Digging Up Happiness

Messy, muddy play was something I loved as a kid growing up in Texas. Anytime it would rain, my backyard would flood and I would play in puddles, make mud pies and set leaf boats floating around the swampy yard. Getting dirty is an important part of developmental play and a significant sensory activity for kids of all ages. Studies show it might even make us feel happy!

Messy play has an amazing amount of positive aspects and growth opportunities for kids. Tactile, messy play satisfies many sensory curiosities, while inviting them to explore their world more. It also has a great effect on developing fine motor skills, like grasping with fingers, and gross motor skills, like stomping in puddles!

Dirt Makes Us Happy

In addition to the pure joy and developmental benefits of getting dirty, there is serious science behind the happiness you feel after digging in the dirt. Healthy soil used for gardening is rich in microbiomes, groups of small organisms that live in a specific environment. These microbiomes have a substance found in them that has antidepressant properties. Other substances in dirt can stimulate serotonin production, the chemical your body produces to cause feelings of happiness!

Simple Solutions To Get In The Dirt

Here are some ideas:

  • Planting an herb garden in a windowsill or a yard, is a good way to introduce kids of all ages to the wonders of gardening. Get started by cutting an herb and watching it root in the water! From this, transplant it into a container with dirt and good drainage.
  • Plant a snack garden! Check out this website for plants that are easy to care for so little ones can easily tend to their gardens.
  • Build something in the dirt! Use dirt from your yard, or create a tabletop dirt pile using a container. One of my favorite things to do is be the “helper” and allow kids to direct me in building something! It usually means doing the work that is a little more tedious, but it allows them to feel empowered in their play. You might also try burying items in the dirt, or placing other toys in the area.

Playing in dirt has great benefits for happiness, mental and physical health, and developmental growth. Next time your covered in dirt, congratulate yourself on a job well done for both your own happiness, and the developmental growth you inspired in your child!


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