Dirt is good was a statement of irony widely used in the OMO detergent commercial, how good it is and why it is, is what they never told us. I guess dirt was good in ensuring you keep buying more detergent and OMO keeps making more money but other than that, dirt is actually good and this time not just for OMO but for your kids.
While you have been busy obsessing on keeping your kids clean with hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps in order to keep them healthy, you might have been the cause for their sickness in the first place. Kids who spend more time in dirt tend to be happier and healthier. This may not be reason enough for you to buy into the idea of letting your kids play in dirt but the following will.
Playing in dirt keeps their microbiome healthy. A microbiome is a community of microbes that live in and on the body of every human being. Microbes are greatly beneficial in the body; they help in digestion of food, production of vitamins and fighting off bad bacteria. The continued use of hand sanitizer and other antibacterial soaps is known to kill bacteria, what you are not told is that they kill both good and bad bacteria just as antibiotics do. By killing even the good bacteria you leave your kids susceptible to numerous health problems. Playing in the dirt is beneficial to the microbes baseline by ensuring they are continuously replenished and a balance between good and bad bacteria is achieved.
Exposure to bacteria helps the body develop immunity. One cannot prepare for a gunfight while practicing with a knife; you need to get accustomed to handling a gun if you are ever to take part in a gun fight. Our bodies are not any different, for your body to be able to fight germs it needs to be exposed to germs of all kinds in order to develop immunity against each one of the germs it is exposed to. The hygiene hypothesis states that kids who are exposed to a wide variety of germs are also able to withstand immune attacks from a wider variety of germs. What better way to get exposed to a wide variety of germs other than playing in the dirt? Playing in the dirt no doubt builds your kids immunity while the over clean nature of constantly using hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps on your children could be the reason they fall sick quite often. If you find it hard to believe, have you ever wondered how chokoras – street urchins survive without ever visiting a hospital even though they are constantly exposed to all manners of dirt? Food for thought.
Dirt reduces depression and anxiety issues. In a world where children are growing with all manners of social disorders, depression and anxiety issue no one would have ever guessed that dirt would be part of the solution. Dirt actually reduces anxiety and boosts the brain. Mycobacterium vaccae a harmless bacterium found in the dirt has been found to stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which controls mood and other body functions. It has been noted that low serotonin is associated with anxiety issues and depression. This actually confirms that a dirty kid is a happy kid.
Dirt helps in sense development in children. Have you ever wondered how we develop sense? Well, kids who play in dirt have well-developed senses. When they come into contact with different textures and temperature of dirt they develop a strong sense of touch. The smell of dirt enhances their development of the sense of smell. You might remember when you were a kid you spent a lot of time looking down while playing or walking. The color variation of dirt plays a big role in stimulating the sense of sight. Dirt inevitably finds its way in kid’s mouths and even though we become worried about them developing stomach upset or diarrhea, this dirt enhances the development of their sense of taste.
Playing in dirt reduces the likelihood of kids getting allergies such as asthma attacks. A study comparing kids living in farms who get to interact with dirt and all manners of animal and those living in urban settings revealed that most kids in urban center suffer from asthma compared to those living in rural areas. Constant exposure to bacteria and animal dander while growing makes these kids grow accustomed to them hence they do not develop allergies to certain substances like pet dander while also reducing the likelihood of them acquiring asthma.
It is, however, logical to protect your kids from certain types of dirt. If not for the dirt you might want to make sure they get their fair share of play time outside because it generally keeps them happy and fit.
Onduu Oluoch is a writer, poet and human rights activist obsessed with being black and African. He is currently a student pursuing linguistics media and communication at Moi University. He is an ardent reader of African literature and believes the whole point of life is being part of a good story.