Thursday, February 7, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 5 - A little dirt is good for you

parenting, truths, childhood, dirt, childhood is messy

Today’s #parentingtruth is this: a little dirt won’t hurt.When I was a child we usually played outdoors and we got dirty often. My brother’s best friend lived on a small farm and we would often play in their yard or barn when we weren’t in our own back yard.

Don’t be afraid to let your kids get dirty. Childhood is a wonderful time to be messy: to play in the sandbox, to make mud pies, to ride bicycles and to use finger paints. Kids are extremely washable! I am so thankful that my parents sent us outdoors to explore and have fun at a young age. It was habit that has lasted a lifetime. I had a wonderful childhood, and it led me to want something grand for our own daughters’ childhoods.

Now before you get upset and tell me that the world is a different place today than when I was  child and you cannot let your kids outside by themselves, stop and listen. I am going to tell you the same thing I tell the readers of my newspaper columns: go outside with your kids! I know the world is a scary place, and I know you want your kids to stay safe. I also know that childhood should be lived outdoors as much as possible - so go outside with your children.

Along the way, your kids are going to end up eating some dirt, or sand, or drinking some pool water. These things an inevitable, but not necessarily bad. When Arlene was almost a year old, we repeatedly found her eating dirt. She would scoot over to the table where I had my vegetable seedlings growing and reach up and pull out the popsicle stick markers and lick the dirt off of them. For three days in a row, while Emily was helping me plant the garden we caught Arlene with a muddy face and a chunk of dirt in her hand. Instead of it freaking me out, like it would a lot of modern parents, it made me laugh. I ran inside on the third day to grab the camera and took the above picture of her cute muddy face. No harm, no foul, it was just some dirt. We didn’t use pesticides or fertilizers on the yard, so there was nothing to be afraid of.

Interestingly enough, I read an article about a year later where researchers were studying whether the good bacteria in our soil could be used to help treat people’s gut issues. While the research on Homestatic Soil Organisms (HSOs) ended with mixed results, I will tell you that our dirt and sand eating redheaded child was rarely sick.

Maybe it was the dirt, maybe it was the Vitamin D from all the time she spent out in the sunshine, but either way, Arlene had a healthy childhood that I credit to eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and spending time outdoors. Her sister was always calmed as a baby by going outside or at least opening a window and letting the fresh air in. Even today, one of Emily’s favorite scents is the smell of wet dirt after a spring rain.

There’s another important part to today’s #parentingtruth about getting dirty: it helps you appreciate being clean. When we let our young children get well and truly dirty, we create natural teachable moments about cleaning up after ourselves and taking a bath. Your kids might be dirty from making cookies in the kitchen, digging for worms in the garden or helping dad with a project in the garage. When kids are really dirty after a full day of work and play, they learn how to scrub well to get clean before bedtime!

Being a kid is a messy endeavor, but it is also a once in a lifetime opportunity!  Find ways to enjoy this adventure a second (bonus) time with your own kids. A little dirt won’t hurt. :)

parenting, truths, childhood, dirt, childhood is messy

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