Lets Get Dirty!

Saturday Apr. 1st, 2017

I gave a talk last month on getting dirty. You know, the kind of dirt that gets in the soles of your shoes, under your nails and grits in your teeth. (Get your mind out of the sheets, though that’s fun too!).

At the talk I passed out small stones and pine cones for people to hold and ponder the forces of nature that created their gift. Afterward, someone told me they got sap on their hand from their cone and went from being dismayed about the sticky mess to intrigued. The dirty experience that had once caused discomfort was now a welcome gift. It was a beautiful ‘ah ha moment.’

When will be yours? As parents, custodians, teachers… there’s often disconnect between our understanding and our behavior. We may know it’s inherently good for children to interact with nature and know they enjoy getting dirty, but then cringe when they’re covered from head to toe in grime.  Or when the grime gets tracked indoors.

The good news is, if children are allowed and encouraged to spend time outdoors and get dirty, you will likely spend less time and money at the doctor’s office and buying toys, you’ll take less sick days from work, and co-create more fun memories to share. It’s true! Here’s a synopsis: Getting dirty and related nature experiences… help build a strong immune system and immune responses;

• reduce stress;
• improve concentration;
• invite intrigue, innovation and creativity;
• provide intense happiness and emotional connection, a connection that far exceeds that of getting a gift or gadget;
• serve as a tool for reducing ADHD symptoms.

I’m not making this up! The happiness factor as well as positive attentional and immunological effect of getting dirty are measurable. For a resource and reference list supporting the above points and for simple ways to relax and encourage kids to get outside and get dirty instead of reach for the hand sanitizer, visit www.LearningByNature.com

Bobbi Geise has been professionally playing and exploring outdoors with children and families for over 25 years. She directs Learning By Nature, a design-build service and consultation service for natural play grounds and learning landscapes. For more information and resources visit www.LearningByNature.org