As parents, all of us have been there. You go in the backyard to get some yard work done and tell your kiddo to go have fun moving some dirt around with their awesome new kid tractor. After spending some time pulling weeds, you notice that it’s just a bit too quiet. Next thing you know, your angel has decided he wants to help mommy by also “doing yard work”. Covered in dirt from head to toe and sticking out his tongue to show you the dirt in his mouth, you feel like you’re in one of those “wanna get away?” Southwest airline commercials. As odd as it sounds, it’s actually all good. According to researchers, dirt is quite beneficial for kids. Here are five good reasons why:
- Were you aware that studies have shown dirt to be beneficial to the human brain? Apparently, there are actually forms of microbes that are naturally seen in soil that trigger the neurons that make serotonin – a vital substance in many bodily functions, as well as a natural anti-depressant. In other words, dirt can in fact help to insure you feel happy. (And I am not simply discussing the mud wraps seen at the day spa.)
- Dirt is also great for the immune system, specifically in young children. Studies have shown that early exposure to the naturally occurring microorganisms in dirt can help build tougher, more disease-resistant kids. Inside our germaphobic culture where we have complete aisles of housecleaning merchandise in the grocery store, some children are being brought up in “overhygienic” conditions. Without enough contact with different germs and microbes, it’s believed that the immune system does not learn to acknowledge its own cells, which may well be a reason for increased rates of asthma, eczema, in addition to other illnesses.
- If you have ever read the novel, “The Last Child in the Woods”, you may be no stranger to the phrase “nature-deficit disorder.” In our computer savvy era, children just are not getting ample time to play outside the house, and that has now been linked to attention issues, depression (yes, in kids), and excessive weight.
- Kids who play outdoors laugh more, which means they’re happy! This additionally indicates their blood pressure and anxiety levels are lower. (Were you aware that these are two physical benefits of laughter? We could all probably stand to laugh a tad bit more!)
- Kids who have fun outside the house improve in their character development: they become more adventurous, more self-motivated, and they are better able to recognize and assess risk.
A Few Tips and Ideas for Kids
- If you have never attempted this, merely provide your son or daughter a pail and a shovel and place them in the dirt. See what happens – they’ll most likely be in paradise for quit some time. Sometimes the simple things make for some of the best outdoor toys.
- Garden with your children! You may create a standalone little garden for your kids, as well – if your child is really young, you don’t even have to actually plant anything inside it; they are going to just enjoy having a dirt plot of their own.
- Explore the outdoors with your kids; examine bugs, foliage, wildflowers, stones, etc. Begin a nature collection. Take hikes. Wade in streams. Try picnics. DON’T clean up their hands with anti-bacterial wipes before you eat. A little soapy water will do.