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July 22, 2013

The Magic Of Mud: Why Getting Dirty Can Actually Be Beneficial To Your Kids

Summertime is all about getting outside with your kids, to breathe in the fresh air, smell the flowers and enjoy the sunshine – well, what precious little we get of it anyway! Nothing quite compares to seeing a child joyfully rolling around and playing in the grass, but many parents still harbour a fear of their children getting dirty, and picking up some germs that could be lurking around the lawn.
Of course, a little caution is sensible when allowing your children to play outside, but an ever-growing body of research indicates that it could actually be more harmful to your child to prevent them from getting grubby, as mud and muck are important to building a strong immune system, and ensuring your child’s overall good health.

The Facts on Filth
The well-respected immunologist, Dr Mary Ruebush PhD, is a fierce advocate of allowing children to be exposed to outside dirt as it builds their ‘immunological army’. She has authored a book called ‘Why Dirt is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends’ and commonly writes expressing her concerns over the modern ‘war on bacteria’, in which she sees increasing numbers of parents protecting their children from grime, keeping them indoors and over-using sanitising products, thus giving their kids’ immune systems nothing to fight against.


Dr Ruebush’s theories on dirt and germs (http://www.sunwarrior.com/news/dirt-germs-and-other-friendly-filth/) follow the lines of the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, a scientific way of thinking developed by medical professionals in the 1980s after spiralling numbers of children were diagnosed with various allergies and asthma. The hygiene hypothesis postulates that obsessive cleanliness is what leads to these weak immune systems and autoimmune disorders, and therefore children should be reasonably exposed to dirt to give their immune systems a crucial workout!
What’s more, a report by the USA-based National Wildlife Federation showed that children who played outside are less vulnerable to obesity, ADHD, vitamin D deficiency and even depression, compared to other children who spend most of their time in the sterile environment of their homes. So that’s lots of great reasons to indulge your kids’ urges to wallow in the mud, for the goodness of their own health.
What You Can Do
Naturally, some parents will still hold reservations about letting their kids get grubby, and indeed you shouldn’t forget about safety altogether whilst enjoying the great outdoors. The best thing that you can do is to get out there with your children, so you can both benefit from the magic of mud, and you can still make sure that your kids aren’t exposed to major health risks – for example, in public parks that may be visited by irresponsible dog owners.
Just splashing in puddles together can be a fun way of getting filthy, and when the rain has passed and you’re left with muddy patches in the back garden, get your kids to grab a stick and use it to draw pictures on the path with the mud. If you encounter any worms, encourage your children to pick them up and see how they wriggle, before putting them safely back in the hedge.
On the other hand, when the weather is dry, try making sculptures with twigs, leaves and pebbles, weaving daisy chains, or even climbing trees if your children are old enough! Get your children to help you with a little gardening, and why not even give them their own patch of garden to tend, so they can get their hands dirty and learn a little about nature too.
Above all, make sure that you emphasise to your kids that it’s okay to get messy, and dress them in old clothes that you won’t mind having a few grass or soil stains. Have your camera handy at all times too, as this great Hallmark quote says, because the memories are all part of the fun!
Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned 
As well as being a writer for Hallmark, Victoria Cawthorne enjoys getting outside to give her own immune system a workout, and plans to encourage her own children to enjoy the great outdoors and get up close with nature.

1 comments:

Sarah Hayes said...

I love this post !! My daughter loves playing outside and getting dirty. I know its so good for her and we have a lot of fun. She has always loved and been calmed by the outdoors and I want to encourage that and outside play all I can.

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