The thought of dirt and grime is one that sends us all into a flat panic when it comes to our children. We spend so much time sterilising and sanitising everything from toys and clothes to pets and floors. We even keep the areas where our kids play pristinely clean and begrudge the occasional hour or so in the sandpit – all that dirt, yuck!
Why the aversion to anything less than perfectly clean? Germs, of course!
The message is generally very clear when you have a newborn that you must protect her from germs and bacteria; her environment must be kept absolutely spotless. This is because at their young age, newborns’ immune systems are still very weak and therefore unable to fight against some germs that cause sickness.
But once your baby is a toddler, studies have shown that exposing kids to a variety of bacteria is actually good for them as it helps to build a stronger immune system.
It may sound odd, after all isn’t protecting our children from germs the thing that keeps them healthy? Well, think of the immune system as a muscle; we exercise and train our muscles to keep them strong and healthy.
The same applies to the immune system. It needs to be exercised in order to be strong enough to fight against bacteria that cause illness and disease. The way the immune system is exercised is by exposing it to some bacteria. So let your little one run wild and barefooted every once in a while! Let her dig around in the garden and bake you a few mud cakes too.
Did you know?
Excessive use of antibacterial products can cause a development of bacteria that are resistant to them. So go easy on the cleaning products.
Research has shown that children who are raised in a home where there is a pet like a cat or dog are less likely to develop things like pollen allergies later in life.
Research has shown that children who grow up in farms, for example, where they are exposed to animals and many germs and bacteria, are on average sick less often and have fewer allergies than children who grow up in cities.
This does not mean that you can disregard standard of basic hygiene in your home and allow your child to live in filth, though. What it means is that you should go easy on the antibacterial gels and cleaning solutions – all you need is a bit of soap and water.
If you clean your floor regularly there is no need to be horrified when your child picks up food from the floor. This allows you to relax a bit and gives your child a chance to explore and learn about her world.