While I have paused writing about play environments and am deferring to authors who produce new and comprehensive works on the subject, I will continue to explore subjects about child development I find interesting.
Those who follow this blog, or my personal Facebook page, know that I am very interested in the body’s microbiome. It seems that there are discoveries almost weekly about the role of bacteria in the gut on general health. The recent findings are astounding on how our gut profoundly influences our moods and child development.
Listening to one of my favorite programs, Science Friday on NPR a week ago, they had a segment on a book titled Clean: The New Science of Skin by James Hamblin in which he makes a case for fewer baths and much less soap. A part of his thesis is that the skin has its own microbiome that mirrors the gut’s.
Here are my previous observations about mud play:
I would argue that during the early years, we should consider the skin and gut as essentially one system with the skin being an essential pathway for creating a robust and complex microbiome. I also suspect that the skin acts as an ecology where bacteria and the body’s immune system interact in beneficial ways.
Hamblin’s discussion was compelling in his explanation of the negative impact of too much bathing. He made it clear that hyper-cleanliness has a negative impact on the health of our skin. This is especially true for young children who’s system is working hard to adapt to the world.
Thinking about this, I recalled hearing that, when asked what Elizabeth Warren uses to keep her skin so radiant, she replied, “water.” Warren’s skin success suggests that both doing fewer baths or just using no soap is a good idea.
I also remember the common new mothers’ exclamation, “I could just eat my baby up.” The science on this is fascinating. It turns out that the baby’s body odor creates neurotransmitters in new mothers that are very pleasurable and are an important part of forming a strong parental bond and promote caring. This bonding smell is produced primarily by the infant’s skin, so washing this away may not be a great idea.
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