Let Your Kids Get Dirty Because Science Says It’s Good for Them

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As a parent, you’re constantly trying to keep your kids clean, right? There’s dirt on the ground and dust in the air and germs on every surface you come into contact with. I know when my own son was little, I was extremely paranoid of other people holding him without first washing and sanitizing their hands. And if something fell on the floor? You’re damn right I got it washed before handing it back. Eventually, I loosened up (because who can keep that up?) It makes me wonder, though. Is dirt good for kids? One scientists says absolutely, and it seems he’s got some proof to back it up.

Jack Gilbert, author of Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System, literally wrote the book on why dirt is good for kids. He studies microbial ecosystems at the University of Chicago for a living. He also happens to be a dad of two—which makes his investment in learning about dirt’s effect on kids even more understandable.

Gilbert was recently interviewed by NPR and revealed a lot of info regarding why we should be letting our kiddos play in the dirt and live lives free from hand sanitizer. The scientist asserts that most exposures to germs and dirt are actually full of benefits.

Is Dirt Good for Kids?

“It’s fine to wash their hands if there’s a cold or flu virus going around, but if they’re interacting with a dog and the dog licks their face, that’s not a bad thing,” Gilbert told NPR.

Gilbert says we’re probably protecting kids a bit too much. If our baby’s pacifier falls on the ground (and as long as there’s no “risk of extremely dangerous pathogens”), we should just pop it back into their mouths no problem. Or even better, we could always lick it before giving it to them. He cited a study that included over 300,000 kids whose parents licked their pacifiers, which revealed the children developed less allergies, eczema, and even asthma. That’s actually pretty impressive, if you can get beyond the whole licking the pacifier bit.

What Else Can We Do?

The dirt-loving scientist says we need to stop using hand sanitizers on our kids, and that using warm, soapy water is more than enough. He also thinks that all this over-sterilizing is leading kids to develop food allergies and other inflammatory reactions.

Lesson learned, folks. Let your kids play in the dirt. Chances are it’ll be good for them.

(Image: Pixabay / Greyerbaby)