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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”.

Why Let Kids Get Dirty

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).

Avoiding Nature Deficient Disorder

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!

Happy Kids Get Dirty

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 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.)  Oh and this 100% applies to girls too!

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. We love this bucket!

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.  

Great gear really makes ALL the difference especially in wet conditions. Save yourself some stress and just invest from the get go in gear you know will work to keep them dry and comfortable. See our full list of gear we love here for rain.

Relax

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!

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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Beth

Monday 14th of October 2013

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!

Andrea

Monday 14th of October 2013

I have two little boys, and LOTS of little boy laundry. I do not mind tho!

Haley @ Climb Run Lift Mom

Monday 14th of October 2013

My kids love getting dirty!

Sarah Munson

Monday 14th of October 2013

I know it has been a good day when I have to dig dirt from under little fingernails!