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June 14, 2012

Stay Healthy, Play with Dirt!

I mentioned in my previous blog, More Exposure to Nature Means Less Allergies, that children who grew up in areas with more exposure to nature were less likely to develop allergies. From information in the Science Now article and others, you can easily conclude that the more time your children spend outside, the more exposure they will receive, regardless of where you live, but one thing the previous article did not talk about was cleanliness.

I have found numerous articles all saying the same thing, our children are too clean.

“Children raised in an ultraclean environment are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits.” Says Dr. Joel V. Weinstock quoted from the article Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You

My own parents have lengthy stories about how they spent their weekend and summer vacations outside all day long with neighborhood kids, from the moment they woke up until the streets lamps turned on. They often came home filthy and needing baths. Even I spent my summer days playing in “the rock pile,” picking wild flowers, and building forts out of fallen tree limbs. I don’t see many children doing that now.

According to How and why to get kids outdoors, "While contemporary parents spent their free time as kids exploring and playing in nature, their children devote only four to seven minutes a day to unstructured outdoor play like climbing trees, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, taking a nature walk or playing a game of catch. Yet, kids spend more than seven hours each day in front of electronic media."

By being outdoors children get exposed to germs, bacteria and allergens, and it’s HEALTHY for them!

“In studies of what is called the hygiene hypothesis, researchers are concluding that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body along with “dirt” spur the development of a healthy immune system.”

“These studies, along with epidemiological observations, seem to explain why immune system disorders like multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and allergies have risen significantly in the United States and other developed countries.” from Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You

So what can you do to help your children develop a strong immune system? Let them play in dirt!

For some suggestions of outdoor activities for your children, I suggest reading these articles:
The Best 5 Toys of All Time 
Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body and Spirit through Outdoor Play

Needs more reason why dirt is good for you?
Why Keeping Little Girls Squeaky Clean Could Make Them Sick
Too Clean? Fight Against Germs Fuels Allergy Increase

Go forth, let your kids outside, and don’t be afraid to get a little dirty! It’s good for your health!


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