Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dirt can make you smarter

I have always prescribed to what I like to call the Eat Dirt method of parenting. If my toddler hasn't gone through at least three outfits by the end of the day and has clean hands then we haven't spent enough time outside. I encourage her to play in the mud, sand, even the compost pile. She's been known to dip her crackers in the sand at the beach and eat them and I don't freak out like a lot of other mothers we often hang out with. Purell is most definitely not allowed in my house.

Why? Well, I've always known that a challenged immune system is a happy immune system. Too many antibiotics and not enough bacteria can cause one's immune system to go haywire. It actually needs something to do or it gets out of balance. And now, there's new research showing that playing in the dirt exposes humans to the bacteria Micobacterium vaccae, which not only decreases anxiety but stimulates brain function, making you smarter. From Science Daily:

"This research suggests that M. vaccae may play a role in anxiety and learning in mammals," says Matthews. "It is interesting to speculate that creating learning environments in schools that include time in the outdoors where M. vaccae is present may decrease anxiety and improve the ability to learn new tasks."

As I rapidly near the birth of my second child (the reason I have not been blogging lately, thank you everyone who has contacted me in concern, I am fine, just tired :) this only reminds me more and more that it is so important for kids to get out and play in the dirt.

I am blessed with a child who is far more happy being outside than watching TV. In fact just the other day my husband gave her the very rare opportunity to watch ten minutes of TV by asking her "Do you want to play in the backyard or watch Elmo?" and "BACKYARD!" was her enthusiastic response. Which is the best answer we could have received. So if you have children in your lives show them your love and let them eat dirt.