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M y daughter is almost three years old, and she currently has a fascination with dirt—the dirtier, the better. She can literally spend hours playing in the dirt, moving it around, making dirt cakes and mud pies, and covering herself in earthy brown goodness. I suspect she is not alone in her fascination; it seems that both boys and girls are drawn to play with dirt from the youngest of ages.
At our home, there have been a few observers who objected. Don't play in the dirt! Did you know that studies have shown dirt is good for your brain? There are types of bacteria naturally found in soil that activate the neurons that produce serotonin, a key chemical in many bodily functions, as well as a natural anti-depressant. In other words, dirt can actually help make you feel happy. And I'm not just talking about the mud wraps at the day spa.
Dirt is also great for the immune system, especially in children. Research has shown that early exposure to naturally occurring microbes in soil will help build stronger, more disease-resistant kiddos.
In our germaphobic culture where we have entire aisles of cleaning products at the grocery store, some children are being raised in overhygienic conditions. Without enough exposure to different bacteria and microbes, the immune system doesn't learn to recognize its own cells, and this could be a reason for higher rates of asthma, eczema, and other diseases. If you've read The Last Child in the Woods , you're familiar with the term "nature-deficit disorder. Children who play outside laugh more, which means they're happy!
It also means their blood pressure and stress levels are lower. Kids who play outside grow in their character development: They'll probably be in heaven. We've got lots of gardening tips , and Tsh has three suggestions for gardening with kids. You can create a separate little garden for your children, too if your child is really young, you don't even need to plant anything in it; they'll just love a dirt plot of their own.
Start a nature collection. DON'T clean their hands with antibacterial wipes before you eat. A little water and soap will do. Considering all the benefits of playing in the dirt, it sounds like a great idea for us grown-ups to get outside and join our children. Embrace that five-foot tree , nature journaling with kids , and play outside as a family. You May Also Like: I was discouraged from playing in dirt when I was little, but I did have a sandbox.
And now I have three kids but no backyard, but we live very close to the beach and some good playgrounds so our beach serves as a very large sandbox! And I know from experience that babies and toddlers can eat yes, eat bucket-loads of sand without any physical harm. But eating said does lead to interesting diapers, I have to admit! My grandson loves dirt ,he even eats it. He is learning about flowers, picking potatoes,and even eats bell peppers of the plant.
One other thing, believe it or not but we have a lime tree and he picks and eats it rind and all. He has discovered nature and the joys of being outside. Also why buy toys when nature has provided it for him. With three boys…um…yes we play in the dirt…everyday! Great post today Katie! At a young age have them plant potatoes! Potatoes do not need any real care or weeding, success is guaranteed!
They will love harvesting them. When my son was a toddler I taught him to be super clean. I realized what I had done when he refused to lick his fingers after eating Cheetos. To correct this was pretty easy actually. I invited my friend with the dirtiest kids as in they play and end up very dirty to the park after it rained. They got filthy and all was well.
Now that it is summer, my kids are filthy and need to get in the bath tub every night. I love to see them dirty, because it means that they are having fun and are spending the day outside. I have a close friend whose daughter is the same age as my oldest 4. My friend has told me that she thinks her daughter has OCD.
This child is afraid to get dirty as in she freaks out when she gets messy. My friend is always primping this little girl; her clothes are perfect, her hair is perfect.
This time of year when my husband and I shower our feet get exfoliated from all of the sand in our bathtub. It lifted my heart to read this post. To me this is what childhood is about. I love it at the end of the night if the bath water is gray, it means my boys had a fun day.
I think it is cute when the 2 yr has a dirt smug on his face. My mom would actually make mud puddles for my sister and I to play in. She would just hose us off at after we were done. Let your kids get dirty. You can wash them later and Oxyclean their clothes. Over Easter, I was very talked about not good at an Easter egg hunt. Another mother was agast because my 2 year old was playing in the dirt and eating some of it.
Not a lot, just tasting really. She probably was even more offened because I laugh when she tried to chastise me for letting my baby get dirty??!!?? There are many stories with dirt girl my daughter. She really loves nature and has an explorers heart.
I loved reading The Last Child in the Woods, and not just because it verified my parenting instincts. I work in long dar care, while been in the toddlers room i notice a boy playing in black dirt, i didnt know this type of soil was ok to play in, i love playing in dirt from my garden not sure about soil that is black you buy in a bag, am i worring for nothing.
My strongest childhood memories come from playing outside. Advice 1 is so true: Dirt makes you happy! I used to have a flower garden and I remember being up to my ankles in dirt, dirt cacked in my finger nails and everywhere…and being blissfully happy. I played outside a lot as a kid and I hope to pass that on to my daughter as she gets older. Even though my kids are grown, I still enjoy reading this blog. My son is 17 months old and loves playing in the dirt. He has since he was even younger and we are happy to let him.
My husband also enjoys playing in the dirt so it works out really well. We garden together as a family, camp, etc… Life is so much more fun when you just have fun. And, anyways, that is what waterhoses and bathtubs are for…especially if you have kiddos like our son who will spray himself with the water hose.
Have to agree with Trisha — living near a beach, we include sand in this category, and I am the mom that has a burned back and raw knees because I will build sand castles and dams and moats with the kids rather than sit and read a book.
A dirty kid is a happy kid in my book! My youngest now 13 used to get sooo dirty. She used to suck her thumb and one day, she was covered in mud from head to toe, except for that white thumb. There is so much FREE entertainment in the yard, we had a swingset and put the bottom of the slide in one of those cheap plastic pools, so they had a water slide. They had a sandbox that was an old tire, etc.
We had a picnic table kid sized outside where they could paint and do play dough and of course eat lunch at it, they only had to come in for the restroom, and even then I had to carry them over the carpet at times. We had to rethink the garden space to allow for his mud play.
Currently there are dinosaurs and horses caked in mud waiting for the shade to played with again. I love watching my kids play and get dirty. We do lots of walks in the ditches along our road which in the wetter months are full of mud, they roll down hills and play in the garden.
I wish more parents understood that. I love letting the kids get dirty — it always seems like a badge of good exploration.
Several weeks ago, we got two yards of dirt delivered to our backyard and our 4 and almost 2 year old played very happily for hours and hours there — I posted about it: I have four children so dirt is inevitable for us!
My motto has always been: Kids and clothes are washable! We have a 24 X 24 mulch playground that my youngest uses like a sandbox. We love playing outside, it just has been so hot this week, we have had get wet in order to tolerate the heat and humidity. Today, we had a water gun fight…too fun!
Another thing that helps me not care about my kids getting muddy — I buy as many clothes at thrift shops and garage sales as I can. At a dollar a shirt, who cares if it gets dirt rubbed all over it this summer? So, perhaps I am just a health-freak, but what about the dangers of chemicals and pesticides in dirt?
I grew up in the country and loved frolicking in mountains of brown delight, but am not so sure about city dirt. The mom of my step kids does not let them get dirty, so they like coming to see Dad since we let them get absolutely filthy.
Our daycare provided decided not to lanscape their backyard, because the kids never wanted to play in the small grassy area anyway. The raw dirt provides so many more exploring opportunitities. I hear about high levels of Lead in dirt these days. Anyone else hear this?
This was an interesting post. I do have some concerns…those with older houses can actually have lead in the dirt around their homes, from paint chips off the sides of their house. And like Heidi mentioned what about pesticides….. I guess I can see the benefits of playing in dirt but I also think parents need to be wise about what dirt is ok to play in. I particularly love the implications of this soil research for connecting kids with their food.
I wrote about that on my own blog: Raising kids to think about the food they eat. Why does this post bring me to tears??
Right now, we have a blow-up pool in our front yard. So when they kept on digging in a hole they made right off our front walkway, I was loathe to tell them to stop.
When my husband finally did, I had a hard time enforcing it. He decided to start another hole for them on the other side of the yard. Again, I had a strong reaction. Simultaneously, I thought he was being ridiculous- and he was being such a great father! My kids must really be having a ball. My fondest childhood memories include digging in dirt building a city with my cousins…we would spend hours in the red clay.
We LOVE dirt around our house. We, too, have an unlandscaped back yard with old flower bed remnants—those former flower beds are full of dirt and old mulch and millions of earthworms, ladybugs, roly polies, and other creepy crawlies: My siblings and I played outdoors all year long, and spring and summer meant dirt, dirt, dirt.
We made mud pies, dug holes, splashed in the puddles that formed in the sand alongside the road. Worms were like pets. I remember watching ants at work, trundling bits of sand to build mounds or dragging food back to their homes. I also remember spending parts of afternoons following butterflies from flower to flower. Sure, those things are interesting on the Discovery channel, too, but so much better experienced up-close and personal. We were barefoot, of course. I remember a sense of satisfaction when I saw dirt melting off me and into the water.
Get dirty, then the dirt disappears. Interesting stuff for a small child. I completely agree about letting kids get down and dirty, and I feel sorry for kids whose only attachment with nature comes from a manicured soccer field. My niece posted some photos on her Facebook page of her older son plastered with mud up to his armpits — he and some other kids were out during low tide and they looked like dirt babies. The grin on his face said it all: As for the germophobia, yep, that too.
At the end of the year I count them, round up the total and send it to the food bank. The world is covered with germs. Some of them should be avoided. I loved this post. It took me quite a while, actually moving to the mountains, to consistently let my kids really play in the dirt. Because this subject is one dear to me, I posted a link to this post on my blog, Rosie Girl Dreams last Saturday.
Kids love dirt and that is a fact, especially boys. Children love to play outdoors because everything is interesting to them. They do not think that they will get dirt, they just do whatever they feel is interesting, and if that means they will get dirty it is alright for them.
He is only 3 too! I have never had a fear of dirt.. I have also encouraged my son to be barefoot as much as possible, even outside. I always let my kids playing on the dirt and get them dirty. You are absolutely right Katie. Actually I like the way the looks when they plays in the dirt. Kids are always so happy to play in the dirt. And they can learn a lot of things from the experience at the same time. Ah, sand is a good idea. Our current one, despite my best efforts, is filled with sticker plants interspersed amongst the very sorry looking grass.
These reasons are also why we let our dog lick our baby, and we let her without fear that our baby is getting germs. It is a myth actually that dogs mouths are clean, they are full of bacteria, however there are no dangers really in having your dog lick your child.
It has the same benefit as letting your children play in the dirt. Bacteria is everywhere and most of them are beneficial to us.
Only a small percentage are dangerous to our health. My kids discovered dirt on their own aside from the dirt in the garden. It was even in their hair!
I love your article! I grew up on the beach and loved sand! Unfortunately my kids only get to play at the beach for a couple of months every couple of years but in the mean time we have a sand box and a small part of my garden when the kids love to play! They love to dig for rollie pollies and warms, they get dirty and have so much fun!
I love to garden and I can see how great it feels to play in the dirt!!! I love the first picture, it reminds me of my childhood. I could never resist the siren call of a good mud puddle! From the beginning DS has been outside playing in the dirt, mud, rain, sand, grass etc.
When I teach horseback riding lessons, he is given a little patch of sand in the ring to take his sand toys, diggers and cars. We take nature walks that include playing in streams, lakes etc. My friend is a personal trainer one of her client is an immunologist someone who studies the immune system. When she got pregnant he gave her one piece of advice.
Let your child play in dirt! Brings back some wonderful memories of mudpie making and crawdad catching in the creek bank behind my neighbors house. I need to print this and hand it out to a few parents I know. LOL I love it! Imagine life without playing in the dirt? I do think we shelter our children from dirt way too often.
Thanks for the facts about digging in the dirt being healthy!! I loved this post! My two boys absolutely love to play in the dirt, and get messy in the sand on the beach. My natural inclination, I have to admit, is to stay away from dirt…so at first I had to hold myself back from pulling them out of the earth and cleaning them up. But now I just let them at it! And we all benefit from that. This is a great post. We live in a town house that has a large courtyard in the center with a playground and you can always find one sometimes all!
I understand the need to stay clean and presentable when you are on your way out to certain places, but for ordinary days……. After all, I can hose you down and wash away the dirt. The benefits and the memories will be there forever. Now my kids seek out the one spot in our yard with cool, soft dirt and will play there for hours!
Oh yes, my month old loves getting dirty! My mom has an unused raised bed in her garden that she topped up with nice dirt and toys for him to play with at her house. A few years ago my best friend and I observed someone stopping their young child from rolling down a hill. I said, what if they were in their good white shirt? I always remember that when I consider holding my son back from getting dirty.
Besides, he grows out of clothes so fast, who cares if he ruins a few. When I was a child I was brought up in two different households. One household scolded me for ruining my clothes, hair, etc. The other household would calm me down when I got dirty and was sobbing, and I still remember to this day the simple line I was told.
I am not a fan of dirt. Not just because of the dirt itself, but also due to all the bugs that crawl around in it. A friend told me a while back that there were benefits to getting dirt on your skin. My 16 month old has yet to play in the dirt. But I do know not to use antibacterial soap. They played with flowers, had their dolls out there, found land snails and interesting insects and learned about botany by osmosis. Today, one daughter lives in Alaska and is surrounded by natural beauty and the other lives in NY and is a mixologist of very unique cocktails, some of which incorporate herbs and flowers she learned about out in the yard!
She feeds the squirrels on her fire escape…Both daughters appreciate Nature and are ardent recyclers and environmentalists. When I was a child I absolutely loved playing in dirt! I was the happiest and healthiest kid ever!
I used to eat snails and dirt and I was absolutely fine. I think these days people are protecting their children way too much from germs. How are kids going to build their immune system? Playing in the dirt should be a requirement of childhood. My daughter would spend the entire day outside if she could. I buy all of her clothes expecting her to get them dirty and would never put her in anything that I would be upset about if it got ruined.
Between eating, art, and being outside she is almost always a mess. I have a feeling my twin boys are going to be the same way. I adore digging, esp. I am against un-authorized digging where my kids just pick a spot and start to dig through a decent patch of grass or flowerbed even near buried utility lines.
They pick their tools with gusto and dig with imagination. It confirms everything I wrote about here: Several moms were complaining about how dirty the kids got on a school field trip to a farm.
It was a source of joy for me! My child is a cancer survivor who was immuno-suppressed due to chemotherapy for almost 3 years. I still enjoy seeing her get messy years later. We have an awful lot of first world problems these days. I always enjoy reading your posts! Sometimes I wonder why we even buy toys. My mom who was terminal with stage 4 breast cancer gave out this same advice to a nurse also a Mom who came to take care of her.
The nurse would talk about how her son would always find dirt or something to get into and she was always having to chase him around with a Tide Pen. Expected not to get dirty with perfect hair and clothes. Kids only get to be a kid once. Because that was the memory my mother had of her own. The next week the nurse came back and told my mom she was right, she had left her Tide Pen at home and let her son be himself, she could always soak his clothes in Tide at the end of the day.
Honestly, I felt yucky too when my kids go out and play with the soil or dirt. They catch cough and colds very easily. They also get eczema very quickly whenever they are exposed in dust or dirt. This post is really awakening to me. I do let my kids get dirty, but I do find myself trying to keep them clean from time to time. This article is a great reminder of all the good playing in the dirt can be for kids!
I always intuitively felt that playing in dirt can be … well … therapeutic. I can still remember the joy that I got when goofing around with dirt, mud and clay during childhood. I remember I used to run around in the surroundings after a decent rain, holding a magnet and searching for iron particles. It was really fun! Not to mention the provider has to sanitize everything every second it gets used… Disposable paper towels, baby wipes….
It just baffles me…. I always hated getting dirty. I was never discouraged from getting dirty, I just thought it was gross and chose not to. My daughter is the same way. As a result I now take my son who has a genetic disorder to our local community garden every week and I know that its making a difference in him.
Before I took him to the garden he was obsessed with the X Box, but since then he is rarely on it. He has become fascinated with spiders and his language has come a long way. Just yesterday one of the gardeners was telling me how dirt has natural anti depressant factors!!! That just makes so much sense to me.
Hi, We designed a sandpit in our home and my daughter loves it. She can spends hours in sand and I usually let her play for a while before her shower time.
My son on the other hand is not so keen these days and likes play with his toys and other stuffs. Guess every kid is different. But, I was restricted from dirt when I was a child though. Never washed my hands once. Rubbing your hands in the grass is just as good.
Yes, my kids play in the dirty on a daily basis except for the winter. The only rule is no making mud, and they get around that one fairly frequently.
Where did we come, that we have to explain things that are self-evident since the dawn of humanity. This is a great post! I have an in home daycare and the kids I care for play in the dirt all the time. They have helped me plant gardens, and their all time favorite thing is finding worms. We had some robins whose nest got destroyed and boy did those little chirpers need to eat all the time.
The kids were a major help with finding the worms we needed. Their parents would tell me that their child would freak out if they got dirty or saw a bug. He had a very good point! Not just for kids but for adults too!! Thanks for the great post about the benefits of mud. I am going to link to this article on my blog and newsletter.
I also have a great pick of kids covered in mud if you want to use it! My son can spend an hour finding worms and making a suitable home in a bucket for him: My oldest is 7 and he loves to play with bugs…. However, I think most people misunderstand what the studies are talking about when they talk about the hygiene hypothesis and autoimmunity. They are talking about not how clean you keep you kids, but the lack of parasites ie worms that kids in developed nations are exposed to.
This probably has to due with more to do with sanitary sewers and clean water yah! Sorry I have a child with IBD, and am a little sensitive to people spouting off about playing in dirt as a solution to the rise in autoimmune diseases in children. I grew up on a farm and was constantly covered in dirt and I loved every minute of it!
It was a great time for me to play with my younger sisters, I have many fond memories that will be with me for the rest of my life. We need to have more people let their kids play in the dirt! They are outside playing in it right now! As we like to say, they earn their baths each day.
They are 7, 5, and 2. Yes my kid plays in dirt and nature, puddles and sand and all that good stuff. My older kids loved dirt and getting dirty. My youngest has never liked it. As a toddler, she also hated play dough and finger paint, etc. Come to find out, she has trouble with sensory issues. She will dig with me in the dirt, if she has a shovel. When I was a kid, where there is no laptop, desktop etc. We enjoy playing even we got dirty.
In this modern world, I will let my kids too play even they will get dirty because its good for their health too. My boys are happiest when they play in the dirt. We live in the southwest and our dirt is more like dust. We visited the midwest and my toddler was in heaven with the dirt there! Thank you for this post. I need to remember this on a daily basis.
My son is a little over two and loves to play outside. This was a good reminder to just relax and let him enjoy running around and getting dirty without me trying to keep him clean by wiping his hands off.
I could not agree more. Dirty kids are happy kids, and I am happy to say that my daughter is raising her 4 boys the same way!
What a great post! Lucky for us it was a natural sand pit. Now my children have the same. Some study has revealed that the bacteria in the soil is actually helpful for you health.
My husband and I have two girls twins. We live out in the country. There is a small pond that becomes a mud pit in the summer.
We take the girls out there and let then have fun. They love playing in the mud. Even in the heart of NYC, I try to give my three year old a chance to play in nature as much as possible. Fortunately, we are close to Central Park. Of course, a little more vigilance is necessary broken glass, dog dirt, worse but we both have so much fun playing with trees and climbing rocks.
Something we could all benefit from in this day. My girls often come home from their preschool filthy — dirt under their fingernails, sand in their hair, paint on their arms, you name it! But my husband and I have come to really appreciate the freedom the kids are given to explore one of the most basic elements of nature…dirt. It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear. Now check your email inbox Be sure to check your spam folder or the Promotions tab in Gmail.
You can reach us at hello theartofsimple. Let your kids get dirty! It's good for her. It does a body and soul good Here are just five ways of many that dirt can benefit your children. Here are some ideas for your children: Trisha on June 25, at 9: Also worthy of a mention is sand! Tonia on December 3, at 9: Eren on June 25, at 1: Dick Heckenberg on July 22, at 7: Teresa on June 25, at 1: Kristia FamilyBalanceSheet on June 25, at 2: Anitra on July 1, at Chris on July 1, at 7: Joslyn on June 25, at 3: Natalie on June 25, at 3: Christina on June 25, at 3: We are now gardening together, and my 5 yr loves checking on the veggies and helping water them.
Karen on June 25, at 3: Kara on June 25, at 4: Karen on June 25, at She was a bit taken aback but it made sense when she thought about it. I have tried all the ones sold in the store and even rented a machine and bought the special cleaning fluid for it. I have tried foams, sprays, pre-treats, etc.
My carpet is old, light blue and is so stained in front of the sofa, chairs, and walkway that I can't stand it anymore. I had grease stains from when my husband was a diesel mechanic. Scrub in and let set for a little while. Hope it works for you. We use a Bissel. It is fairly inexpensive and works well on our 15 year old carpet 4 kids, 2 cats, and 1 dog.
We had an expensive Kirby, but the Bissel works much better. Ran it over at night and came back 4 days later because I was sick and ran the rug cleaner with just clear water back over the whole rug.
It looks and feels great. If you have a large chain department store near you, they should sell a product called Spot Shot. It comes in a spray can. The stains disappears before your eyes. I mix it myself as spot cleaners and use in home carpet cleaners for overall cleaning. I learned from a used car dealer that you should spray the area with whatever your favorite cleaner may be I love the oxy-types. Wait at least 10 minutes, more if possible. Take a nice stiff brush and break up the dirt with a few strokes.
Then run the cleaner as normal. Ad Made a difference for me. Even got ink out before. I shutter to think what he has had to clean over his career. As professional carpet cleaners, I have seen the Carpet Express in action. Should last any homeowner a lifetime. I have been cleaning carpets for 10 years now and it sounds like you most likely have stains that will not come out. I recommend a carpet replacement.
Ad Below is a thrifty tip for carpet care that I know works the best. Vacuum your carpet once a week and really do a deep vacuuming on your traffic lanes. This will keep dirt from being etched into the fibers when fibers are walked on. Once dirt is etched into a fiber, the chances of it being removed are next to nil. Below is what I recommend to tackle a fresh spill on your carpet. The first thing to do is set a "dry" absorbent material on the spill. I like to use paper towels for this step.
Make sure to get the spill as dry as possible. The second step it to apply a lightly damp clean cotton cloth to the spill. Lightly agitate the carpet fibers working your way from the outside to the middle of the spill. If this doesn't remove the spill you can use a spot remover chemical to help remove the rest of the it. The best way to apply a chemical to the spill is to use a clean cotton cloth. Apply the chemical to the "cloth, not the spill". Ad Now to make sure that you do not set the spill into your carpet with the chemical.
Rub a small part of the spill with the chemical to see if the chemical works. Call a professional to take care of the rest of the spill if the chemical doesn't work. This will save you a lot of future trouble and money. An excellent rug stain remover is Carpet Details Spotter. You can buy it at poundsfloors. I have two little dogs and my carpet still looks great. You won't be disappointed.
I have 14 year old carpets in a mobile home. They are worn and filthy, but I cannot afford to replace them at this point. Please give me your best tips. I don't have a steam cleaner, and am not sure about renting one and getting everything dry enough, as I live in an extremely humid environment. Thank you so much. Looking for a Good Carpet Cleaner for Old Carpet If you live in a larger town, look on craigslist for free carpeting and or floor tiles and get yourself some newer carpet.
Or call a remodeling place and ask if they every have decent carpet left from a job. Figure out how many square feet you will need and have carpet tacks and stripping on hand and ready to go. Put the word out and it will come to you. It's not good to live with funky old carpet: I have lived in houses with dirty old carpets like that, since where you live is very humid I would look at dry cleaning the carpet.
Resolve makes a decent product.
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