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Playground Equipment Blog
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

4 Reasons You Should Let Kids Play in the Dirt

Still running around after your kid, telling them to mind their clothes? Think again. Research suggests that playing outside—and in the mud—is great for kids’ emotional and physical development. Read on to find out why.

1. Time in nature can help with emotional and cognitive development.

According to recent research, immersing ourselves in nature has a profound impact on our performance, emotional health, and general well being. Essentially, time in nature has the ability to refocus our attention and relieve stress. In his research, David Strayer calls this the three-day effect. As he says, “If you can have the experience of being in the moment for two or three days, it seems to produce a difference in qualitative thinking.”

And for children, carving out time in nature provides immeasurable cognitive and development benefits. By playing in the dirt, kids learn about nature and the life cycle and gain more respect for living creatures big and small. For toddlers and young children, the different textures of sand, grass, mud, and soil can be incredibly soothing and stimulating, helping them with sensory development. In order to carve out more time outdoors, follow these helpful tips:

  1. Limit screen time to one to two hours a day and then shoo kids outside to get some fresh air. Boredom and limitations breed creativity.
  2. Create kid-friendly spaces to facilitate dramatic and social play! Our play structures make a great addition to any backyard, school, or daycare center.
  3. Introduce your kids to fun outdoor games. Check out our favorite classic yard games for ideas!

2. Vitamin D is essential!

Vitamin D deficiency affects up to 50% of the population worldwide. And according to experts, the deficiency is mainly the result lifestyle choices, like reduced outdoor activity. For children, a lack of vitamin D can have serious consequences, like decreased absorption of dietary calcium and phosphorus, which are both important for bone and skeletal health. A vitamin D deficiency can also result in muscle weakness, in which affected children have difficulty standing, walking, and playing normally.

And it’s important to be mindful of getting too much sun exposure. So, here are some strategies to get Vitamin D safely:

  1. Consider allowing kids to get 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to their arms, legs, back. After that, follow up with a safe and sensitive-skin friendly sunscreen.
  2. Prioritize using sunscreen on kids’ faces and the top of their ears to avoid sunburn and skin damage.
  3. Be mindful that it’s much harder to get Vitamin D during the winter, especially in places significantly north of the equator. It might be a good idea to add a kids’ multi-vitamin or D vitamin to your child’s routine during the colder months.

3. Playing in the mud could help boost their immune system.

Running around in the dirt is a fabulous way to strengthen your kid’s immune system. And if your child happens to pop a bit of dirt or grass in their mouth, that’s okay, too. Exposing children to new environments and bacteria will help bolster their immune systems and make for healthier kids overall. Playing in the mud can inadvertently help your child’s immune system battle invading organisms as they grow.

4. Get out and move.

It’s imperative that children learn to incorporate physical activity into their everyday routines, and encouraging time outdoors in nature is a great way to do that. Kids love playing in the sandbox and packing mud pies, chasing each other in a game of tag, and climbing trees. Foster their love of adventure and getting messy, and they’re more likely to grow up to be active, imaginative, and healthy kids—with fortified immune systems.

Do you let your child play in the dirt? Leave your comments in the space below.

Written by: Parker Jones

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