Dirt is good

I see no point in introductions about me – Jadis.  See my intro post from the last time I guest posted here.

As many of you know, I am a Mum.  I have two children, a boy and a girl.

As part of my daily routine I get to talk to and observe other parents at the kindy and at school, and I also “talk” and read about other New Zealand parents (particularly mothers) online.  Yes, this is all anecdotal and my days in research and policy tell me that anecdotal doesn’t equate to accuracy BUT…

When did parents start getting so worried about children getting dirty?  When did parents become so detached from playing with their children?  When did the focus of kindy and school functions become more about the parents than the children?

I am probably a weirdo.  I actually enjoy getting stuck in with the children (not just my own) to make mud pies, to garden, to run barefoot across an open field, to make a scarecrow. And yes, I understand that I have the time to do that however many parents can make the time.

Dirt is good, especially for boys.  Giving our boys space to build stuff, to experiment and to problem solve helps build their brains, gives them a sense of achievement and contributes to their personal growth to become productive members of our communities.

Dirt is good for girls too.  By giving our girls the opportunity to get dirty, to build, to create we also ensure they will try new things.  Girls need to explore how things work, where bugs live and make their own creations to become productive members of society as well.

“Dirt” doesn’t just mean soil and mud.  I mean paint, paper, water, whatever.  There are so many opportunities around a house and garden to discover and explore and learn.

Some middle class parents are so into having clean and tidy children inside clean and tidy houses, that it feels as though they’re losing the fun and excitement of being a child and of learning about the world.  So many of us drive our children to school, pick them up, drive to an after-school activity, then home for dinner, bath and bed.  We’ve lost the opportunities we had as children to go exploring for a few hours, often unsupervised.  And, if we entertain the idea that our ten year old can go exploring with his friends unsupervised then other parents pass judgment.

Children need to play and create.  By all means build in some clean up routine but give them the chance to have the space for creation, for entrepreneurship, for dirt.  You don’t need a lot of time to do this stuff – a couple of hours in a weekend or after-school does work.

There’s also plenty of research to back up that Dirt really is good – ultra clean doesn’t mean ultra healthy.

And, never fear, my posts won’t all be about parenting.

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