Dr. Force

Let Them Get Dirty

Every child needs nature. Not just the ones with parents who appreciate nature. Not only those of a certain economic class or culture or set of abilities. Every child.” 

~ Richard Louv

Petrichor a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather

One of my favorite smells. Just thinking of it reminds me of playing outside as a kid and now playing with my kids outdoors. You can experience the same smell by digging a moist layer of dirt while gardening, or building ponds, or digging a hole to Timbuktu. Dirty play is good for kids and reminds us as adults to live close to the earth and enjoy all it has to offer.

I know it is a controversial idea these days, but our children need to get dirty! I am not saying that they should lick a countertop someone sneezed on or not wash their hands before eating, but living in a sterile, fear of germs environment is detrimental to our children’s health. 

In 2016 a study was published that took a look at why the Amish tend to have much lower incidence of asthma and allergies. The conclusion was that the experience of working on the farm and being around animals contribute to increased innate immunity. Milking the cows, gathering the eggs, and planting the garden help us to be more robust. 

On a small side note, did you know that kids eating their boogers is normal and natural and helps develop their immune system? It’s true according to a study conducted in 2013. The so-called “hygiene hypothesis” is the idea that early exposure to germs and certain infections could boost the development of the immune system, according to Dr. James T.C. Li of The Mayo Clinic.

Camping is a great way to get outside with the kids and get a little (or a lot) dirty. There are many well-documented health benefits of camping: outdoor air is healthier (generally), being in nature reduces stress/cortisol load (explore the concept of Japanese nature bathing), sleeping outdoors can help with sleep trouble, not to mention the excitement of developing new skills like fire and shelter building, cooking, etc. 

Garden with your children. Let them help plan, prep, plant, and cultivate. What great memories you will create and kids tend to be more likely to eat the veggies they grew and picked, a little added bonus. 

Expose your children to animals. This could be a visit to a petting zoo or a friends house or in your own home. So many options from a family dog or horse to owning chickens and goats. 

Let’s get back to letting our kids play by exploring the outdoors, getting dirty, jumping in that mud puddle, climbing that tree, smelling all the flowers, catching that lizard. For more information on this topic I recommend reading Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

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