"As a growing child, my mother never let me or any of my siblings leave the house without passing one of her 'Tidy Parades.' Before we could go out, she'd make us show her our hands and she would even check our ears and behind our necks to make sure we had washed properly. Indeed, one of the very first sayings I can remember as a child was, 'Billy, if you start off a mucky child, you'll end up a muckier adult!' Then, as if to contradict herself, if ever I complained about having to eat a piece of bread I'd dropped on the floor instead of throwing it away, she'd simply remind me of her own mother's saying (Granny Fanning), 'We all eat two stone of dirt before we die, so that little bit won't kill you.'
All children have a fascination for anything mucky or slimy; the wetter, dirtier, messier it is, the better. They revel in their fascination with mud pies. It's as though they get drawn to the dirt from their earliest age. Having no effective immune system as the result of my condition, I am naturally interested in learning as much as I can about this topic when the opportunity arises. I was recently reading an article about healthy immune systems and was surprised how large a part, subjecting one's young child to the dirt of the environment can be beneficial for them.
Studies have shown that dirt is good for your brain, as certain kinds of bacteria found in the soil activate the neurons that produce serotonin; a key chemical in making one feel happy as well as being an anti-depressant. Dirt is also good for the immune system, especially in children. Research has shown that early exposure to microbes which are naturally present in the soil, help to build up one's resistance towards certain diseases. Indeed, it is argued by most scientists today that some children are being raised in over-hygienic conditions, and that without enough exposure to different bacteria and microbes, the immune system doesn't learn to recognise its own cells. It is also said that this is probably the main reason for the higher rates of asthma and eczema in many children.
In the book entitled, 'Last Child in the Woods', the American author, Richard Louv, who researched the divide between children and the outdoors, advocates that some of the most disturbing childhood trends today, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression, come about when children suffer from 'nature deficiency'. In short, they don't play out in the fresh air enough. Such inactivity of our young today increases their blood pressure and stress levels, they become less adventurous and more adverse to all form of risk taking and are far less self-motivated and less confident as children born in the 1950's and 1960's. When I think back to the time I was a child growing up in the late 40's and early 50's, I was out in the fresh air more than I ever was inside the house. I recall that my mum would always have a job getting me back inside the house at the end of the day.
Healthy advice to parents today by the experts include engaging your growing child more with the environment and with the fun of being outside. Give your child a bucket and spade and set them free in the dirt. Let them splash in puddles and make mud pies. Encourage them to garden with you, especially weeding and planting. Explore the woods and nature with them; let them hold and study insects, press leaves, explore wildflowers, touch rocks and caress worms. Go hiking more with them. Take them camping, wade in streams, go on picnics. Experts even advocate that parents shouldn't clean their children's hands with antibacterial wipes before they eat. Please note that this doesn't mean one should eat with unclean hands; a little soap and water will do.
Anybody acquainted with phobias and obsession with cleanliness and order such as OCD will know that this condition is more likely to be present in those people who never found the fun in being mucky. There was even one psychiatrist in the United States of America who used to advocate building up a child's immunisation system by teaching them to wrestle a pig in its muddy sty. His rationale was that the child gets dirty and the pig enjoys it." William Forde: November 4th, 2016.