Let the Kids Get Dirty

A clean freak’s tips for outdoor play

As a recovering clean freak, I often create excuses to avoid going outside. Kids have a knack for achieving maximum grubbiness outdoors. My 3-year-old likes to smear mud on his face. He also rubs sand on his scalp for fun. My younger son, a baby, refuses to be carried when we’re outside. He prefers to crawl through the dirt, mouthing every rock and woodchip he can find. Nature provides a bounty of choking hazards! Then comes the laundry, the wet shoes, the mopping. Is an hour of fresh air really worth all the trouble?

It sure is. According to Children & Nature Network, an organization dedicated to connecting children and communities with the outdoors, playing outdoors can improve or prevent attention difficulties, obesity and mood disorders. It also provides a rich sensory experience that promotes learning and civic-mindedness.

So, how can clean freaks overcome hang-ups about dirt? Local author and educator Cynthia Jenson-Elliot says most people have fun once they jump in and give grime a try. When Jenson-Elliott does gardening workshops with kids and teachers, she tells them they don’t have to touch anything and are welcome to just look, but they can’t resist exploring with their hands.

“We get so much of our information about the world with our hands,” Jenson-Elliot says. “Our very brain development is dependent on getting our hands into everything. Even dirt!”

To overcome dirt-phobia, allow yourself to take pleasure in sunshine, breezes and plant life. Replace anxious thoughts with genuine wonder at the beauty of nature. Sure, kids get dirty outside, but with practice, they’ll learn to remove muddy clothes and shoes at the door. The more time you spend in nature, the more you’ll crave. And here’s a bonus: Kids who play outside have less time to clutter up the house.

Ready to explore and give it a shot? Read “Let the Kids Get Dirty—6 Fun Places to Play Outdoors in San Diego.”

We’d love to see your photos as you’re out exploring! Post photos on Instagram, mention @sandiegofamilymagazine in your post and use #sdoutandabout.


 

Anne Malinoski is a freelance writer and mother of two boys. She’s been described as “indoorsy,” but she’s working on it.


 

Updated September 2020

 

 

Tips for Potty Training Success

Tips for Potty Training Success

Parents often wonder, when is the right time to start potty training? There are many signs to look for, but a child must be developmentally ready. There is no magic age — children will be ready at . . .

Read more

Sunscreen Safety for Kids

Sunscreen Safety for Kids

Common myths about protecting your child’s skin . . .

Read more

Toddler Product Review

Toddler Product Review

Toddler Products! Check out these products designed especially for the growing curiosity and independence of toddlers. The Learning Tower by Little Partners$199.99; Amazon.comDesigned to provide . . .

Read more

Bye Bye Binky! How to Part With The Pacifier

Bye Bye Binky! How to Part With The Pacifier

Ready to help your child give up a pacifier? Here are some tips for navigating the tricky transition. . . .

Read more

Let the Kids Get Dirty

Let the Kids Get Dirty

A clean freak’s tips for outdoor play As a recovering clean freak, I often create excuses to avoid going outside. Kids have a knack for achieving maximum grubbiness outdoors. My 3-year-old likes to . . .

Read more

Getting Toddlers to Eat a Nutritious Meal

Getting Toddlers to Eat a Nutritious Meal

A smorgasbord of secrets for successful small-fry suppers . . .

Read more

Making Art with Toddlers

Making Art with Toddlers

 The toddler years are the perfect time to make art projects and experiment with different materials. . . .

Read more

When Can you Ditch Your Child’s Booster Seat?

When Can you Ditch Your Child’s Booster Seat?

Don’t ditch your child’s booster seat too soon . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!