Is playing in mud good for kids? Here’s what studies have to say
Wion: There has been a lot of back and forth on whether parents should let their kids play in the mud or dirt but studies have suggested that not letting kids get dirty once in a while might backfire. A report by BBC citing a recent study has shown how playing with mud and dirt can actually train a child’s immune system to fight against a range of illnesses like allergies and asthma.
The report also claims that it can be beneficial for a child’s mental health by making them more resilient against anxiety and depression. The study shows how staying outdoors and playing with certain natural materials like soil or mud which contain powerful microorganisms can have a positive impact on a child’s health and well-being.
A report by Healthline, also citing multiple studies, proposes what they call “mud play”, they elucidate by saying that it is like playing in a box of sand or on a beach, except it is with mud which is damp or wet dirt.
They claim that studies have shown how playing in mud is actually good for a child’s health as opposed to them living in a clean environment which on the contrary can lead to the risk of illnesses like allergies and asthma.
Germs found in mud may actually strengthen a child’s immune system, citing research from 2014, the report shows that even when young children were exposed to dust, pet dander and other allergens before the age of one they were less likely to develop allergies and wheezing later in childhood.
On the other hand, a 2016 study showed that children raised on non-industrial farms were less likely to develop asthma when compared to those who weren’t. The report by BBC shows how the recent study offers a fresh take on the “hygiene hypothesis”.
According to this idea, the major reduction in childhood infections in the 20th century had a side effect on people’s immune systems, like them becoming overactive to stimulations which supposedly resulted in the rise of asthma, allergies and hay fever, said the report. However, many scientists, BBC said, dislike the idea as they believe it undermines and even discourages the importance of behaviours like hand-washing.
Another piece by Healthline citing the Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health said that there are 100 trillion microbes, many of which are beneficial for digesting food, producing vitamins, and even fighting bad bacteria.
They note that over time, especially during childhood humans develop a baseline microbiome (several microbes living in and on one’s body) which is different for everyone and playing in the dirt can help “replenish beneficial microbes”. This in turn maintains the baseline of the microbiome and a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria said the report.
Another interesting study by Michele Antonelli, a doctor from Reggio Emilia, a city in Italy, whose area of research includes how mud therapies can influence health, indicates that the microbes found in mud can act on and through our skin.