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The benefits of dirt for children

Bradley Cable, 3, of Cedar Rapids plays in the dirt at Sokol Park in Czech Village right off of 16th Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 19, 2010. Cable was with his mother after he was released from preschool and the two were waiting to meet cousins to go for a walk. (Julie Koehn/The Gazette)
Bradley Cable, 3, of Cedar Rapids plays in the dirt at Sokol Park in Czech Village right off of 16th Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 19, 2010. Cable was with his mother after he was released from preschool and the two were waiting to meet cousins to go for a walk. (Julie Koehn/The Gazette)

Kids should be spending less time staring at screens and more time getting grubby in the dirt.

So says Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, author of “The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids With Food Straight From Soil.”

In the book, she writes about the importance of exposing children to microbes in nature, whether it’s eating fresh food from healthy soil in the garden or playing outside.

“It’s beneficial on so many levels,” she said.

For example, children who spend three hours daily outdoors in natural light are more likely to have perfect vision. More time in nature also correlates to better test performance.

In Japan, they enjoy what’s called forest bathing, which is “essentially immersing yourself in the beauty of the forest.”

“It boosts mood, people feel happier, it enhances focus,” she said. “They sleep better.”

So the next time you’re outside, take a deep breath — we can inhale microbes too.

“It’s not like you have to do it one way,” she said. “That’s kind of the beauty of it.”

Shetreat-Klein became increasingly concerned about this topic because children were getting more screen time and fewer school minutes for physical education.

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But, of course, getting outside doesn’t just apply to kids. She herself tries to get outside at least an hour each day.

“All of the things that we’re talking about benefit adults tremendously as well,” she said.

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