When ever we travel a certain member of my family (names excluded to protect the individual concerned) travels with a hand sanitizer gel and completely freaks out if the person they are seated next to on a plane, as much as sniffs. Is there such a thing a ‘germaphobia’? – I think so…
Now as a new mom, you may find yourself in a similar mind set: not wanting people to touch your baby’s hands; fearing sneezes near her and sterilising everything in sight.
I have done a blog on sterilising that is worth a viewing but this article is not about sterilising – it’s about dirty play. While it may be prudent to protect your newborn from germs, guard against taking this too far by trying to decontaminate your child’s entire world.
The truth is that living in a sterile world and preventing your child from all dirty play is not the wisest option, especially in the toddler years. From 6 months old your little one is actively working at developing her immunity. She needs to have a robust internal response to germs by the time she goes to school, otherwise she will fall ill at the drop of the hat and miss the first half of grade 1.
How do we support this? Firstly, by feeding our little ones lots of foods rich in vitamins and minerals but also allowing them to be exposed to reasonable germs (not dangerous infections diseases).
These little microbes exist in the world naturally and by being exposed through the early years, your little one will develop a good immune response that will protect her when she encounters these germs in the future. So instead of preventing wonderful sensory play like wallowing in mud, digging in a public sandpit and swimming (safely) in a pool, we should support our little one’s explorations. Not only is dirty play often a great sensory experience but it also exposes our children to innocuous germs that help their immune system to develop over time.
The message is: keep your baby safe from serious danger (like open pools) but support their exploration even if it means they get a little dirty and are exposed to simple germs in our world.