This Year, We're Taking the Challenge: 1000 Hours Outside

Inside: All about the 1000 Hours Outside challenge and how you and your kids can participate

Heard of the 1000 Hours Outside challenge? Learn why our family has decided to spend 1000 hours outside this year.

Before we get started, you can find out more about the challenge and the mission of 1000 Hours Outside here.


Ever notice that kids are completely different after having time outdoors? Especially when they’re allowed to go outside consistently? There are scientific reasons for that.

Our kids need time outside, but these days, the time they spend in nature is dwindling. According to an article by childmind.org, the average American child only gets about 7 minutes of unstructured outdoor play per day. And much more time in front of screens.

I get it! My kids have screens too. But we now know that too much screen time is damaging to the mind of a child, especially with a hand-held device.

This is a rising problem that’s being confronted by the 1000 Hours Outside challenge.

What is the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge?

I recently heard of it when a friend shared that she and her kids would be taking the challenge this year. It piqued my interest, so I looked into it.

Started by a married couple with 5 kids of their own, 1000 Hours Outside is all about getting families outside in nature. Ginny and Josh (the founding couple) noticed that outdoor spaces such as hiking trails were usually devoid of children and asked themselves why.

Through research, they found that it’s recommended for children to spend 4-6 HOURS outside daily. But the amount of outdoor time kids are actually getting is staggeringly less.

They set out to change that for their own family and committed to more outdoor time together — something they’ve never regretted. Now, they encourage other families to take the plunge and get outside.

Arwyn playing in a stream - 1000 Hours Outside

Why Take the Challenge?

While 1,000 hours outside may seem like a lot, the average American child spends 1,200 hours a year or more in front of screens (and that number is on the rise).

Sadly, I can say our family isn’t immune to the epidemic. Our kids have tablets they can play on when they’re done with chores, we often watch movies as a family in the evenings, and my son is starting to really enjoy video games like Minecraft and the LEGO series. Add it all up, and that’s a lot of hours each year in front of a screen. Again, damaging stuff.

How Behavior is Affected

Aside from the science, I notice a major shift in my kids when they’ve had too much screen time. They become impatient, whiny, and irritable. They’re more likely to be disrespectful, and they often complain about being “bored” when not entertained by a screen.

These are just some of the reasons why kids NEED outdoor time. Their behavior when they’ve had the chance to explore and enjoy nature is in stark contrast to their screen-influenced behavior.

More time in the great outdoors has been linked to:

  • healthier kids with greater immunity
  • greater cognitive development
  • greater social/emotional development
  • improved sensory skills
  • increased attention spans
  • better moods
Lexi Climbing Rocks -- 1000 Hours Outside Challenge

For more on that, check out this article from Sanford Health. You can also read this article from Harvard Health on 6 reasons why children need to play outside.

How can you participate?

It’s simple. There’s no sign-up process or anything daunting.

Step 1: Download and print the tracker from the 1000 Hours Outside website to help keep track of your family’s hours.
Step 2: Get outside as much as possible!

If you do the math, 1000 hours spread out over 365 days is a little over 2 1/2 hours a day. Of course, this is assuming the kids can go out daily.

For our family, I’ve scheduled several points in our day when we can go outside. There will likely be days when we’re not able to make it outside, like when the weather is too bad or the kids are sick. So our plan is to make up for those days in spring and summer when we can spend longer periods of time outside.

1000 Hours Outside Tracker Sheet

Get the tracker from 1000 Hours Outside here!

What if you can’t personally commit to 1000 Hours Outside?

You may be a super busy momma with a lot on your plate but still want your kids to be able to spend 1000 hours outside. Even we stay-at-home moms may have some trouble being outside every time that our kids are. I plan to spend as much time outside with them as I can, but here are some solutions for days when it just doesn’t work out.

Split it with Your Spouse

Could you and your husband divide and conquer? Maybe sometimes you can all be outside as a family, but other days only one of you can take the kids out. Either way, the kids are still getting their 1000 hours.

Entrust Another Adult

Do grandma and grandpa like to pick up the kids for outings? What about an aunt or uncle? Is there someone else who you trust who would like to take the kids to the playground or hiking trails a few times a month?

Dad and the Boys Outside - 1000 Hours Outside
My dad enjoying time outside with our boys

Supervise from Inside

Do you have a window in your home that overlooks your yard? I know for some people this isn’t an option. But if it is and you feel comfortable doing so, let the kids play outside while you get things done and keep an eye on them from inside.

What if you’re reading this after January 1st?

That’s okay! As the old adage goes, better late than never. It’s still possible to reach 1000 hours even after the year has already started OR you can set a goal that at least stretches you to get your kids outside as much as possible.


Don’t forget to go check out the 1000 Hours Outside website! They’ve got a lot of great information to encourage you through the process and remind you of why it’s important. They also have ideas for fun nature-related activities.

Have you ever taken the 1000 Hours Outside challenge? Will you be doing it this year? Drop a comment below! I’d love to hear from others who will be participating.

Until next time,

Audriana

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