Is it more important to clean when children are around? It may seem like an odd question to ask, but may be worth pondering over, in light of the present times where a heightened sense of the need for health and wellbeing are emphasized.
Why do we clean? Apart from lowering the number of microorganism in our surroundings, it is to protect those who are most vulnerable: young children with underdeveloped immune systems, and elderly who are usually living with compromised immune systems.
Ensuring a clean physical space is important in the presence of young children as their vulnerability to toxins and germs is heightened, simply by virtue of their size.
They often play close to the ground in playpens or playgrounds, and thus have more skin contact with the floor. This results in their being more likely to absorb pollutants that settle on the ground, through their skin.
Their proximity to the ground is also a concern with regard to air pollutants, as children breathe 4-6 times more air than adults.
They are usually prone to putting their hands, and other objects on the floor, in to their mouths, and thus eat more dust than adults. These dust particles may contain residual particles coming from cleaning products, dirt from outside sources like the playground or classroom, or chemicals from air fresheners.
Children consume more food per pound of body weight than a standard adult, and thus are more likely to be susceptible to food borne illnesses that would normally be bypassed by an adult.
In their developing years, while their body is still adapting and learning to defend itself against external environmental stressors, they are less equipped to cleanse their bodies of toxic overload unlike adults. Their sensitive developing organs, more particularly their brains, may be affected by exposure to potentially toxic substances, impeding the their capacity to function and learn.
Thus, conditions which may simply be an irritation to us, like outdoor pests, chemical exposure from household products, mold from moisture buildup, allergies from dirt and dust, could prove to be more detrimental to very young children.
Further reasons to consider in ensuring that children are kept in a clean and safe environment include the emotional well-being that they feel when their physical environment is improved. When their surroundings are clean, children feel better and at ease; they feel that they are taken care of. The emotional security that a clean environment affords them should be more than enough reason to do so.
On top of this, cleaning is the easiest step one can take to remove potential asthma and allergy triggers. Retaining a clutter-free environment reduces the surface area that dust and dirt can cling on, and makes cleaning smoother and faster.
Keeping spaces properly organized and clutter-free also removes hiding places for pests such as cockroaches and mice—reducing the need for the application of harmful pesticides that come with their own detrimental effects to our health and our environment.
When we keep areas that children dwell in clean, we reduce the likelihood of their getting sick, or passing their sickness to other members of the household, or to their peers. When children get sick, they miss crucial time they could be spending interacting with their peers, learning, or playing—all very important activities that are necessary for their holistic development.
Clean environments and households are essential for the optimum development of young children and can be relatively easy to maintain, following very simple hygienic practices, with limited need for the use of commercial sanitizers and disinfectants. Keeping the environment clean and clutter-free, together with mindful handwashing practices often already go a long way.