A study conducted by the Kidsafe NSW playground newsletter reveals the positive effects of soil rich in bacteria when kids play outdoors.
Mice were found to navigate mazes twice as fast when fed the dirt Mycobacterium vaccae. Kate Fraser, Kidsafe NSW Playground Advisory unit program manager, says this could be another reason why children should be encouraged to get outside and not be hesitant to get dirty. "We need to make playgrounds safe, but also offer a certain amount of risk and controlled risk. It's a real balancing act." Bacteria, when inhaled by kids, is believed to increase serotonin levels, decreasing anxiety and helping boost neural growth in the brain. Fraser warns parents, though, that while playing in the dirt has its benefits, care should be taken around potting mix, which may have harmful bacteria. “But as long as safety directions are followed, that can be a great learning experience, too,” she says. Fraser adds, “Many pre-schools and schools are planting sustainable garden beds and are teaching kids how plants grow. They learn about the environment and where their food comes from. The benefits are endless. The trend is definitely to make the most of the natural environment.”