PARENTS

6 Reasons Why Letting Your Children Get Dirty Is a Great Idea

Ditch the hand sanitiser.

19/07/2017 15:46

Most parents will remember childhood summers spent outside (come rain or shine), but children today are likely spend their school holidays on YouTube rather than making mud pies.

But by not getting dirty, children may be missing out on more than just making memories.

Here are six reasons why it’s a great idea to let your children get covered in mud every now and again.  

1. It strengthens their immune system.

A report by microbial scientist Jack Gilbert found that exposure to the germs found in dirt is actually beneficial to your children’s long-term health. 

Gilbert said: “That dirty dummy that fell on the floor - if you stick it in your mouth and lick it, and then pop it back in [their mouth]... it’s actually going to stimulate their immune system. Then their immune system’s going to become stronger because of it.”

2. It is maintaining their general health.

Not only is it building their immune system, but dirt is good for your child’s overall health. Professor Brett Finlay, at the University of British Columbia, wrote in a HuffPost UK blog that by protecting our children from dirt, we are depriving them of a variety of microbes, which may be causing more problems for them. 

Finlay wrote: “Recent research shows there is a direct link between lacking diverse microbes in a child’s gut to potential chronic conditions like asthma, allergies, obesity, diabetes and even healthy brain development.” 

Ezra Bailey via Getty Images

3. It reduces the likelihood of allergies. 

Dirt can also help stop children developing allergies too. Professor Gilbert cited a study in which children who were given a dirty dummy to suck on were shown to be part of the same pool of children that developed less allergies, less asthma and less eczema. 

4. It helps skin repair itself. 

The NHS reports that having bacteria on the surface of your skin, such as that deposited when children play outside, helps your body to “dampen down” any potential overactive immune responses such as rashes or bruises that become swollen and painful rather than just going away in time.

5. It encourages your child to spend time outside in nature.

When parents are worried about their children getting dirty, it is tempting to keep them inside or away from the potential source of grime. But with more and more children in the UK not spending enough time in the fresh air - a 2016 study revealed 50% of British children spend an hour or less outside per day, in contrast to prisoners who are guaranteed two hours every day - getting outside and in the mud is more important than ever. 

6. It is natural for children to eat dirt.  

Regardless of all the other health benefits, one scientist says that quite frankly it is just natural for children to want to eat dirt.

For millions of years children have grown up constantly exposed to the microbes around them, but Professor Finlay explained that modern society has changed how we live and now we strive to eliminate microbial exposure (all that hand sanitiser).

He said: “Allow your children to touch anything they want (within reason), including dirt, mud, trees, plants, insects, etc. If the dirt gets in their mouths, don’t freak out, they’ll soon realise that dirt doesn’t taste all that good and likely won’t develop a habit for it. Do your child a favour and encourage them.” 

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