Just yesterday, I found my daughter playing with a mixture of her poop and pee. While most parents would freak out and call their pediatrician, I laughed out loud and just went ahead and cleaned her up. Toddlers play with poop. Of course, I told her not to do it anymore because it’s dirty, but it’s not really a cause of concern for me. Believe it or not, poop can be a friend.
This is not to say that you should let your kid play in a garbage bin.
Trash is still trash. However, a lot of parents don’t even let their kids play in a sandbox. Sure, places like a sandbox have germs, but a little bit of germs is not going to lead your kids to a hospital. In fact, it’s even going to make kids healthier.
I’d like to introduce you to a theory called, “hygiene hypothesis”.
According to this theory, limiting the exposure of your kids to bacteria, germs and even parasites early in life will increase their chances of developing asthma, allergies and other autoimmune diseases later on in life. This theory is backed by studies, particularly migration ones, that showed that subjects who migrated from a country with low counts of infections to a country with high counts of infections developed these disorders.
This is not to say that I don’t care about the health of my daughter. Just like most parents, I’m concerned that she’s going to acquire an infectious disease. But does this mean that we should be overprotective, especially since there are studies that show that a little bit of germs won’t hurt?
I feel that fear of infectious diseases is a little overblown. There are also studies that show that kids exposed to germs, bacteria and parasites early in life because they grew up with older (and more active) siblings, they attended day care, or they grew up in a farm showed lower allergy rates.
Thom McDade, PhD said it best. Our brain needs to be stimulated and challenged in order for it to develop. In the same way, our kids’ immune system needs to be stimulated and challenged as well for it to be strengthened. I don’t know who this guy is, but he has a PhD and he’s the director of the Laboratory for Human Biology Research for the reputable Northwestern University so he should know what he’s talking about.
We also have to admit that “dirty” play presents a very unique opportunity for development. This is because it presents a chance to stimulate all the five senses of kids. It’s hard to do this if you’re going to insist that your kids stay away from dirt all the time.
Take your kids to a park packed with kids. Your kids will enjoy the sights and sounds of other kids having fun. They can smell the surroundings. Have them pick berries and taste them provided that you know for sure that they’re safe enough to eat. Make them feel how sand or grass between their toes feels like.
Look, germs, parasites and bacteria can be bad, but toddlers play with poop and are better for it. Just need to supervise them and clean them up afterwards.
Also, do watch out for signs of negative effects like diarrhea. On that note, studies show that kids who experienced diarrhea early in life developed stronger defenses later on in life.
Let kids be kids. Let them play, even if it means that they’re going to get a little bit dirty. Don’t tell me you don’t remember playing in the mud when you were little?