Can kids play their way to health?

Winter is here, and that means one thing: a three-month snot fest.

I’m sorry to be gross, but it’s true. Every school drop-off and pick-up is fraught with danger. Tiny noses ooze everywhere. Hundreds of tiny hands that have wiped said tiny oozing noses come perilously close to touching me and my daughter. I just want to slather myself and everyone else within a 50m radius of me with hand sanitiser.

Thankfully, winter is nearly over. And I know that colds, flu and nits are an unfortunate way of life when there’s a kid in the household.

Did you know, though, that outdoor play can build children’s immune systems?

Sadly, outdoor play cannot prevent regular nit parties in your children’s hair. But research shows that when kids are free to play outside and get their hands dirty, they are exposed to microbes that help build their immunity.

Not only that, allowing our kids to put their hands in the dirt can help prevent a plethora of serious health issues.

According to Let Them Eat Dirt, by B. Brett Finlay, PhD, and Marie-Claire Arrieta, PhD, allergies, obesity, asthma, intestinal disorders, auto-immune diseases and diabetes are on the rise. Why? Because of changes to the complex ecosystem of microbes – our microbiota – that live on and inside us.

“In the 150 years since we discovered that microbes cause infectious diseases, we’ve battled to keep them at bay,” the authors say.

“But a recent explosion of scientific knowledge has led to undeniable evidence that early exposure to these organisms is beneficial to our children’s well-being. It turns out that our current emphasis on hyper-cleanliness and poor diets are taking a toll on our children’s lifelong health.”

The authors emphasise not only is it OK, it’s in everyone’s best interests to let our kids get a bit dirty.

So, it seems like my instinct to coat myself and my daughter in hand sanitiser is a big no-no.

Now, look. I realise letting your kids play in the dirt can result in some irritating and time-consuming consequences. Especially if you have carpet in the house. And if getting your kid into the bath is about as fun and easy as poking out your eyeballs.

But outdoor play doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to involve mud (although they sure do love mud, the little devils treasures!). All you need to do is open your back door and let them run free in the backyard or take them to the park on the weekend.

Who knows? You might enjoy getting your hands dirty, too.

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Written by Lauren from Full Stop Publishing.


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