Dirt is a four-letter word to many moms, but letting your kids get dirty is actually good for them, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation, "The Dirt on Dirt: How Getting Dirty Outdoors Benefits Kids."
But here's a dirty little secret: Children who spend the better part of their free time in the company of their sterile hi-tech gadgets rather than playing outside are more vulnerable to obesity, ADHD, vitamin D deficiency and depression.
There's a growing body of research that suggests overprotecting kids from dirt and germs may actually inhibit their physical health and resilience.
* Children's stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces, according to a 2004 study in the American Journal of Public Health.
* When children are exposed to germs and pathogens during infancy, their risk of cardiovascular inflammation in adulthood is reduced, according to a 2010 Northwestern University study.
* A friendly bacteria found in soil helps produce serotonin, which enhances feelings of well-being, much the same way that antidepressant drugs and exercise do, according to a 2007 Bristol University study.
While common-sense sanitation practices like washing hands and using hand sanitizer when necessary shouldn't stop, you'll be doing your children a favor if you encourage them to go outside and get dirty.
-- Family Features