I raised little nudists unintentionally. In Alaska, a good part of the year is cold and snowy so when I had two winter babies that were not interested to the point of tears in that frosty wet stuff, we stayed indoors a lot. They didn't like clothes and shoes and they didn't really need them at home so I thought eh, pick your parenting battles right? Turns out I circumvented the battle and started a war. With the weather warming up, we began opening the doors more and I found that my kids wouldn't wear shoes.
Why would a toddler refuse to wear shoes? Is that normal?
I wouldn't say shoe refusal itself is super common toddler behavior, but defiance, as I'm sure you've noticed, is the embodiment of normal toddler behavior. You want your toddler to wear shoes, he or she doesn't want to for whatever reason, maybe they feel weird, maybe your child's feet get too hot, or maybe he or she just likes watching you struggle to get them ready to go. There is quite the list of motivations that could be driving your toddler's shoe tantrums, so you can be comforted knowing it is not just you. What you're going to do about it is far more important than why it's happening.
What can I do to get my toddler to wear shoes?
-Start using shoes early. Yes, this was my epic-fail. I never made my babies wear shoes, or even socks, so when I tried to introduce them they were weird and uncomfortable. While an infant has no need for real shoes, soft-bottomed baby shoes or even just socks can keep footsies warm and make the transition to real footwear less of a change. You don't need hard-bottomed shoes until your baby takes his or her first steps, however.
-Let your toddler pick out the shoes. You can get tricky with this by only presenting your toddler with shoes you approve of to pick from, but allowing your child the independence to pick like a big kid can go a long way in the willingness to cooperate. You may think the flashy lighted Buzz Lightyear shoes rock, but your toddler may not even care about all that jazz. You just never know.
-Make sure the shoes chosen fit well and are comfortable. Remember that your toddler's feet will actually be bigger at the end of the day than in the morning, so try to shop early. You should be able to fit your pinky in the heel and have a thumb's width between the big toe and front of the shoe. Opt for breathable fabric and keep seasons in mind. You may even want a few different types of shoes such as water shoes or boots for wet seasons, snow boots for winter, tennis shoes for cool days, and sandals for hot. You may also find soft fabric shoes are very difficult to put on so consider ease of use when shopping.
-Avoid Velcro and slip-ons. While Velcro shoes are so easy to put on, they are also so easy to remove, if you have a child that doesn't want to wear shoes and you want them to keep shoes on, ideally you don't want to give them an easy way to get what they want. As an added bonus, starting with laces means you can start teaching shoe tying early. Chances are your kid won't get the knack of it until kindergarten, but they may learn easier and earlier if laces is what they've always had.
-Make shoes a big kid thing. You wear shoes (probably?), your significant other likely does too; in fact, I'd be willing to bet everyone your toddler looks up to does. Use that. Make sure your toddler is aware that everyone wears shoes because that's what big kids do.
-Consider a reward. I'm not saying to bribe your toddler into wearing shoes, but a little reward beyond verbal praise, which is also a good idea, goes a long way. Even if you just add a sticker on your chart if you have one or offer a trip to the park, a little incentive can't hurt.
-In the end stand firm. Tips, tricks and niceties aside you are the parent and what you say goes. Simply tell your toddler they are putting on shoes or they're not going outside, bye-bye, etc, end of story. Don't plead or beg. Don't give into tantrums. Eventually the desire for shoe-needing activities will win them over.
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