Why is messy play so good for children's immune systems?
I am writing this as my 3 year old is lying poorly on the sofa, two weeks after her big sister came down with the chicken pox the inevitable has happened and we are in another self isolation situation. While this is an incredibly common childhood illness I was apprehensive about them getting it and when my 4 year old kept avoiding it, despite close contact with several friends who went down with it not long after, I began to hope that she was perhaps immune.
She rarely gets bugs, has never had a cold and until the chicken pox had never had to have a day off sick from nursery or school. As usual the total opposite to her sister, my 3 year old started off life catching bug after bug, suffered with bronchiolitis for the first year of her life and would frequently have high temperatures out of the blue. All of these things have reduced massively in the last year.
While I can't claim it is totally down to the activities we have done together over the years I do think they have a big part to play in the strength in both my girls’ immune systems. We have attended a forest school of some kind since my eldest could toddle, I try and get playdates with as many people as possible so they are both interacting with lots of children and we do a lot of messy play activities at home and at nursery. All of these have been proven to improve children’s immune systems and two of them are on offer in abundance in my class.
Letting children get grubby means they are being exposed to new germs and this in turn is supporting their immune systems in learning how to fight a range of germs off, leaving them less exposed to becoming ill. By allowing them the freedom to mess about with different textures and materials you are giving them an invaluable opportunity to boost their immune systems.
In addition letting them play with these materials with other children increases the amount of germs they are being exposed to, again increasing the strength in their immune systems. There are many more qualified medical people out there who have written articles on this and I am certainly no expert in the whys and hows but I can definitely see a direct impact of a healthy exposure to germs and mess.
Making sure children are hygienic is always important, so I have always had and will continue to have washing up bowls of soapy water to wash their hands properly with when they have finished playing and we have access to sinks and soap in the toilets if you would prefer. In the current worries about the spread of germs I have also introduced a washing up bowl and soap at the door so that everyone can wash their hands thoroughly before we get started.
As standard practice I disinfect my tuff tray and tubs after each use and wash every piece of equipment thoroughly before storing them in sealed containers.
The benefits to children's immune systems is just one reason why messy play is just plain brilliant for small people, for more take a look at the article linked below.