Let them eat dirt!
Dirt, soil, earth. There are many names for the brown substance that our plants live in. As a child, I was always in the garden with my grandfather helping him. From planting to harvest, I was a very independent in my gardening. I was also determined to eat dirt, as my parents will often joke to me.
So, why should we let our children eat dirt? Is there a been a big debate on wether keeping children "clean" is as beneficial as we all think it is.
On a biological level, soil can contain hundreds of million, if not a billion bacterial cells per gram. According to Dr. Jack Gilbert "“Your kid will benefit from increased microbial exposure from animals and plants more than the infinitesimally small chance they’ll get an infection because of that association.” Playing in dirt can be viewed as a training ground for your childs immune system. Supressing foreign invaders is how a childs immune system is trained to fight off more serious illnesses later in life.
Now, what parent really wants their child completely covered in soil from head to toe. Probably not one. post COVID-19, it can feel very natural to want to sheild your child from absolutely every germ possible. But over sanitizing has been proven to produce children who are more susceptible to asthma, dust allergies, pet allergies and other conditions. Sanitizing after being in a busy mall or after being around a lot of poeple is completely normal. It is when complete sanitization comes after every single interatction that it can start to become a problem.
Overall, parenting is a balancing act. When it comes to soil and sanitization, we have a few tips for new parents! If you are nervous about starting to expose your child to new enviornments, you can start right in your backyard! By starting a small vegetable garden in your backyard you can start exposing your children to both soil and the practice of growing their own food. As a parent, you have the peace of mind that you have a safe space for your child to enjoy exploring soil while being exposed to the beneficial bacteria that exsists there.
Being a parent is a big responsibility, but with the right information you can make the best decisions for you and your child!