excerpt from http://simplemom.net/let-your-kids-get-dirty/
Here are just five ways (of many) that dirt can benefit your children.
1. Did you know that studies have shown dirt to be good for your brain? Apparently, there are types of bacteria that are naturally found in soil which activate the neurons that produce serotonin – a key chemical in many bodily functions, as well as a natural anti-depressant. In other words, dirt can actually help make you feel happy. (And I’m not just talking about the mud wraps at the day spa.)
2. Dirt is also great for the immune system, especially in children. Research has shown that early exposure to the naturally occurring microbes in soil will help build stronger, more disease-resistant kiddos.
In our germaphobic culture where we have entire aisles of cleaning products at the grocery store, some children are being raised in “overhygienic” conditions. Without enough exposure to different bacteria and microbes, it is thought that the immune system doesn’t learn to recognize its own cells, and this could be a reason for higher rates of asthma, eczema, and other diseases.
3. In our technologically savvy generation, kids just aren’t getting enough time to play outside, and that has now been linked to attention disorders, depression (yes, in children), and obesity.
4. Children who play outside laugh more, which means they’re happy! It also means their blood pressure and stress levels are lower. (Did YOU know that those are two physical benefits of laughter? We could all probably stand to laugh a little more!)
5. Kids who play outside grow in their character development: they become more adventurous, more self-motivated, and they are better able to understand and assess risk.
How to Get Dirty
Now, I know some of you may still be thinking about those mud wraps (wink). But I have a theory that mud wraps are just a socially acceptable way for grown-ups to play in the dirt again. Grown-up or child, playing in the dirt is good for the soul as well as the body.
Here are some ideas for your children:
• If you’ve never tried this, just give your child a bucket and a shovel and set them in the dirt. See what happens – they will probably be in heaven for quite some time.
• Garden with your kids! You can create a separate little garden for your children, too – if your child is very young, you don’t even need to actually plant anything in it; they will simply love having a dirt plot of their own.
• Explore nature with your children; study insects, leaves, wildflowers, rocks, etc. Start a nature collection. Take hikes. Wade in creeks. Go on picnics. DON’T clean their hands with antibacterial wipes before you eat. A little water and soap will do.
Considering all the benefits of playing in the dirt, it sounds like a great idea for us grown-ups to get outside and join our children.