Last weekend, I had the two little guys at a nearby playground where the ground under the structures was dirt and soft wood chips instead of that newfangled soft, rubbery surface.
Markus, the toddler, has really found his balance and rarely topples over now, but he had a terrific face plant while running from the bottom of the slide to the steps to climb back to the top. He stood up and had dirt from his forehead down to his toes.
But his mouth had been open, as he was laughing at the time, so he got some dirt in his mouth.
Recognizing that since time immemorial, children had been eating mudpies and dirt in various ways, shapes and forms, I didn’t freak out. I dusted him off, and tried to help him get the excess out of his mouth, then realized I had the solution in my hand: a half-filled juice box. He sucked down the juice — and the remaining dirt — and wiped his hands on his pants before he trotted off to climb the steps again.
Today, I was happy to be vindicated by this article. Eating dirt is known as “geophagy.”
Chimps (our closest genetic cousins in the animal kingdom) eat dirt to help fight malaria, apparently.
Humans apparently do it all over the world, too. (And apparently it’s very common among pregnant women.) Scientists believe the reasons are twofold: First, to absorb minerals they need; second, to detoxify. Here’s a link to the original study in the PLoS ONE journal that the article was based upon.
So, next time junior grabs a handful of dirt in the backyard and crams it in his mouth before you can get to him, don’t freak out.
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