At work one night, a kid dropped his entire plate of dinner on the floor. One of the many things I love about the family I work with, is the parents are so chill about everything. I have texted the mom about such grey areas as: “[Two-year-old] is playing with a jar of maraschino cherries, a cup, and a spoon. I presume that’s cool?” “Yup.”
So, when the food fell and the three- and six-year-old boys began eating noodles off the floor, the dad’s reaction was the life lesson of: “If your food falls in your home, go ahead and eat it. If food falls in public, just take a look at it first.” And then afterward, he just swept up the remnants.
Needless to say, when I told the mom about the “hygiene hypothesis” one day, she was a big fan. And, there’s more research yet that a little dirt never hurt anybody.
Crawling in the dirt
We’ve heard about playing in the dirt-and maybe eating a little, too-but in a similar way, letting babies crawl around on the floor can be beneficial to their immune system development-and in turn, helpful in asthma prevention. 1 Yup, giving little ones “tummy time” or toddlers playtime on the floor isn’t just good for head control and motor skill development, it might even be good for keeping them healthier, too!
It turns out, inhaling a bit of dust early on in life can help strengthen the immune system, desensitizing the body against microbes such as the ones found in dust, dirt, and pollen. Becoming desensitized means that the immune system won’t “over-react” to these common substances, as is the case in asthma, allergies, and eczema.1 Using a robotic baby to simulate crawling (so freaking cool), the study determined that the levels of dust and dirt on the floor, where babies crawl, is about four times greater than what an adult or older child would inhale when simply walking on the same flooring. 1 The exposure-and potentially, the protective effect is greater because of the baby’s proximity to the ground-created dust cloud.1
Floors not as clean as you’d like? No problem.
Unfortunately, the full study isn’t out yet, but if you’re a parent who doesn’t have time to keep things-like your floors, an impossible task!-as clean as you’d like, well, don’t worry about it: you could be doing your kiddos better for it!
Seems like the dad of the kids I work with could be on to something with his theory on floor food and both of the parents probably aren’t doing any harm by allowing the kids to eat food from the floor, couch, or car seat… and, could perhaps even be doing them good! So far, none of the kids-5 months, 3, 6 and 9, have allergies or asthma. And I hope, with a little dirt and a lot of fun ahead, this stays that way!