Those of a nervous disposition, look away now: I’m about to admit that my
three-year-old is pretty grubby a lot of the time.
Granted, it has a lot to do with having a mum who is a part-time community
gardener, but more than that, she, like most children given half a chance,
loves getting her hands dirty.
Many parents obsess about sanitising everything and trying to control exposure
to germs, but by being super-clean and worrying
about children playing outside, we’re actually in danger of making them ill.
Studies have shown that children who grow up on farms have far fewer allergies than those living in an
urban environment, and farmer’s children are exposed to plenty of germs!
I’m no scientist but what I do know is that there’s an awful lot of good microbes
in a handful of dirt and that early exposure as a child to a healthy
microbiome – the community of bacteria living in your body – is key to
building a strong immune system in later life.
So if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably with me on the whole dirt thing, so you might want a few ideas of
how to get more dirt into your little one’s system!
The good news is, that you won’t have to do much as most children don’t take that much encouraging to get dirty
(it’s us adults that make them feel they shouldn’t!)
However, you can provide a few props to help with creative play, alongside letting them sow seeds, prick out plants etc.
We’ve just built a gorgeous mud kitchen (pictured) out of old pallets and recycled wood for The Hop Garden which
~has already provided hours of entertainment to our younger visitors, but you don’t have to be that handy with a
hammer to incorporate truly messy play into your gardening.
Simply provide access to a spot of dirt you don’t mind being dug up (best avoid any prized flower beds), an old baby
bath or washing up bowl, a container of water, spoons, cups etc. and leave them to it. In no time at all they’ll be whipping
up some culinary delight that you simply ‘must try’ made with a generous dollop of mud and some leaves and flowers
and getting all those healthy bacteria into their system in the process.
I was reliably informed that the concoction my daughter had created for me to drink was in fact
‘chocolate beer’ – I need to watch out or she’ll be having all my hops to brew next!
Sarah Cossom | The Hop Garden