Let Your Kids Play in the Dirt (It’s Healthy!)

Kids Play In The Dirt - Jessie Keith
Getting dirty is part of the garden fun!

Soil, potting medium or compost, as long as it’s dirty, kids love to play in it. And that’s a good thing. Researchers from Bristol University and University College London discovered that natural “friendly” bacteria in the soil can actually boost the mood as effectively as an anti-depressant. More research at the Sage Colleges of Troy, New York suggests that exposure to certain soil bacteria may even increase learning capabilities. Pretty cool! Then there’s the satisfying feel of squishy soil between the fingers and toes – playing in the dirt is fun.

(How many parents out there didn’t make mud pies as children at least once?)

To keep dirt play as tidy as possible at my house, I created a designated soil play area complete with little pans, wooden spoons and watering cans for soil cookery. It also helps to have an area to hose off muddy kids before entering the house and a mud room for the removal of badly-soiled clothes. As funny as it sounds, the kids like to play with different soil types as well as sand. Coco peat pies are very popular. Playing in the dirt is not something we do every day, but it is nice to let the kids break free and play in the dirt once in a while.


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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