I was out for a walk with my kids last week in the middle of the city. There was concrete around us for miles, but my two-year-old had a seemingly magnetic attraction to the dirt surrounding a large tree near the spot my spouse and I had chosen for lunch. How is it possible that he was so attracted to that tiny patch of soil in the middle of a concrete jungle?
The truth is, there are a whole host of reasons that a child's curiosity draws them to roll around in the dirt. Often parents are quite dismayed by this, I know we were not happy to drag a grime-encrusted two-year-old around the city for the rest of the day. There is no amount of scolding that can break this strange call of nature.
So why do kids like to play in the dirt? Because it is good for them! We're going to go over a host of reasons that will explain why kids love dirt and why you should let them have a roll in the mud from time to time. Is it going to make the laundry more difficult? Absolutely, but it can also help your kids out in some unexpected ways!
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Were you privy to this slime craze that seems to have overtaken the mind of every elementary schooler on the planet? I discovered my 9-year-old's creation in the bathroom a few months ago and was horrified. What do you get when you combine a half tube of toothpaste, a pack of conditioner, and a whole lot of white school glue?
That's right, gross gloopy trash. But she didn't see it that way. She explained that she was making slime. Once I understood that I bought some borax and corn starch and gave her a lesson in non-newtonian fluids. I got to be the cool parent for an afternoon! What seems like a mess to you is really a science experiment for them!
It's important for a child to get all of their senses involved in playtime. Squishing slime or dirt between their fingers and toes might seem disgusting to us, but a child doesn't know the amount of work that goes into an extra dirty pile of laundry. To our children it's all just good fun! My kids know there is a time and place for it, but I certainly won't dissuade them from experiencing the world with all five senses.
Much like the slime experiment from earlier, dirt captures a child's natural curiosity. When my two-year-old is pouring water into the soil he isn't doing it out of some malicious intent, he's simply discovering the world he lives in. You can certainly tell him that water plus dirt equals mud, but that can't compare to seeing it in action!
We all want to keep our kids safe from microscopic dangers, but unless your little one lives inside a bubble they're going to meet up with some sort of germs from time to time. The immune system gets great practice from microbes found in the soil. It's ironic, but exposing them to a bit of danger now can prevent some much bigger problems like auto-immune disorders down the road.
Serotonin provides a happy and satisfied feeling. There is scientific evidence that certain microbes within the soil activate the neurons that produce the almighty serotonin. This is very likely the reason that you'll never be able to scold your child out of getting dirty whenever the opportunity presents itself. Is it an addiction? Not an extreme one, but it does qualify. I'm sure we could all enjoy a roll in the mud if the societal contract we all live by hadn't adulted us out of it.
It is great to want to protect your child, but there can definitely be too much of a good thing. Allowing your child to flourish alone develops a sense of self-sufficiency that can be hard to come by in the current generation. You'll need to let them go and make their own mistakes. It can be difficult, but it's often the quickest way to learn. After hollering 'don't put the dirt in your mouth!' twenty times, I eventually let the boy stick dirt in his mouth. The first time was the last time.
You might be amazed at the construction that gets underway when you simply encourage your kids to play in the dirt with a shovel and pail. Encouraging kids to get outdoors, commune with nature, and shut off the tablet or TV for a little while is a beautiful thing. Kids can create their own stories and adventures, and they're often a lot more interesting than the adventures that YouTube can provide. When it comes to imagination? The sky is the limit!
Just because your kids are dirty or their shoes are filthy, doesn't mean that either of them needs to stink! Top off a quick rinse or thorough wash with our grape-scented foot deodorizer spray or grape-scented shoe deodorizer powder to keep your kids smelling fresh even if the reality of the situation is quite different.
Don't get me wrong, my children love dirt but they don't get to have a go anytime they spot some. There are certain clothes and times that will allow them to get it out of their system. Even with that planning in place, they still decide to depart from the schedule every now and again. It's all part of the unpredictable joy of raising kids.