Why Dirt & Service Are Important For Kids

My kids don’t get their hands dirty enough. Sometimes I wonder if things have really changed a lot in a generation, or maybe the difference is where I’m raising them. (I grew up in a rural college town and my kids have only known urban cores.) Regardless, I’m convinced kids need dirt.

Last summer, I took my two oldest to the Fields of Green run by our amazing partner Food For Free, an experience they still remember. If you ask my older one, he could probably recite the number of bunches of scallions they harvested that day. If you asked the other, he’d probably just tell you he remembers it was hard work and he was hot… for two whole hours.

The point is, they remember. I have seen time and time again my kids recount one of the lemonade stand they have run, how much they raised, and which nonprofit they raised the money for and why; or a day when they cleaned donated toys to go to kids who otherwise might not have any to play with; or, again, the day they picked scallions in the hot, hot sun.

As our time feels more and more limited with each passing week, it can be easy to put off these experiences, to push them aside until time “frees up.” The reality is, however, that time really doesn’t free up anymore. We seem to live at a pace and in a time in which more and more is offered and asked of us every day. We have to set our priorities.

The great thing about having these experiences with kids when they are young is how powerfully they are imprinted in the brain. At a time in life when new connections (in the brain) are being formed, the impact of getting out and doing something to make a difference with our kids resonates far beyond the moment of action, the full ripple effect of which is never fully known, much like the act of giving itself.

The other great thing, the activity doesn’t have to be extensive or lengthy; it just needs to be impactful. A full year later, we are still wiping our brow from those two hours with the scallions and the great Food For Free team. I think it’s time for a little more dirt.

Leave a Reply