What is the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge? In a nutshell, the goal is to get your family outside as much as possible in order to reap the benefits of unstructured nature play. The advantages include stress reduction, physical exercise, fresh air and fun! Less screen time and more outside time! The aim is to reach 1000 hours within one year but I’m not holding myself to that number. For me, it’s more about working outside play into our lives, whether an hour or five a day, and helping my kids build a relationship with the Earth that can be enjoyed during all of the seasons.
Well, we did it. Our family started this time last year, and while there were moments of struggle, I am definitely glad we took this challenge. I don’t think we made it to more than 1000; we are somewhere in the 875/900 range. There was a time when I was disappointed by that total (and maybe still am a bit), but I’ve accepted this result and give myself some grace. For one, I should focus on all of the time that we did spend outside. For sure, it was much more than in previous years. We also grew to appreciate all of the seasons, made playing outside part of our daily lives and learned some valuable lessons. (For example, you don’t have to insist on outside play on super rainy or windy days. Hygge is important too.) If you’re considering attempting this challenge yourself (which I recommend doing!), here are a few tips, including some handy charts that the 1000 hours people recently published. (Man, I wish I could’ve used it!)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – invest in the right gear. One of my kids HATES being cold. It ruins the fun for her, and she heads inside right away. Lately, cold hands and feet have been especially problematic. To me, cold feet aren’t a reason to stay inside, but she was miserable. So I did some research and bought these socks for her. She was much more comfortable and happier when we skied a few days later. Please keep in mind that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get good gear. There are so many used sites. You also can buy one new item and re-use it often. Those Darn Tough socks will be worn until threadbare. No need for five pairs when they’ll be used only once or twice a week at most.
Pick-up a new sport/outdoor activity. I’ve not been shy about sharing the fact that I learned to ski at age 37. (I also learned to ride a bike at 23.) My daughter liked to ski, and I wanted to spend time with her, so I learned. The irony is that I now love it and sometimes have to force her to go with me! I used to dread the winter and now look forward to snow season because It’s a chance to get on the slopes. Our girls also learned to ice-skate last winter and are excited to get back onto the pond. If you are dressed properly (see above), and find a sport you enjoy (tennis? cross-country skiing? running? biking along the West Side Highway?), logging outdoor hours should be a breeze. For example, we easily banked 4 hours at the mountain the other day without thinking about it. There’s also no shame in warming up inside for a bit with a cup of hot cocoa (or lemonade in the summer!) and then getting back out there!
The first day that I rode the lift and skied a trail by myself. I was so proud
Be flexible. When we first began this challenge, I thought all of our hours had to involve hikes, sports and swims. But why limit ourselves? There were some days when my older daughter took a book outside and enjoyed herself that way. Other times, the girls played with chalk on the driveway or we took the dog around the block. If anything, this challenge is deriving joy and peace from simple pleasures.
You also don’t need to live in a rural area in order to participate. We just spent some time in my hometown of NYC and there’s plenty of outdoor time to be had by just walking the streets, taking in the sights, smelling the smells (both good and bad!) and moving your body. Nature and joy can be found in all settings (see my above photo). There’s no “right way” to enjoy this challenge.
Most importantly, have fun! If something isn’t working for you, drop it. There is no need to suffer through snow-shoeing or 4000 foot hikes if you hate them. Find some activities you enjoy, spend time with your loved ones, breathe some fresh air and get some exercise. Let me know if you decide to give it a try! I’d love to hear about your experience and cheer you on! In the meantime, I’ll still be bugging my kids to go outside. They’ll likely roll their eyes but are used to it by now! – Rachel