Why Your Dirty Kids Are Just Fine

Your dirty kids (and my dirty kids) are just fine.

I mean, how many times have I said, “Wash your face. Wait, WTF is that on your face?  You know!?  I don’t even want to know.”

How many times have you asked your kid what on earth is smeared from the corner of their mouth up towards their ear?

How many times have you licked your fingers and reached out to clean off whatever dirty spot they’ve got on their face? 

If your kids are like my kids then you know the feeling of wondering what’s on the floor, what’s on their face, and what’s on the couch?  I’ve seen mine plod through the kitchen and leave globs of goose poop along the way. Thank goodness for laminate floors.

Dirt Happens All Year

During the summer my dirty kids have perma-stains from their knees and elbows, down.  During the fall their shoes and clothes are covered in leaf dander and puddle smut.

OMG – and the reaction from Monkey when we ask him to wash up. He takes the biggest offense when we suggest he go wash his face. It’s as if the fun would wash away and fall the drain if he were to clean it off.

“No, Mom. I don’t want to” he says.

“Yeah, Mom! We want to stay dirty forever!” echos Abalone. 

Screw it. They need all the outdoors they can get, even if that means the outside stays in their hair overnight. (But they WILL clean up the goose crap.)

Here’s why I don’t care if they’re dirty for longer than a minute:

  • Dirt is healing.  There’s microbes in the soil that have been studied to have an antidepressant chemical.
  • The sensory stimulation of jumping in puddles and into piles of leaves,digging holes, and squishing in the mud has strong proprioceptive benefits. Check out Gardening With Kids for more info on proprioception.
  • With winter on the way, we northerners are going to lose sight of the dirt soon when snow covers the ground.  Why not let them enjoy their fun before the ground turns into an ice block?
  • Studies have also shown that exposure to small amounts of bacteria found in the soil can boost a child’s immune response to help prevent diseases as they age.

Monkey learned to ride his bike in a rainstorm. He didn’t care that he was all wet and that the rain was sliding down his forehead into his eyes.  He had just discovered something new he could do and the gross motor sensory processing was off the charts for him. He was a four year old on a mission and high on life in those couple of hours, there was no way I’d take that joy from him.

Sensory Play for Dirty Kids

Abalone got painted by her brother when she was about two. They’d gotten a hold of Monkey’s markers and by the time I realized how quiet it was they both came out to show me their masterpieces. Both wore just underwear and were covered, face to feet, in colors. So many colors.  And their faces lit up so big when they came out to show me all the work they had done. Nope, no way would I steal that joy. (I only wish they could work together now as quietly as they did back then.)

I’m pretty sure they’ve been covered on their hands and face with automotive fluids, and grease, when they help My Mechanic look under the hood and fix our cars.  He’s dirtier than they are and he doesn’t wash up.

Eh, Let Them Stay Dirty

Mostly, if they aren’t at risk for the Blue Haired people calling The Department Of Making You Sad, the only time I worry about them being dirty is if its on their hands and I don’t want pathogens being ingested, or, you know, poop.  Bodily fluids have to be cleaned up immediately.

Adults Should Get Dirty Too

Before I go:  Once, when I was gardening and using my whole body to mix up some bales of compost and potting soil (because there was a lot of it) we got some rain unexpectedly and it came down hard.  This was in the middle of the last California drought, probably about 2013, and I saw my tiny 5-gallon buckets under each gutter just overflowing and splashing about.  I knew right away that I needed in on that action. I stood up and moved the closest bucket out of my way and stood under the gutter. I let the rain from our dirty roof pour down my head. It was amazing.  I’ll admit that I’m weird but I had fun with my own grown-up sensory play that day. And I think you should go out and get dirty too.

Tell me you’ve let your kids get, and stay, dirty.  What’s your hard line on allowing dirty kids? What about you?  What’s your dirtiest memory? (You’ll have to understand that if you think I mean x-rated that your comment will so totally get deleted.)

Trust me, your kids can stay dirty for a little bit.

What do you have to say for yourself?