“Childhood is changing fast,” says Persil. “Today, the average child spends less free time outside than a maximum-security prisoner.”

Wait! What?

Might it be true? Watch this video and think about it.  Is this the kind of life you’re giving your child?

Persil detergent used to place itself at the frontline of the battle against dirt, but it’s done a subtle volte face with Dirt is Good, ‘our movement to get kids spending more time outside’.  Remember those TV ads of mothers serenely letting their children play outside because they’re secure in the knowledge that Persil will wash it all out? They might sigh a little at the hard work, but soon they would know the orgasmic pleasure of lines of white laundry blowing across their sunny gardens.

1956 Persil Washing Powder Vintage magazine ad
1956 Persil Washing Powder Vintage magazine ad http://www.retrofair.co.uk/56-persilboys-fp.html#.VvUar_mLTNM

Now, of course, many of us don’t have gardens. And dirty air might not produce white blowy sheets even if we did have somewhere to hang them out. But laundry is more than just pleasure. It’s anxiety too, and so Persil is helping out in a different way and reassuring already guilt-ridden parents that it’s good for your kids’ health to be allowed to get dirty. You might not fancy a stroll in the fields but don’t worry, it will be worth it. You just need to add healthy contact with nature to the list of existing obligations – the project report you’re writing for next week, the homework that needs assistance, the reading that must be listened to, the shopping, and a million other parenting tasks queuing up to be done.

“It’s critical we take action,” says Persil.

You see, it’s your fault again.

“Our mission? To give children the freedom to get outdoors: to play and learn, and get dirty, too – because by doing so children learn essential skills. Things like curiosity, resilience, inventiveness, independence and bravery – all critical for the future. Join our team of parents, educators and leading child development experts to find the best ways to help your kids explore and get dirty every day, through play.”

Well, yes, it’s certainly great for kids (and adults) to be outdoors. Regular contact with nature brings many healthful benefits. But isn’t this video rather OTT? Seems to me that Persil has simply found a new vein of parental guilt to tap into.

Are you really rearing your kid in a prison? I doubt it. And should your aspirations for your child’s health be built upon the experiences of a bunch of all-male high security prisoners? Probably not.