I love the movie “A League of Their Own,” but strangely enough one of my favorite lines (besides the “There’s no crying in baseball” one) comes toward the end, when little sister Kat signs an autograph for the some little girls and tells them to go play and “get dirty.”
I’m a firm believer in kids getting dirty, and a new report from the National Wildlife Federation agrees with me. Letting kids get dirty is actually good for them.
“Children who spend the better part of their free-time in the company of their high-tech gadgets rather than playing outside are more vulnerable to obesity, ADHD, vitamin D deficiency and depression,” the report states. “Activities kids love such as making mud pies, splashing in puddles and rolling down hills are actually a grubby prescription for health and happiness.”
Parents who spend their days trying to avoid every germ on the planet have a greater chance of children who have allergies, asthma and other autoimmune diseases, the report states. It makes perfect sense to me. How can a child’s body learn to fight off germs if they are never allowed near one? I’m not saying you should roll your children through nasty garbage cans, but you also can’t wrap them in bubble wrap or freak out if they get a bit mucky. After all, how will they know what a maple leaf tastes like if they never take a nibble from one?
I had a neighbor once who never let her kid outside without being more than an inch from his side, freaked out if a dog licked his face and want totally insane if he tried to taste a leaf or some dirt. Poor kid. I used to bring him out to the ball field and let him yell at all the trucks going past and eat grass.
Kids, after a good day, should have to be hosed off outside or make mud in the bathtub. They should be a bit sweaty, have hair sticking out in strange directions and have a few new scratches or dents. It just means they have played hard and will sleep. And the goal of play for any parent should be sleeping kids.
According to this study, there is a friendly bacteria found in dirt that helps produce serotonin, which enhances a feeling of well-being. With that in mind, anyone who wants should feel free to come help weed my garden this summer.
Also, children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces, the study says.
I think another upside to children playing outdoors, jumping in puddles and creating roads in the dirt is that they learn to amuse themselves. In this age of electronic gadgets in their hands by age two, many children never learn how to use their imagination or try to be creative. But what a sad world it would be if we all stopped creating and imagining. Where would inventions come from?
I see parents who have their kids’ lives so structured that the kid never has to think for themselves. Without that next karate class, piano lesson or play date, the kid hasn’t a clue how to entertain themselves. So what happens?
“I’m bored…,” comes out in a whiny voice, and the nearest adult is supposed to relieve that boredom.
I was watching TV the other day and saw a commercial encouraging children to go out and play for one hour a day. The commercial was sponsored by and paid for by our government. How pathetic is that? The government had to put together an ad campaign to get kids to go screw around outside or get up and move.
Maybe parents contemplating the latest video gaming device or Ipad for their 3-year-old should consider getting the kid a bike, some Tonka trucks and a package of Band-Aids instead.
Talk them into climbing a tree, jumping off a rock and heading across the monkey bars. Let them scuff themselves up a bit in the process. And consider joining them in their outdoor endeavors.