The Little Known Secret to Happier Healthier Kids

Mud Pies

We all want what’s best for our kids, but with all of the conflicting information out there, sometimes it’s difficult to tell exactly what that might be. Rest assured, what I’m about to share with you is one of the easiest ways you can help your child develop a healthy immune system and prevent depression and best of all, it’s all scientifically proven.

Scientists have discovered a microbe in dirt that can actually increases serotonin production. Serotonin increases feelings of wellbeing and is even linked with learning. But that’s not the only benefit of playing in the dirt.

Exposure to the millions of microbes and bacteria present in dirt help children develop a healthy immune system. Stranger still, exposure to dirt has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, promote healthy skin by preventing inflammation, and it can even decrease anxiety!

And that’s not to mention the many studies that have shown that simply spending time outside is good for us. In my environmental psychology class in college, we learned that simply listening to nature sounds or even watching a video of a natural scene decreased blood pressure significantly. So how much better must it be to actually get out and enjoy the outdoors?

Spending time in nature and digging and playing in the dirt or mud are sensorial experiences that children delight in. Do you remember the wonderful feeling of mud squishing between your toes? Or recall the joy of discovering how a steady stream of water can erode a “mountain” of dirt into nothing at all?

I used to love to make mud pies as a child. I would mix the dirt and water in my own special concoction adding just the right amount of each, a sprinkle of grass, a few clovers, and then I’d mix it all up with a twig and serve up my creations with the pride of a master baker.

Who knew I was improving my immune system, developing a healthy heart, and decreasing my chances of depression? I just knew it was fun!

Last week my mom introduced my daughter to the joys of making her first mud pies. She was slow to warm up, unsure about getting quite that dirty, but I’m betting that by the end of the summer we’ll have some shots of her covered head to toe. And who knows, maybe I’ll join her!

I mean, I don’t have to go to some fancy resort and shell out of bunch of money to take a mud-bath, I can do that in my own back yard! So, yes, encourage your kids to put on some old clothes, and play in the mud, and if you’re feeling adventurous, join in the fun!

Have a wonderfully dirty week, Shelly

Photo by Christee Cook

4 comments
AuntieAngela
AuntieAngela

Mud pies were one of my favorites as a child too - and something I've passed on to the kids in my daycare. Kids and dirt just seem to go together to me. Thank you for spelling out WHY it is so important for kids to have access to free, messy, natural, muddy play! 

lahees
lahees

@AuntieAngela Do you have structured activities or just let them play in the dirt as the see fit?  Do you think that there is an age that is too young for this activity, like those who are still mouthing everything?

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@AuntieAngela You're so welcome! I'm happy to know that you encourage messy play at your daycare. Keep up the great work!

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@lahees From what I've read, getting a little bit of dirt in your mouth is actually great for immunity and prevents depression. But personally, I did monitor mud play a bit more closely when my daughter was very little.

For the most part though, kids know just how to have fun in mud. I'd simply provide a few tools like buckets, spoons, and shovels and let them go for it! I do tend to offer this activity in warm weather and usually ask my daughter to do her mud play either naked or with a smock on to avoid messy clean-up.