Laurens Rademakers

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Should cities create dirty mud pools as children's playgrounds?

There is growing evidence that the overuse of anti-biotics and excessive personal "hygiene" are creating weak people and diseases.

We urbanites have become too clean. Our houses are like clinical labs, our children's playgrounds are concrete bunkers, our food is probably too lifeless.

It is time to take microbiology serious again. After the great wave of discoveries showing our bad microbes and how to fight them, we're now on a new wave, showing how good some microbes are.

In anticipation of these discoveries: shouldn't cities build "controlled" dirty and muddy playgrounds for kids? So they can come into contact with our good microbes and boost their immune system.

  • Jul 21 2012: Dirt can be unhealthy or healthy depending on it's environment. I would imagine that the soil in a forest or field would be teeming with microbes while dirt that hasn't had any organic matter added or has had chemicals etc added would have either reduced or a shift in microbe populations.

    If care is taken to keep the dirt healthy around the playgrounds, these could be a big benefit to the children. Urban gardening could also be a great way to introduce children to clean healthy soil.
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    Jul 12 2012: Appealing question !!!

    When i was young my playground was farms and open land. Now I see only concrete everywhere, hardly i find any child playing in sun. They prefer indoors or psp or xbox or anything that will be just under shed.
    I still remember those days when i can run miles under hardsun to my friend's house just to share book however now kids can share it online, just a click away.

    Yes I agree with Laurens that there should be mud pools for today's generation.
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      Jul 13 2012: Maybe to make a compromise we should build muddy pools with Xbox-facilities. :-)
  • Jul 12 2012: Yes.

    If experts try to come up with a recipe of the 'right' microbes, nature will certainly throw them a curve.
    Lets return closer to the environment in which we evolved and let our immune systems develop more naturally.

    Still, I would want kids to get vaccinated for the really bad diseases like polio.

    Of course, if we do return to the mud puddles, some kids will get sick, and some will not survive. But on balance, I think we will have a stronger and healthier society.
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    Jul 11 2012: The problem of immunity or resistance to diseases need to be addressed with urgency.
    I think parents should emphasize the importance of balanced diets; and the importance of environmentally friendly practices.
    If humans are too alien to natural environments because we've been surrounded by too many artificial things.
    This affects our relationship with our planet. All hands must be on deck for this one.
    The mud-pool idea should be weighed for its merits and demerits.
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    Lejan .

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    Jul 11 2012: Hello Laurens,

    thank you for rising this interesting question!

    When I was a child I would have instinctively agreed to your suggestion, but today, as a grown up, I agree even more!

    I don't know if it is a proven fact in medicine already, yet I once stumbled across a study which showed, that children which grew up in the countyside did not suffer nearly as much from allergies compared to children which lived in cities.

    Our immune system is all about 'training' and 'learning' and nature is the best training ground there is.

    As there is little nature left within our cities, your 'mud pools' would serve well as a 'brewing kettle' for all sorts of microbes and bacteria which would challange our childrens immune systems. I assume your 'controlled' mud pools would include some sort of biological screening, to avoid these places from becoming inspirational sources for the biological weapon industry one day? This could be necessary, as it may be that those pools are not enough integrated in natural cycles to gain a stable equilibrium in what they contain. I can just compare this to the town I live in, but what I have seen so far, is, that playgrounds are not ranking high on the list for local budged spendings. By this, the expenses for this constant screening, may become a hurdle for the realisation of those pools.

    Most likely you would also have to face a huge lobby of 'concerned parents' for which 'mud' is no variable within their equation of parenting... I can almost hear all the admonitions: 'Don't go there! Don't touch that! Watch your cloth! What did I tell you! ... :o) But I also know by experience, all of those parental concerns have never stopped great explorers!

    Maybe it is just random, but it appears to me that the number of 'over concerned' parents is increasing. When I was a child there was no day I did not return home as a mud-monster, and maybe because we did not have a house serving as an art museum or design-fetish, I was allowed doing so ...
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    Jul 11 2012: Howdy
    Don't know if mud puddles are the answer but we sure do need to let them kids get dirty. I also think they should let them eat dirt stick unclean objects in there mouth. And do what kids do and throw out all that anti baterial crap
  • Jul 11 2012: I like the concept here. Though in practice I am not sure that dirty/muddy playgrounds are the right thing to do. In general - we need to "microbe up" our lives in many ways but exactly how to do that is not entirely clear ...
  • Jul 16 2012: My father 95 never had any vaccination . I always played in the dirth and so did my children. We eat food from the haelthfoodstore. Everything helps. Read ...Leefbewust .com. Very interesting.
    kind regards.Mthilda.