It sort of goes without saying that the things kids play with and they places they frequent are ... kind of grimy. Kids aren't exactly known for being pillars of cleanliness! Even if you happen to have pretty organized kiddos, chances are that they don't always wash their hands after going to the bathroom or picking something up off the ground. And lord knows trying to get a toddler to keep things out of their mouth is nearly impossible. You can make sure that your own personal spaces are pretty sanitary. You can wipe down toys and deep clean your home as often as you see fit. But shared spaces? Places where multiple kids are together, playing or eating or just existing? Good luck with that.
There's a reason kids start getting sick really often once they start school, and that reason is kids and their germs! But some places are super gross, like ball pits. You know the ones, right? The really fun pools filled with plastic balls at your local play places and kid-themed eateries. As much fun as those can be for kids, after reading this story about how germy they are, you'll never let your kid within 10 feet of one again.
A study published last month in the American Journal of Infection Control showed that ball pits are absolutely crawling with germs. Like, CRAWLING with them. It's not incredibly surprising though, is it? How often and how well can a person clean all those balls, anyway? But even we were shocked and appalled by what the study found. Researchers at the University of North Georgia collected samples from six different ball pits used in pediatric physical therapy. At each location, they collected between 9 and 15 balls from varying depths in the pit.
Brace yourselves for what they found, guys. 31 different bacterial species and one yeast species were found in the ball pits, including EIGHT different bacteria and one yeast that could actually cause disease. The bacteria found included Enterococcus faecalis, which can cause septicemia, UTIs, and meningitis, and Staphylococcus hominis, which is a cause of bloodstream infections and sepsis in NICUs.
Researchers noted that in the six different therapy clinics, it could be days or weeks between ball cleanings, which is just the amount of time needed for the bacteria to grow to levels that can actually make kids sick. Now, if actual therapy clinics go weeks between ball cleanings, we imagine your neighborhood Chuck E. Cheese isn't super attentive to their balls. Just say no to ball pits, parents. Now excuse us while we go Clorox our entire playroom.