A mom’s simple philosophy learned from the garden!
I have taught my kids a number of things, but one of the things I am most proud of is teaching them to think and say, “I AM WASHABLE!” We have been gardening as a family since they were crawling, but it wasn’t until they were about 2 years old that I learned to live by this motto!
I’ll probably never forget the first time I used this term with my kids. We were at the park rough housing after a 2-day rainstorm. There was giant mud-puddle, and my 2 year old looked at me with such excitement and desire to jump in. Most moms I know would have screamed “hell no,” but not me. If there’s mud…I’m all in. I gave a slight smile and nodded yes, and my son and daughter, without hesitation, started running through it. Within minutes, I couldn’t help but notice the rest of the moms around me looking on with disgust. (Their kids were staring with jealousy as they were being handcuffed by their mom’s grip and led off to a drier, cleaner place.) Of course, not really caring, I looked at them and then jumped right in with my kids! (As you get to know me more, I don’t really get bothered by others judging me. I try to live with a smile and do what I think is best for my kids and family. My husband’s opinion is the one that matters…not strangers.)
Within minutes, we were covered in mud and never looked back.
Eight years later, and we still get excited on a rainy day because we all know it’s followed up with a day at the park, sliding and rolling in puddles of mud. I have learned to carry garbage bags in the car, so we have something to sit on for the drive home. We also have a stash of plastic bags by the entry door, so we can cover the mud on our feet as we head to the showers. I love being covered in dirt but am still a mom who doesn’t like it in my house and carpet!
Being allowed to get dirty is such an important lesson my kids and I have learned. My daughter was sent home from school one day, covered in paint, with a note from the teacher, apologizing for her clothes. My daughter tried to tell the teacher it was okay and that she was “washable.” The teacher didn’t quite understand until I sent the letter back with a note applauding her for allowing my daughter to be creative and actually use paints, which can be messy! I signed it saying my daughter is right, “We’re a washable family.” My daughter has learned to just “go for it” and not to hold back. She gives 100% and doesn’t fear getting in trouble for getting a bit dirty which translates into not being scared of making mistakes.
We love playing and learning in the garden, but this term is starting to mean so much more than just getting their hands dirty. It’s becoming a way of thinking and realizing that no matter how much mud you get on you, you can wash it off and start again. Nothing in life is perfect or perfectly clean, so why should we try so hard to be just that?
Here are a few things I have learned about playing in the dirt:
- It’s super fun! The look on a kid’s face when you ask if they want to go play in the dirt with you is priceless. Try it. It’s a lot more fun than trying to navigate through the latest shooting game or YouTube video.
- Dirt is good for the immune system. In the past several years, the “microbial diversity” hypothesis has shown that early exposure to naturally occurring microbes in soil or dirt will help build stronger and disease-resistant kids. Playing in the dirt supposedly keeps you healthier. Good enough reason for me to do it.
- Studies have shown that dirt is good for your brain too. Apparently, there are certain types of bacteria found in soil that activate neurons that help produce serotonin which makes you feel happy. I often am asked why I am always so happy and positive, and the easiest answer is because I play in the dirt daily.
- When you play outside more, I think you laugh more. You can also be extremely creative while digging in the dirt. There are so many worlds that the imagination can explore that ultimately bring up a giggle or hysterical laughing session.
- Playing in the dirt helps build your curiosity and sense for adventure. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been excited when a worm has popped through the hole they were digging or has tried to dig so deep they could find water!
So how do you get dirty?
Whether you start a family garden or just grab a bucket and fill it up with dirt from the side of your yard, getting dirty is easy and doesn’t cost a thing. No matter where you live, there is dirt to be found. Grab a handful and enjoy all that you can do with it. (I love it so much that honestly, if I’m walking by you, can even throw a mud-ball at me, and we’ll laugh pretty hard!)
Now, if you’re cringing at the idea of going all in with the dirt play, I totally get it. One tip that I use with kids who aren’t quite ready to dig in is to scratch a bar of soap with their fingernails. The soap becomes a natural dirt blocker and makes it a bit easier to avoid chunks of dirt underneath your nails.
You can find some other dirty fun ideas at lisaelygardens.com. Pretend to be a chef and whip up fanciful mud cupcakes, or create art masterpieces with mud!