As snow gives way to sunshine, spring is prime time for children to get outside and explore the world around them. While your first instinct as a parent or educator may be to coax kids away from playing in the dirt, this type of sensory experience is a great tool for their development, emotional stability and even their health! Here are reasons playing in the dirt has benefits and how to incorporate this play into your family's daily lives.
Believe it or not, the healthy organisms that are present in dirt can be a great boost when it comes to a child's immune system. Studies have shown that children without regular exposure to the germs found in dirt have increased cases of asthma, allergies and autoimmune issues. On the flip side, encouraging kids to enjoy the sensory activity of playing in the dirt can combat inflammation, fight bowel disease and prevent respiratory illness.
Make the Brain and Heart Happy
Playing in nature has massive benefits for both mental ability and mental health. Spending an extended amount of time outdoors in unstructured play -- making mud pies, for example -- has been shown to build a child's confidence, promote creativity, enhance the senses, challenge thought patterns and reduce stress. For children with behavioral or sensory struggles, this can make a significant difference in their daily lives and functioning.
Ideas for Dirt Play
If you want your child to enjoy all the benefits that come with outdoor play, there are many ways to include this in your daily life. Try gardening with your child to understand the responsibility of taking care of plants, the process of growth and the relationship of food and where it comes from. Create mud pies with younger children, encouraging sensory play and discussing the different textures they feel as they create and decorate their dishes with found objects. Get moving on a nature scavenger hunt or let their mind wander on a meditative hike.
However you choose to play in the dirt, you can relax knowing that this type of messy play is in fact a sensory experience that isn't just teaching your child about the world, it's also helping them grow.