What kid doesn't love to play in the dirt? Even as grown-ups, we (especially me) still get caught with dirty fingers. Oh, and what anticipation there is when kids start watching to see the tiny seeds they planted emerge through the soil and become sprouts, and then those sprouts grow in the warm sunlight and with the right touch of water from the heavens (or the watering can) the plants start producing the foods we love to eat. I love watching the face of a child as she pulls her first carrot and sees just how large it grew compared to the tiny seed that was planted just weeks earlier.
Not only does gardening provide an activity for children to participate in that gets them into the great outdoors, it also gives them the opportunity to become exposed to many of the benefits that come from Mother Earth. I am amazed at just how germ-a-phobic our society has become. We have sanitizers, cleaners, germicidal sprays, wet wipes, and the list goes on. We are afraid to have dirty fingers.
I am not saying that caution need not be taken to reduce our exposure to pathogens and other nasty things that crawl around on our surfaces, but I believe we have gone too far in the clean direction.
Ever since God created this world, there has been bugs, and worms, and little critters that we can’t even see in our water, soil, air, and on us. These little critters have helped us to develop immunity to many of the problems that we now are dealing with.
There is a bacteria in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae or simply m. vaccae. There has been research conducted on the benefits that everyone, especially kids can experience from being exposed to .m vaccae. Dorothy Matthews and Susan Jenks, at the Sage Colleges in Troy, NY during their research stated that “Gardeners inhale these bacteria while digging in the soil, but they also encounterM. vaccae in their vegetables or when soil enters a cut in their skin,” says Matthews. “From our study we can say that it is definitely good to be outdoors–it’s good to have contact with these organisms. It is interesting to speculate that creating learning environments in schools that include time in the outdoors where M. vaccae is present may decrease anxiety and improve the ability to learn new tasks.”
I find this very interesting to say the least, and gardeners have one more reason to “Keep Those Fingers Dirty!” and maybe we as parents and teachers should be encouraging schools to let kids get dirty in the garden.
A study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, March 2011, reported that kids who grow up onthe farm are 30% – 50% less likely than other non-farm kids to develop asthma. This is believed to be due to the high diversity of bacteria and fungi in household dust – from soil and farm animals – with the low likelihood of asthma. "Dirt Makes Kids Grow Too!" and if it will help them be healthier, less depressed and happier, as my mother said "It's only clean dirt, It will wash off."
Just a thought from the Garden! Keep Those Fingers Dirty!