Happy Kids Get Muddy!

Happy Kids Get Muddy!

Our country is overrun by the quest to cut out all germs and bacteria and become as “clean” as possible.  We have entire grocery aisles dedicated to cleaning supplies and constant marketing schemes to get cleaner (but what I see, personally, as only adding more harmful chemicals to our home.) But, in my experience the really happy kids get muddy! 

Unfortunately, that trend has also led to an increase in allergies, less resistance to bacteria and an overall phobia of being the family with “the dirty kids”.

Immunologist, Mary Ruebush, Ph.D reports on why kids who are not allowed to be dirty end up being less healthy overall:  “It’s called the hygiene hypothesis. It’s been around since 1989. It’s not new information. But, absolutely, the failure to expose your children to normal environmental things causes the immune response to turn inward on itself. So the development of allergies and what we call auto-immune disease is clearly related to the increase in cleanliness in our society.”

Happy Kids Get Muddy!

While there is, of course, a time and a place for everything, getting muddy and dirty should be an integral part of childhood (and adulthood too!)  

In fact, there is new research to suggest that “exposure to specific bacteria (Mycobacterium vaccae – which people will naturally ingest and breathe in while outside) in the environment, already believed to have antidepressant qualities, could increase learning behavior” (find full article here).

Besides a child’s general health, there is a wealth of growing, maturing, adventuring, and discovering that can only happen outside.  Our society has coined a phrase (thanks to Richard Louv) – “nature deficient disorder” – that directly explains the increase of attention disorders, depression and obesity.  

Happy Kids Get Muddy!

Playing in the dirt is the simplest of acts that gives the greatest benefit emotionally, physically and mentally.  And every parent is all for that!

Believe me, I join the ranks of moms that is overrun by piles of laundry (because normally clothes are too dirty to be worn more than one day) and sighs at the sight of a kid coming in you can hardly recognize through the dirt.  

But, in my years (all 4.5 of them….) of being a mom and watching kids I have learned that my kids are happiest, sleep best and learn more efficiently when they are given uninterrupted time of play and discovery outside (usually with dirt AND water.)  

The sandbox or dirt pile or just dirt in general is used more than any other fancy toy out there.  In fact, this winter-lover is (for the first time ever) dreading the fact that kids playing outside nearly naked will not be possible (because it is sooo much easier to clean up!)

Sometimes making the switch to letting kids get dirty isn’t so easy to swallow and is less understood by people who do not have children themselves (I was one of them…)  

Here’s some of our best quick and easy tips to allow kids to just discover and learn with Mother Nature

Happy Kids Get Muddy!

Hand them a bucket and a shovel

Go on a walk or stay in your backyard.  Large dirt piles are particularly interesting for boys and girls alike.  See what they come back with and what they do with it.  My boys love to add a matchbox car or two to the mix – sometimes they are buried, sometimes they are forgotten and sometimes they are loaded by the shovel – all are ok.

Let them garden with you

Even if you have never gardened in your life.  Even just 3 pots of flowers or hard-to-kill vegetables are great fun to plant and watch grow.  And…you can’t avoid getting dirty!

Buy one of those cheap plastic little pools

Let the kids fill it with a little water and put it next to accessible dirt.  Give them that aforementioned shovel and bucket and see what happens.  Be ok with the fact that in less than 10 minutes the water in the pool will most likely not be clean.

Invest in mud boots and clothing that will hold up to the “abuse” of outside time.  

See our full list of gear we love here for wet conditions!


Kids come clean (eventually) and play clothes are for playing.  They wash too.

Get Wet!

Play along a river and discover in the mud and muck and water.  Safely, of course.

In the warmer months of the year, keep a hose attached and accessible.  Get your kids used to just being hosed down before they come back inside – make it a fun game!

Distinguish outside and inside toys

Limit both, but particularly the ones that stay outside.  Less is certainly more when it comes to helping kids connect with nature.

Go out in the rain.  

Bike, walk and run through mud puddles and dig for worms in the dirt.  These are the days when I can’t sing the praises of waterproof gear enough.  It keeps kids warm and dry and can be taken off quickly to not track mud inside.  See our best gear to keep kids warm and dry here!

P fell into a 6 inch mud puddle last week and was totally content because he couldn’t feel a thing.  Absolute top gear pick from us.

Get dirty yourself

Go on, it’s fun! This post may help inspire you.

Happy Kids Get Muddy!

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Happy Kids Get Muddy!

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45 thoughts on “Happy Kids Get Muddy!”

  1. I have three boys that have nothing better to do when they go outside other than to get dirty. Really dirty. It amazes me frequently how filthy they can get. The biggest hindrance is that everything in me cringes when they come in muddy. I hate to think of the mess it makes, but I try to remind myself they are boys, this is what they love and it hurts no one, it is a natural inclination, and if I live with it with grace then they are making good memories.

  2. As you know I let my children who are now all grown get as dirty as they wanted…even letting them pull carrots out of the ground and eat without washing. It has been my experience that the people I know who have come down with MS were cleaning freaks…personally I would much rather be a little dirty than come down with MS, wouldn’t you?

  3. My kids love getting dirty, but quickly want to clean their hands. I just need to keep some wipes in my pocket and they can play in the mud, dirt, fish pile or what have you for ever!

  4. This article makes me grateful to culture where I live … more or less I notice kids around here being encouraged to jump in mud puddles … I’ve even seen content parents watch as kids jump in mud puddles WITH THEIR PAJAMAS ON!

  5. My grandparents had a farm, and I grew up on 10 acres. It was easy to get outside and get dirty and I loved it. My daughter was born into Condominium life. We had a perfectly manicured lawn and not much else. Luckily, we moved out of the Condo when she was 18 months old. Up until then, I had to work hard to get her dirty on a regular basis. I actually made mud and put it in a big rubbermaid bin on our deck. I had a horrible fear that if she wasn’t exposed to enough dirt and grime in her early years, she would forever shun being dirty. I took her hiking and camping frequently, but it wasn’t the same as living right next to a dirt pile. Now, we have a house right next to glorious open space and we tore up half of our ‘perfect’ lawn to make way for a dirt pile! She loves getting dirty and so does her brother.

  6. My kids are always filthy…and I love it! With the cooler temperatures arriving, they are struggling with my requests for them to wear shoes, non-Keen shoes. Keens with socks work as well, PNW kids. 😉

  7. Pingback: Happy Kids Get Muddy by Tales of a Mountain Mama — Bonbon Break

  8. my som LOVES to get dirty. he currently goes to a waldorf style preschool on a farm and it is a daily event to go in mud. they actually require rain/mud clothes! i agree, dirt (and a little germs) makes their immune systems stronger.

  9. Our biggest challenge playing in the dirt is trying to keep them from eating to much of it! Both my son and daughter love to dig in the garden and look for all sorts of things.

  10. My son loves getting dirty outside! The girls, unlike their mother!, don’t like their clothes to get too dirty! Funny how different each kid is, but it doesn’t stop us from playing outside, exploring!

  11. My kids love to get dirty and be outside, either in the backyard sandbox, at the nearby playground with diggers, on the shores of a lake, or at their grandparent’s farm.
    The biggest challenge for us is daylight hours. There just aren’t enough daylight hours in our day after work and it gets worse as winter approaches:(

  12. Being girls, they definitely like to pick and choose how they will get dirty. “Cooking meals” out of dirt and leaves is fine, but falling into a muddy spot is not a happy time.

  13. I’m finding the older my son gets, and the more he is outside, the dirtier he becomes. I am perfectly ok with it too! I’m trying to become more adventurous with him and not so over cautious.

  14. I always tell my children “you must have had a lot of fun” when they come home muddy. So many voices they encounter seem to disapprove of getting dirty, so I try to be sure to be supportive of dirty clothes (and children)!

  15. My kids are constantly trying to get outside. If I open a door they’re right on my heels to get out. They love exploring the yard, going on walks, and playing anywhere outside. The biggest challenge to get them outside is usually our schedules (which is really me). Many times we’re busy and don’t spend time just playing outside as often as we’d like.

  16. I always tell my son when he comes home from a day with his grandpa and is totally filthy that the dirtier you are usually means the more fun you had. My hardest thing is finding the time with working full time to get outside with my kids, especially as daylight decreases this time of year.

  17. My girls both love to play in the dirt and I try to encourage it. We sometimes have differing opinions about which clothes are acceptable to get dirty in, though. I try to keep one set of school clothes and then a set of less nice clothes, since the stains sometimes are hard to get out. Great blog post, by the way! It’s a topic I’m passionate about myself:o)

  18. My kids run for the back door in the morning…..in the summers when the door is open, they dart out there in pjs and socks before I can get my hands on them! We’ve invested in some good mountain shoes for them for the colder months, but many pairs of socks and many pairs of pants meet their end as my kids run, climb roll and splash through the day 🙂

  19. My little guy loves to get dirty through play. The biggest challenge is keeping up with the laundry and getting him new clean clothes for school.

  20. My daycare provider would always apologize when the kids would be filthy when I picked them up (which would be just about everyday)… I always told her a dirty kid means they had awesome fun today! I only dress them in clothes that can take the dirt 🙂

  21. I am becoming more and more relaxed with how dirty my son gets. He always seems happier when he is.
    I know he has really enjoyed himself and learned a lot.

  22. My kids don’t mind getting dirty. I don’t mind it either but I do get frustrated by holes in the knees from kneeling at the playground.

  23. Great article and great site! Glad to stumble on this via your support at Mountain Khaki. As for the dirt and my kids… my kid is always dirty. We could give him a clean cotton ball in a sterile room and some how he will come out a mess! Amazing but I wouldn’t change a thing! Love it!

  24. My kids are always dirty! The hardest part for me is the rocks, sticks and other fun things that end up in their pockets and all over the house!

  25. We completely expect our two kids to get dirty and know they’ve had fun when they come in dirty. Clothes and bodies can be washed. I just have to remember to empty pockets of rocks and feathers before I do laundry! I have washed a LOT of rocks!

  26. Pingback: 12 Days of Gear Giveaways Day 9: Stylin' In the Outdoors | Tales of a Mountain Mama

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