“Getting Dirty is Good for You and Your Kids! The Health Benefits of Your Outdoor Living Space”


When spring returns with warmer temperatures, children, their families and pets will be excited to spend time outdoors enjoying green spaces in their communities, backyards and other natural green areas. In fact, research shows that children reap numerous health, social and personal benefits from spending time outside playing and that the green space and landscaping contributes to health, happiness and intellect.

Did you know…

1. Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. Knowing and experiencing nature makes us generally happier, healthier people.

2. Getting dirty is good for you! Mycobacterium vaccae in soil mirrors the effect on neurons that Prozac provides. People who spend time gardening and have direct contact with soil feel more relaxed and happier. This spring give your kids a pair of gardening gloves and have them work with you in your green spaces.

3. Living near living landscapes improves mental health. Research found that people moving to greener areas experiences an immediate improvement in mental health.

4. Children gain attention and working memory benefits when they are exposed to greenery. Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children.

5. Walking or running in nature, rather than a concrete-oriented, urban environment, resulted in decreased anxiety, rumination and negative affect, and produced cognitive benefits and increased working memory performance. Grass can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil thanks to the process called evapotranspiration.

6. Living landscapes help kids and pets be healthier. Playing outdoors increases fitness levels and builds healthy, active bodies.

7. Your lawn produces lots of oxygen– 50 square feet of lawn generates enough oxygen each day for a family of four – and reduces the code red effect since grass removes pollutants from the air we breathe.

For more tips on maintaining a living landscape, even in drought conditions, please visit The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute www.opei.org/stewardship.

A real-life rescue dog named Lucky is the inspiration behind the TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship program. Lucky was found on the side of a highway. Lucky (his owner happens to be Kris Kiser, the president and CEO of OPEI) got a great home, a comfy blanket, AND a great name— Lucky! Now, Lucky “paws it forward” by helping educators, kids and their families learn valuable science lessons right in their backyards, how to be good environmental stewards and get them outside to enjoy the outdoors. Lucky put his blanket on like a superhero’s cape and became TurfMutt. The TurfMutt program spreads the word that, with fun and interactive activities, the planet can be saved one yard at a time.
TuftMutt provides an educational yet fun way of learning that parents and teachers can interact with their children.

Lucky seeks to inspire school children and their families to care for green spaces while learning science and having fun. Designed for children in grades K-5, the TurfMutt program (www.TurfMutt.com), created in conjunction with Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, includes lesson plans for teachers, take home sheets and learning activities for families, a website and blog, interactive games and a digital storybook. The program’s materials are free and are aligned to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) standards.

Lucky and Kris appear this season on the on the Emmy Award-winning “Lucky Dog” show that airs Saturday mornings on CBS. The show follows animal trainer Brandon McMillan, who rescues hard-to-love, untrained and seemingly unadoptable dogs. McMillan turns these pooches into perfect pets. In the end, a lucky family will adopt an even luckier dog, making each episode an adoption story that warms the heart.

Episodes ran or are scheduled to run on the following dates: January 23 (featuring rescue dog Darby), February 13 (featuring Maggie), March 12 (featuring Odie), April 9 (featuring Scarlett), and May 7 (featuring Dottie). In the May 7th episode, an older shelter dog named Dottie was adopted by me. All dates are tentative and subject to change. An additional “best of” episode featuring Lucky, the TurfMutt, will air at a later date.

Lucky and Kris are on a mission to educate Lucky Dog’s viewers on ways to create environmentally –responsible living landscapes that families and pets can enjoy.

Here’s some final advice from Kris –

Do your best to get your child (and pets outside) – they will be better for it. And help your child learn while outside by using our TurfMutt educational program found at www.TurfMutt.com. In the process, they will also learn how to care for green spaces and improve their science knowledge.
Learn more at www.TurfMutt.com or www.OPEI.org/Stewardship.