Do you have “Purell” on you at all times? Are you constantly wiping your kids clean? Do you find yourself worrying about children getting their clothes dirty or catching germs while they are out playing at the park? You may think you are keeping them safe and healthy, but you could be doing more harm than good. By keeping your kids clean and not allowing them to play, explore or get dirty, you are not allowing your child’s immune system to train itself and build immunity to those bacteria.

Spring is around the corner and it will soon be gardening season. Let’s try letting kids get their hands, feet and clothes dirty, while learning about nature and things around us.

Children are born gardeners, love to dig and plough and are fascinated with insects and worms. Let’s explore things we can do with them outdoors and in our gardens:

Growing Sunflowers. Sunflowers are the easiest of plants to grow. They sprout in one week and in eight weeks the buds flower. Once they dry in the sun in late summer, the seeds can be roasted and eaten as a snack.

Building a Wormery. In a glass bottomed jar add 1-inch layer of sand, then a thick layer of soil and another layer of sand above it, ensuring that there is at least 5cm of space left at the top.

Have children search for worms and have a good look at them before they put them in the jar. Then add some old leaves, vegetable peelings, tealeaves and overripe fruit into the jar. You could also put a lid with a few holes to close it. Cover the jar with black paper and keep it in cool dark place for a few weeks and then see what the worms are doing. (If you cannot find worms in your garden you can buy some at an angling shop).

Catching and Drawing Insects. Help your children to prepare a space to collect insects by putting some damp soil or compost in the bottom of a box and adding a stone or two. Go into your garden and help children find some insects. They like to hide in cool, damp places, let children move stones, and examine flowers, leaves and soil to find them.

They can collect them carefully by using a piece of cardstock to pick them up.

Once they find insects, they can put them in the boxes they prepared. Try not to mix the different types of insects. Give the children a magnifying glass to watch what the bugs do. They can draw one or more of the insects on the paper and after this activity set the insects free.

Becoming a leaf collector. Take the children outside and ask them to collect all the different kind of leaves that they can find. They can then organize the leaves in order of size and shape. Help them make a scrapbook of all the varieties of leaves they have found and label them. They can also draw some leaves and look closely at the veins on them.

Children learn by doing, so allow them the time to get outdoors, get dirty and explore their surroundings.