Remember the good old days of making mud pies in the backyard? Or crafting mud-castles and roads in the dirt with our bare hands? Nowadays we’re all about cleaning, disinfecting and sterilising.
Despite this over-caution when it comes to germs, scientists believe germs may actually be beneficial to a child’s immune system, and there is concern growing that in our anxiety to banish bacteria, we have become too clean for our own good.
According to Dr Jack Gilbert, a scientist who studies microbial ecosystems at the University of Chicago and author of Dirt is Good: The Advantages of Germs for Your Child's Developing Immune System, this sterilised way of living is causing our children’s immune systems to become hyper-sensitised.
He believes by over-sanitising, we may risk limiting the amount of microbial exposure we are providing our children, which may impact the body’s natural immunity to protect against allergies and new microbes that we encounter.
While recent Australian research by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute found that when babies used pacifiers that had been dropped on the ground, their risk of allergy was lower due to the early exposure to microbial particles.
Below are some of the key tips for getting a little dirty and helping immune systems grow:
The ‘5 second’ rule doesn’t exist, but don’t worry
Remember the old ‘5 second’ rule? Well, turns out it is not completely true, it only takes a millisecond for bacteria and microbes to attach to food when it’s dropped on the floor.
However, the dangerous pathogens that could be harmful to our little ones are extremely unlikely to be lurking in your home.
Feed your children a healthy, balanced diet
To support your child’s health and immunity, a diet full of fresh, real food is key. It is important to keep highly processed food to a minimum; this includes chips, chocolate and biscuits. Keep these foods as an occasional treat only.
Feed your children a variety of coloured vegetables every day to boost immunity, plus a variety of fresh fruit. Stick to a diet of fibre-rich foods and minimal refined sugar.
Ditch the hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes
While you may think the convenience of taking hand sanitiser or antibacterial wipes when you head out is great, it may be presenting a risk to our little ones.
Warm soapy water is more than enough to wash kid’s hands.
Let your kids experience the world and get a little dirty in the process
Next time your children walk inside covered head to toe in dirt, try not to overreact. Letting them experience the world first hand will not only help them learn new things, but it may also build and strengthen their immune systems.
Teach your children the basics of hygiene, such as washing their hands after using the bathroom or before eating, but there is no need to follow them around with baby wipes or hand sanitiser.
These school holidays why don’t you encourage your kids to go out the back and make a mud cake? It could be a mud-pie bake off! It’s a bit of good, dirty fun that will get the kids off the couch and away from the screens.