Kids and clutter seem to go together like glitter and glue. Once they meet, they can never be separated again, and they spread everywhere. But what if the mess was preexisting before the kids came on the scene? Some people do have a harder time of keeping their houses spotless like a magazine spread, so how does that work when bringing home a newborn?
For new parents whose house is one of those that hasn’t seen a broom or vacuum in the past few days, don’t worry. A little dirt isn’t going to hurt the new baby. In fact, by popping the bubble parents tend to keep their child in, and throwing away the antibacterial hand sanitizer they are actually helping their child develop their immune system, learn to be independent, and get better at math.
Come again? It's true, British studies have proven that an untidy home (not a hoarders paradise) is actually a better environment to raise children in. We're sure there are a few parents out there that feel totally vindicated right about now. we're not saying let them have at it in the kitty litter, but don't freak out over a little dirt and untidiness.
So before anyone begins quoting their super judgemental sanctimommy laws about clean houses and the awesomeness of sterilizing a house from top to bottom, let's remember that science says a little dirt and grime is ok for kids as young as newborns. Here are 15 different ways that having a messy house and playing in the dirt is good for all children.
12 Stops Potential Allergies
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Having a messy house lets your children come into contact with lots of bacteria and other microbes (microbes are to bacteria what the word dog is to an English Mastiff, there are other kinds of breeds out there, but they all fit under the umbrella term of dog). While coming into contact with bacteria might sound like you are setting yourself up for caring for sick children, not all microbes are bad.
Studies have shown that there is a link between how many microbes an infant is exposed to and the likelihood of them acquiring an allergy. One reason this might be has to do with what causes allergies in the first place.
Allergies are caused when your body overreacts to something like pollen or eggs that are harmless, and releases histamine to counteract it. The theory is that by exposing children to more microbes by letting them play in a messy house, their bodies are less likely to assume a harmless substance is dangerous.
11 Helps With Asthma
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Another reason that it's good to have a messy house is that it will also help children with asthma. Asthma affects six million children in the United States. One of the reasons people have asthma attacks is because they've had an allergic reaction.
So, not only will having a messy house lower the likelihood of your child having allergies but, by doing so, it will also lower the chances of them having an asthma attack because their bodies won't be reacting to innocuous substances like pet dander that their bodies think are harmful.
So how does a messy house make asthma better? Through microbial diversity. Before birth a baby's diversity is like a clean, never-used sponge. Once mom comes into contact with more diverse organisms, this sponge starts to recognise these organisms and respond appropriately. It's about the body's ability to recognize different bacterial species.
10 Lower Rates Of Obesity
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Children who live in messy homes are also less likely to be obese later on in life. Yes, you did read that correctly. So what's the correlation here?
As long as that mess is caused by having a pet anyway. If a child is exposed to a pet either in the first three months of her life or while she was still in her mother's womb, she will be less likely to be obese when she grows up.
That's because when a child plays with a puppy, or older dog, (and by play I mean lounge around in the proximity of, because a two-month-old isn't doing much running around and playing yet) she will end up with a higher concentration of the bacteria Oscillospira in her guts and intestines, and that bacteria has been linked with lower rates of obesity.
9 Makes Children Healthier
Another benefit of having pets and a messy house is it can help your children be healthier by introducing them to the microbes they might have missed when they were born. One concern for women who have had a C-section, received antibiotics during labor, or who were unable to breastfeed is that their child didn’t receive all of the healthy types of bacteria from the birth canal or breast milk.
Having a messy house can make for the lack of healthy bacteria by introducing them to the child through the mess, because as your baby crawls around and puts things in his mouth he will be exposed to a variety of microbes. These microbes will help increase the number of good microbes in your son's body and help his immune system learn how to defend itself from bad microbes, and both of those things will help him be healthier in the long run.
8 Makes Children Happier
Having a messy house can also help your children be happier, and not just because they've been spending all of that time playing with their moms who weren't wasting away in the kitchen. The reason being, children who play in dirt have the chance to come into contact with Mycobacterium vaccae or M. vaccae which triggers the release of serotonin.
The benefits of M. vaccae for a person's mood were first noticed during a study that looked at the bacteria's benefit for helping cancer patients. During that study the researchers also noticed that the patient's moods also improved when they were exposed to M. vaccae.
So, because they couldn’t ethically explore those results further with humans, they set about exploring the connection further with mice. Since then several studies have shown how serotonin helps animals, such as mice, cope with stress and anxiety.
7 Lowers Risk Of IBD
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There has been an upswing in the numbers of children getting inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the past few years. IBD, which is actually an umbrella term for a variety of different diseases that involve the inflammation of any point along the digestive tract, is a chronic condition that causes children to suffer from diarrhea, fatigue, and abdominal pain.
The two main types of IBD are Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
The main theory about why that it is that the microbes in children's guts are no longer working the way they should, because of antibiotic use. Whether or not the antibiotics were necessary, the result is the same and both the good and the bad bacteria is killed. So a messy house can help prevent IBD by helping to rebalance the number of good microbes in your child's body.
6 Good For Math
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A messy house can also be good for helping your child learn math. Especially if the mess you are making turns into something delicious. For example, cookies or granola bars. While spilling the ingredients everywhere, you can teach young children simple addition by counting out the teaspoons of vanilla or cups of flour you are using.
When you engage more than one of their senses, it makes it easier for your children to remember what they've learned.
Also, do you remember that M. vaccae bacteria that kids pick up from playing in the dirt? Well in addition to helping them be happier it also helps facilitate learning. When mice were placed in a maze, those that were exposed to M. vaccae were much faster at finding the exit than those who were not. They also appeared to be less anxious.
So it’s possible that the M. vaccae and the serotonin it helps release helped the mice calm down and concentrate on their task more, both of which are helpful when it comes to learning.
5 Builds Budding Scientists
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When you let your house get messy you are giving your children permission to explore their world and experiment with new things, because they won't have to worry about their mother coming down on them for making a mess. And who really wants to get in trouble over having a little fun with toys anyway?
Encourage their inner scientist and let them rescue trucks from giant ice blocks, build elaborate castles in the sand, or excavate dinosaurs from rice sensory bins. If you don't hamper their creativity with rules or restrictions, you'll be amazed by what they come up with and what they learn.
Sure, you might have to spend some time sweeping up the rice later (or hand your child a small-sized broom and let them play house for a bit), but the lessons they'll have learned in the meantime will be worth it.
4 Encourages Independence
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The ultimate goal of parenting is to teach your child to be independent so he can live on his own and be successful at work and in other areas of his life. Having a messy house is one way you can encourage this independence.
For example, by letting your messy eater feed himself he is practicing his hand-eye coordination skills so he can get the food into his mouth, learning to recognize the cues his body gives him when he's hungry or full, and learning how to use cutlery properly (I know it may not seem like it in the beginning, but he really is, he just needs a lot of practice).
Then once he's able to successfully feed himself, he'll feel proud of his accomplishment, which will help build his self-esteem, and he'll know that you trust him to do things for himself which will encourage him to try doing other things for himself like putting on his clothes or playing on his own.
3 It Means Parents Have Played With Their Kids
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While getting messy causes your children to be happier because the germs in the dirt trigger their bodies to release hormones associated with happy feelings, they'll also be happier because they were able to get something they really wanted: your attention.
Instead of spending all of your time dusting or washing dishes you spent your time with your children playing with toys, painting pictures, or building a complex blanket fort that even had a fancy drawbridge to keep trespassers out.
While you were playing with them, you were helping them build their self-esteem, reaffirming to them that they are important to you, and learning about what makes your children unique. All of that helps them believe that they matter to you, and the belief that they matter will help them make better choices for the rest of their lives.
2 Could Be A Predictor Of Social Skills
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A messy house might also simply showcase the remnants of a visit from friends or family. Having people over (especially ones who don't arch an eyebrow and make an underhanded comment about how messy your house is) is good for your children because it helps them develop their social skills and problem-solving skills.
By playing with other children, or by being passed around from adult to adult, toddlers and infants are learning about what counts as good or bad behavior in different circumstances. They are also starting to learn about relationships and how they work, and they are learning about their own emotions and the emotions of those around them.
And yes, that means if they happen to catch a cold, that's not necessarily a bad thing for otherwise healthy children. It means their bodies have the chance to recognize a low level bug and create the right antibodies to treat the bug. Kind of like how vaccines work.
1 Fosters Creativity
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Having a messy house is great for children because it encourages creativity. Since they won't have to worry about accidentally spilling paint or glue, your children will be free to let their imaginations run wild at the craft table. Soon they'll be handing you paintings of six-legged dogs, toy cars they made from boxes, and sticky crowns that are required for admittance into the castle they made out of blankets and pillows in the living room.
In addition to fostering their creativity, making crafts also has other benefits. Having a standing art easel or a large piece of paper taped to the wall for them to paint and draw on helps children with their shoulder stability, bilateral coordination, spatial awareness, posture and core strength.
Allowing kids to explore their own creativity also fosters a sense of independence and self awareness and identity. All positive things for kids in an age where people want to be cookie cutters.
Sources: What To Expect, Today’s Parent, Psychology Today, University of Alberta