I believe that we should let our kids get dirty. My fondest childhood memories involve being outside, either at my grandparents farm, the yard and fields surrounding my house, or out in the woods. My brother and I would spend hours in the sandbox – building, crushing, and flooding; we would wander around the cow pasture using sticks to test the freshness of the cowpies; and once we even chased a rainbow through muddy fields in bare feet. My grandmother and I would spend the afternoon picking and eating the peas in her garden, and only half of them actually made it to the house. Now, every summer my little boy and I pick the peas in our garden, and I’m happy to report that not one has made it into our freezer yet.
While in college I was a counselor at a Nature Day Camp. I remember one little girl in particular-she came to camp dressed in pink from head to toe every day. She was pretty quiet all week until the day we did our pond study. As we pulled the muddy nets out of the pond to examine our catch, she was elbow-deep in mud before I could get the buckets ready. After that, I couldn’t keep her quiet.
Every time I take a group of kids into the woods or to a stream or pond, I’m still amazed at how foreign it is to them. I’m interested in having them look around and telling them about the ecology, the biology, the food web…they’re interested in digging in the dirt or splashing in the water. I need to stop and remember that we need to experience something before we can appreciate and protect it. I did not become a steward of our environment by simply sitting on furniture made out of trees.
I don’t hate video games, computers, and technology. I’m an avid user of them. But even I get caught up in the media saturated environment that our kids are growing up in. I played in the sandbox as a kid. Now, you can build virtual sandcastles on your Nintendo Wii. What’s the point of going outside? It’s much easier to sit on our butts and be entertained.
If our kids are afraid to get dirty, how will they appreciate the beauty of dirt, the beauty of our Earth? How can we learn to take care of something we know nothing about? Not only do I believe that we should let our kids get dirty, I believe that we should get dirty with them.