Sinterklaas, his horse Amerigo and his friendly, slightly political helpers the Zwarte Piets arrived from Spain last weekend. His boat floated down canals all over the Netherlands so that all the children could wave. The famous nightly Sinterklaas tv special is on. The street lights turn on at 2.30pm and there are twinkly fairy lights wrapped around every tree and building. The smell of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom* wafts out of every cafe and bakery and it’s enough to warm the greyest skies as winter slips in around us. My kids and all of those I know are beside themselves with excitement.
After school on Monday night, my eldest came home and filled half a dozen sheets of paper with bright, rainbow drawings for Sinterklaas and the Piets. She beaded necklaces and wrote them letters. She wants a sled. It snows like three times a year here and barely enough to make a baby snowman, but a sled is what she wrote down, in her beginner’s hand. My youngest traced her slipper and
My youngest traced her slipper and coloured that in, so Sint would know what he was supposed to do. Once the girls were satisfied with their gifts, they collected their shoes, filled them, and placed them in front of the fireplace, ready for Sinterklaas. My eldest pulled a stool up to the pantry to fetch a block of milk chocolate – as a treat on a cold winter’s night (Amsterdam being much colder than Spain), while my youngest fetched the carrots for Amerigo. We also have an almost three-year-old living with us, who was very specific about leaving the carrots for Amerigo. ‘Nee! Voor de Paard, (No! For the horse)’ she said when my youngest tried to eat the carrot.
Then we lit the fire, sat around it and sang loudly and off-key so that Sinterklaas might hear us and pay our house a visit.
Now you might notice in the photo above, the sneaker in the middle. This sneaker is created by a company called VivoBarefoot who produce the most comfortable shoes (for kids and adults – I now have two pairs and refuse to wear anything else!) that are the closest thing to walking barefoot I’ve ever found. While they are a little more expensive than your run of the mill sneaker for children, my kids can climb trees in them, balance on logs in them, rock-climb, clamber up climbing igloos, walk across seesaws because they can feel the surface with their feet.
My youngest is like me, and she will not wear anything else – even the light-up, flashy hideous things her father bought her have been shelved (I’m calling that a win!).
Consider this, our feet have over 200,000 nerve endings and have evolved over time to become biomechanical wonders that can happily cope with walking; running; jumping; climbing; dancing and whatever else we ask them to do. The problem is, we cram them into a shoe that is often too heavy, too narrow, or the sole is too thick to allow 1) our feet’s natural function and 2) for those 200,000 nerve endings to give our bodies and minds the sensory feedback we really need.
Most of us know that when our kids are learning to walk, the best thing we can do is let them walk barefoot. And yet, soon after, we bundle their feet up into shoes that protect their feet, look trendy but disconnect them from the earth they are walking on. Now imagine you can actually buy shoes that facilitate the natural function of our feet and still protect them, without disconnecting them from their environment.
Try them. You won’t be sorry, and if you’re anything like us, you’ll never look back. Plus these shoes are made ethically, with thought to who made them and how. The materials used are eco-friendly, and there are even vegan options. The sneakers my daughter’s wear are vegan
*To add a little Sinterklaas magic to your life try this Pepernoten spice mix fun when you make up your next batch of this awesome play dough
15 gr cinnamon (kaneel)
2 gr cloves (kruidnagel)
2 gr nutmeg (nootmuskaat)
1 gr white peppercorn (witte peper)
1 gr ginger powder (gemberpoeder)
½ gr cardamom seeds (from the green pods) (kardemomzaadjes)
Grind them together into a powder and add to the dough mix at the point you’d normally add the colour.