I’ve been saying for years that nothing makes me happier than dirty toes.
(Did you feel that shudder? That was my mother cringing.) But it’s true – as far as I can tell really dirty children have been having a really good time. Happy children. Barefoot in the backyard climbing trees children.
According to a new report out by the National Wildlife Federation, there really is something to the dirty = happy equation. Studies have shown that simply having contact with dirt, whether it’s through gardening, digging holes, or making pies out of mud, can significantly improve a child’s mood and reduce their anxiety and stress.
What’s more, dirty children also means healthy children. Many kids who live in an ultraclean environment have a greater chance of suffering from allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases that we would otherwise be protected from through the simple pleasure of playing with some nice common dirt.
No need to take my word for it – you can download the full study here.
So what are you waiting for? Go dig in the dirt! It’s good for you!
(And don’t worry, Mom. They’ve had a bath now.)
There are some toys that stand the test of time and some that, well, don’t. This isn’t news to anyone. Ask most parents and they will tell you their homes are overflowing with plastic junk that their kids begged for and yet never play with.
Around our house we have really been making an effort (for all of us, not just the kids – especially me) to focus on what is most important, the things we will use and love for the longest period of time, the things that will really make our lives better. When it comes to toys, I don’t think there is anything requiring batteries that falls into that category. The things that get the most play in our house? Books. Legos. Paper and scissors and tape. And Daddy’s 30 year old Star Wars toys.
This made it hard at Christmas, when I was doing my best to keep grandparents and aunts and uncles from spending their hard-earned money on things we really didn’t want or need.I was so happy when I discovered a set of tiny fairies and fairy houses – I was sure Lola Gray would love them. The “girl” equivilent of those Star Wars figures. And she was thrilled when she opened them on Christmas morning. We found a spot for them in the backyard by the fairy tree . . . . and there they sat. Alone and unplayed with – until this week. Perhaps it was the hint of spring in the air that turned my girl’s thoughts to fairies? Who knows. All I can say is that Thursday afternoon I sent her out to look for eggs and an hour later discovered this scene in the back yard:
The fairies were talking to each other and singing and dancing. They visited each other’s houses. They went for a ride in the dump truck. I had to collect the eggs myself.
I can’t say I was thrilled with how dirty she got – she was accepting an award at our school PTA meeting a mere hour after these photos were taken. But really, who cares? This is what it’s all about. Long, lazy afternoons playing in the dirt. No batteries required.
On February 12, 1733, James Oglethorpe landed his ship the Ann along this coast, made friends with Chief Tomochichi of the Yamacraw tribe, and founded our fair city of Savannah. Two hundred and seventy eight years later we spent the day enjoying the warm February sunshine and getting to know new friends. Man, do we live in an amazing place!
This weekend we camped at Magnolia Springs State Park in Millen, Georgia. It was a nice little park, with a pond for fishing and a beautiful natural spring. We rented a boat and paddled around. We saw alligators and turtles and fish (though we didn’t catch any.) There weren’t too many mosquitos (yay!) and no raccoons it seemed (yay!!) though there were lots of clumsy beetles, some huge woodpeckers, and a curious armadillo that nosed around our tent one night.
But to my mind, the most important part of the trip was what we brought home with us . . . .
A Junior Ranger!
The Georgia State Park system has a Junior Ranger program where kids can complete certain activities to earn Junior Ranger status and the nifty patch that goes along with it. Fletcher saw a poster about the program on Saturday morning, we went straight away to pick up the activity book, and by Saturday evening he had completed more than enough activities to earn his patch!
And the thing is, he was determined to do the activities and earn that patch no matter what – and he did it on his own. He carried the book with him all day long, in the woods, in the boat, it never left his side. He searched for different species of pine needles and identified flowers and berries. He drew pictures. He taught us all about the dangers of poison ivy and ticks and copperhead snakes. And when he was presented with his patch on Sunday morning, you could see how proud he was of himself. And I was even more proud of him.
He says next weekend we need to visit another state park and earn the next level of Junior Ranger – the one for 8-10 year olds. We’ll see about that. In the mean time, the kids also have lucky buckeyes to keep in their pockets and I have yet another reminder of just how incredible my kiddos truly are.
Oh! And Lola Gray and I found the perfect nutshell for a Thumbelina bed! We are reading the book together right now, and have plans to make our very own Thumbelina doll in the next few days, so stay tuned!
Sometimes it is really nice to be on the other side of the lens. Four hours at the park after school yesterday and photos with my sweet boy enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Thanks, Amber!
In the morning there are things to be done – meetings to attend, groceries to buy, errands to run. But by afternoon, I have given up all pretense of accomplishing anything for the day. In the afternoons, we can just be.
We can take time to notice how big the fig tree has gotten . . .
and that the jasmine has finally gotten tiny little buds!
This afternoon Lola Gray practiced her tying skills . . .
OK, it would have been better if she hadn’t been pulling up blades of the newly replanted monkey grass . . .
But I thought her decorations were beautiful.
In the afternoon we can chase the chickens . . .
We can be silly and play games . . .
We can end the day with dinner by candlelight, thanks to this beautiful early Mother’s Day gift from Lola Gray. The photo doesn’t do it justice – Raymond took the camera to school with him today so I had to rely on the trusty iPhone . . .
Bedtime always comes too soon. I get jealous listening to the neighborhood kids playing outside after my guys are soundly asleep. I’m ready for summer, when we won’t have to get up early in the morning so we can stay up late at night. I want to be able to hold on to these lazy afternoons forever . . .