By Uzma Muneer, D.O.
I WAS BROUGHT UP IN A COUNTRY TOWNSHIP NOT FAR FROM THE BEACH AND PLAYED OUTSIDE A LOT. MANY KIDS ARE BROUGHT UP HAVING CLOSE CONTACT WITH THE SOIL BECAUSE THEIR FAMILY HAS A VEGGIE GARDEN OR THEY LIVE ON A FARM. HEALTH SCIENTISTS ARE SAYING THIS GIVES CHILDREN A GOOD HEALTHY START IN LIFE AND BENEFITS THEIR IMMUNE SYSTEM. THEY’RE ALSO SAYING THAT KEEPING YOUR CHILDREN AND HOUSE SO CLEAN AND OVERUSE OF DISINFECTANTS IS NOT GOOD FOR THEIR HEALTH.
Are You Overly Careful How Your Kids Play?
Some Thoughtful Considerations.
Dr. Muneer specializes in Pediatrics, lets see what she has to say.
Picture this: A baby’s pacifier falls to the ground. A first-time mom sterilizes it thoroughly before giving it back. With her second baby, she quickly runs it under some water first. By her third child, the mom brushes it off and pops it right back into her baby’s mouth. Was her third child any worse for the wear?
We spend a lot of time and energy protecting our babies and kids from germs. But some germs could actually help protect them.
Our health is influenced by all the microorganisms inside our bodies and the surrounding environment.
We are learning that exposure to natural healthy bacteria, dirt and germs in early years can actually help train the immune system to behave in a certain, protective, way.
Could it be that the reason Westerners have so many allergies is because we are too clean? Today’s kids are growing up indoors, in a somewhat sterile environment. They aren’t exposed to a lot of dirt and bacteria. They don’t get to build immunities to common allergens.
The “hygiene hypothesis” states that kids who grow up in too-clean environments may develop hypersensitive immune systems that make them prone to allergies. After all, kids with pets are less likely to develop asthma or allergies. Children living on farms with animals do even better.
Jack Gilbert, a scientist at the University of Chicago, co-authored a book called Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child's Developing Immune System. Gilbert cautions parents against over-sterilizing their environment and keeping their kids from ever getting dirty.
Additionally, a recent Johns Hopkins study revealed that babies who are exposed to household germs and pet allergens during their first year of life are less likely to develop allergies, wheezing and asthma later on.
It’s not just our external environment that matters. The microbes and health-promoting bacteria in our gut influence our ability to fight off infections. Recent studies suggest that babies born by vaginal birth and babies that are exclusively breastfed get exposed to the mother’s bacteria, which can help reduce the risk of various health problems later.
Of course, it’s still important for your child to practice good hygiene. Keeping our hands clean is the first line of defense against germs, and one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick. We just need to know not to take it too far.
It’s okay for your child to play outside and interact with animals. Let them play in the mud and dirt sometimes and enjoy their pets. It’s not such a bad thing.
Make sure your children wash their hands, of course, but you don’t need to sterilize everything they are going to touch or put in their mouth. A little exposure to germs here and there could actually protect them.
Get Back to Nature – Campsite Activities for Kids
By Barry Peters 2014
Going on a camping trip needs to be fun for the whole family. Happy and occupied kids makes for happy adults. Here are some tips and activities for keeping the kids entertained in the campsite.
Don’t stress – the kids will get dirty!
Have some special camping clothes that the kids can get dirty, and let them wear them for more than one day. After all, it’s good, clean dirt.
Bring some toys
Allow the kids to bring some small toys that are suitable for playing with around the camp. I have seen kids play in the dirt with cars, trucks and action figures for hours on end. Provide a tarp that can be laid out for playing card games, board games or with other toys requiring a cleaner spot.
Bring along some toys so that the kids can play with them in a new environment.
Go for walks
This is especially good for younger kids. Point out interesting things around them, teach them the safety of keeping the campsite in view, let them use a UHF radio to talk to someone back at camp and let them do a talk to the group about what they saw.
Watch out for animal tracks.
Help the kids to identify what animals are nearby:
- How many legs?
- How many toes?
- Where do the tracks lead?
- How far apart are the footsteps?
- How big might the animal be?
- Have a bird and animal reference book handy to help identify the animal.
Get them involved
If the kids are old enough, get them to plan and make at least one meal for the family. Let them find a recipe, buy the ingredients and prepare the meal. Perhaps even do a miniature “MasterChef” by taking some photos/video while they explain what they are doing.
Make sure they have defined responsibilities when setting up and breaking camp. This keeps them involved and gives you time for your tasks.
Go for a walk with your kids… they’ll be fascinated by all the wonders Mother Nature has to offer.
Even quite young kids can take photos with the relatively cheap and automatic digital cameras available. Even an old phone with a built-in camera could be used.
Encourage them to take photos of things of interest and later make a presentation on the computer. You will be amazed at the skills even very young kids have with programs such as PowerPoint.
Modern kites fold up into a very small space and are easy to carry. Ensure that they are used in a good clear space to avoid having to untangle and retrieve a kite stuck high up in a tree.
"Let Your Kids Play In The Dirt"