I am raising dirty kids. For starters with four kids all running around I doubt I could avoid it, but I also don’t want to… not entirely. I never have been a super neat freak who uses antibacterial wipes and soaps on every surface, which is odd since microbiology in college really grossed me out, but still I don’t. That is not to say that I don’t like things to be clean. It just means there is a time and a place for dirt and I love letting my kids explore their environment.
There is a school of thought called the Hygiene hypothesis. Without getting into the details of the immune system’s reactions, it basically states that in early childhood the lack of natural exposure to microorganisms and infectious agents can suppress the immune system’s development. It has been linked to higher probabilities of allergic diseases such as asthma and eczema. There have been studies that show that there are much higher allergy related disorders in industrialized areas than in more rural communities. It’s interesting to think that all the things we do to prevent disease could cause other problems, but it really can.
So what does this mean for my kids? It means we have tons of fun dirty activities. I am not afraid of a mess and at the end of a fun activity, there is always time for a bath. It does not mean that I have chicken pox parties or purposefully expose my children to things that could harm them. I just don’t worry about the little things. If my kids put their mouths on something, I simply remind them not to do it and move on.
So how do we get dirty? We love to run around in the rain. There are trees around our block with roots that are pushing up the street so there is a giant puddle right outside our house. When it rains, this is my kids’ favorite thing to do. And I am right there with them, usually up to my ankles in street water. In the fall, we love to play in the dry leaves. We can actually do this all winter long. We live in Los Angeles so leaves are pretty much the only sign of winter we have.
We love to play in the mud. If there is nothing to do on a hot afternoon, why not add a little water to a pile of dirt and let them have at it? My daughter is no exception to the love of getting dirty. I am sure if I would let her she would sit and eat dirt all afternoon. I do try to teach them that you are not supposed to shovel dirt, mud and leaves into your mouth.
One thing we also do almost every time we go into our front yard is to look for bugs. Oh yes… it is as fun as it sounds! A grown up has to assist and we pick up the bricks to look at the wet soil underneath. We have taught them respect for the animals they find. We do not touch or disturb; we simply look and then gently replace the brick. Another one of my kids’ favorite dirty activity is gardening. We “garden” all year long. I say it like that because obviously there are seasons for growing things, but my kids don’t care — a few days ago we planted old sticks and made a fairy forest!
We play outside almost everyday. We have a large fenced in front yard and the kids play for hours out there. They get dirty and sometimes need a change of clothes or a hosing off, but they are loving every minute of it. I am not particularly worried about germs or other microbes. I don’t really like them tracking mud on the carpet, but that is another story all together.
Do you let your kids get dirty?