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.


  1. I agree 100%. I've always thought germs make you healthier, not the other way around. Misguided notion that you can avoid them anyway. They are everywhere. Why not embrace them.

  2. I read that too! And I've been congratulating all the gardeners I know for their prescience in staying healthy! And that is definitely the most wonderful thing you could hear from your kid!! I see you on Facebook now and then, it's like a lame form of blogging. Glad to see you here, though!

  3. Woah I had not heard about this study and I'm so glad you posted information about it! I totally love this post--thanks for the reminder about getting outside and playing in the dirt! I read Last Child in the Woods a few years ago and got hooked on learning more about the whole nature-deficit disorder thing. I always find information supporting children spending time in nature fascinating and important :D

  4. That's good Kate, let your child play outside rather than stay in the house in front of the big black box!

    Yes I know dirt has something to do with the immune system, trust me...I played all day long out in the sun when I was a kid and I thank God that I have never been sickly all my life.

    Nice to see you again, Kate.


  5. Yay!!!!
    Eat dirt.
    Dip your crackers in the sand.
    And that is the sweetest picture EVER!

  6. Love dirt! That's some science I can't wait to share with a few folk!

    Congrats on the coming little one!

  7. I'm just pleased to see that Science is there to back up what always used to be natural for parents (common sense even if you take it to the nth degree!!). I have the same parenting style as you. At least now the others can call the 'experts' to reassure themselves!! Look after yourself...

  8. Just realized I never thanked everyone for your thoughtful comments! thanks! We continue to get very dirty on a daily basis up here on the North Shore, my toddler has taken to pulling carrots out of the ground and eating them dirt and all! I hope everyone is well, sorry for my absence, I have a 6 week old to keep dirty now too!

  9. Hello
    LOng time have passing true...And I really want contact again. I have start a new blog in a different form ...we had Contemplation together and before I called my self Fancy Sweden, I hope that you will visit my new blog.

    Love Fancy


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