber, I wanted to find K some shoes that had a bit more structure to protect her little feet during her explorations. I searched everywhere, looked at hundreds of pairs of shoes, and I am a See Kai Run convert. Yes, they're leather...but the soles are the most flexible I've found, and in this case, function definitely trumps form.

That said, we still try to maximize barefoot time. Of course shoes are off at home and playing in the backyard. And at the beach, we capitalize on the wonderful sensory and strenghtening aspects of being barefoot in the sand. Some of the parks that we frequent have really great manicured lawns that have really soft, spongy grass that just feels marvelous to walk on. K really enjoys having her little feet free and so does her mama.

Friday, June 29, 2007

What's up with this blog?

This blog was created to talk about cool stuff that I find as a pediatric physical therapist, an internet searcher extraordinaire, and last but absolutely not least, mama to an active, curious toddler.

As a pediatric PT, I've had the opportunity to try many different toys, games and activities with children, and I hope to maintain my professional eye for playthings that facilitate gross motor, fine motor, speech language and cognitive development AND are inclusive of children of various ages and abilities.

As an internet searcher, I'm always on the lookout for the next, latest and greatest, as well as the tried and true and old skool.

As a mama, I look high and low for cool, fun and educational playthings and activities for my daughter. Just for full disclosure, I do steer towards attachment parenting/natural family living and feel a great deal of passion for gentle parenting as well as ecological stewardship, which includes the use of natural and recyclable or biodegradable materials. So...I will most likely not be singing the virtues of plastic and/or electronic toys unless it happens to have some exceptionally redeeming value.

So there it is in a nutshell.