why kids NEED to get dirty

why kids need to get dirtyThanks to some landscaping and a few messed up sprinklers, we’ve had a big pile of mud in the backyard this summer.  Based on the picture above you can tell that my kids couldn’t be happier.

At this point, an extensive full-body scrub done by a professional might be necessary to remove the layers of dirt.

I really do love it.  

Deep down it just makes sense to me that it’s good for them. For one they are outside, which in this day and age (unfortunately) isn’t always the norm for some people.  But I’ve also known there are health benefits to them literally getting dirty.

But after washing mud out of an unhappy two-year olds’ hair over and over, I’ve realized I want to know what specifically makes this so great for them.

Here’s what I discovered:

1) We live in such a sterile environment, where hand sanitizers are available at every corner.  When we continually spray down with this stuff, we rid ourselves of the good bacteria too.  And it’s not always bad for our body to be exposed to the bad bacteria, as it allows our natural immune responses to get a little exercise.  In soil, there are naturally occurring microbes that actually help our bodies become stronger and less disease prone.  When we are too clean and never exposed to bacteria, good and bad, our bodies don’t stand much of a chance fighting off sickness.

2) There is a specific strain of bacteria found in dirt called Mycobacterium vaccae, that can help the body release serotonin, which is a mood lifter and has also been known to help alleviate depression and improve cognitive function.   Although my feet are in dire need of a pedicure, I’ve found that I prefer working in the garden barefoot.  I’d go so far as to say it actually makes me happier.

3)  When my kids are outside,  they’re not inside.  Maybe this seems like a no-brainer, but it’s nice for me to see them running wild and not inside asking for TV and snacks.  And while they are generally happier to be out than in, mud and dirt keeps them entertained for hours.

Of course there are places that kids shouldn’t be barefoot (around construction, manure, etc.), but I think it’s vital that we give kids a place to be free and get dirty.

In saving our drains in the bathtub, I’ve brought buckets of warm water outside for my kids to pre-bath before heading into the tub.  We even held our little guy upside down and dipped his hair in the water to remove the caked on mud … don’t worry, he thought it was fun!

Unfortunately, all too soon, it will be winter here and our time outside isn’t as consistent.  The kids have snowsuits and good gloves, but there’s nothing easier than letting your kid run out into the warm sun with nothing but a diaper.

We’ve got a solid 4 weeks left of warm weather.  Outside we go!

-Abby

4 Replies to “why kids NEED to get dirty”

  1. I like to keep my 4-year-old outside as much as possible in the summer. The long winter will be here soon enough when this won’t be an option and I just love watching her play outside (even the getting dirty!)

    1. Agree! Just out of curiosity.. how did you find our blog? We have a large group from Facebook heading to this post today, and I was wondering who re-posted? 🙂

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