I stumbled upon the 1000 Hours Outside Podcast last summer while looking for inspiration while doing my nightly chores. What a gift that has been! Ginny Yurich‘s podcast and movement, “1000 hours outside,” has had such a positive impact on my family and I.
In the heat of the Sonoran desert, I was determined to get my two and a half year old and nine month old outside, even if it was for thirty minutes a day. It wasn’t much, but it was great practice to get us out of the four walls of our home. Some days it was bubbles on the front porch, other days I let the toddler go crazy with the water hose, but most days we still stayed inside.
However, the year turned and it’s now 2023. I was still an active listener to the 1000 hours outside podcast and I had even downloaded the creator’s app to help track our hours. This challenge was my New Year’s Resolution for my family. Even with a new baby coming in April and the apprehension of 115 degree days coming in the summer, we were going to complete the 1000 hours outside challenge.
We’ve Completed 50 hours of 1000 Hours outside!
Now we are halfway through January and we’ve earned our first two badges! (Yes, you get digital badges you can share with friends and family!) The most recent badge proudly displays that we’ve hit fifty hours outside! That means only 950 more to go to complete 1000 hours outside!
Let me tell you, those fifty hours have been remarkable. I’ve already seen several benefits that make me even more determined to make getting outside a daily habit for my children and I. Which really, is the goal of the challenge: to become intentional with getting outside in fresh air as often as possible. Because as is often stated in the podcast and book, “Even if you don’t succeed, you still win.”
6 Benefits to being intentional with getting outside
1. My eldest child’s sensory issues have improved.
My almost-three year old has some sensory quirks (as I like to call them). He was already seeing early intervention for speech issues, but we have an impending evaluation with the school district in order to continue his speech therapy. This evaluation also consists of evaluating for other concerns that may “necesitate” the developmental preschool. While I would never hinder my child’s education, it was something I was hoping to pass on without feeling any regrets.
These “quirks” had to do with water and water play. He would often insist on an entire outfit change if even a dribble of water caught his sleeve. One of the first days of attempting the 1000 hours outside challenge followed some rain. His boots got wet and he immediately started fretting about getting them dry. I reminded him that what was important is that his feet were warm and dry and that his boots would be just fine. That was not acceptable. I brought him a towel and he obsessively wiped his boots dry any time they got wet.
We went to the park the next day. The slides were wet but he still went down them. Lo and behold, not a cry about his pants getting wet! (And I dared not say anything, unless he insist on an immediate outfit change!)
Day after day of being intentional with spending time outside, I saw the changes. I would quickly text my husband, “OMG! His clothes are wet and he hasn’t said anything!” I caught him pulling off his shoes and socks in our backyard just to feel the sand. To promote these sensory experiences, I let him!
2. My shy, speech-delayed toddler is becoming more sociable thanks to our 1000 hours outside challenge.
My oldest has the sweetest disposition and smile. He is often able to go up to adults and engage with them. However, he gets really shy around peers. Our neighbors do have elementary-aged children that often play in our cul de sac and two of them often yell out to him, “Hi, G!” My toddler would smile and quietly look at them, as if unsure what to do next.
Every time these kids came outside, I would coach him, “Say hi back. Louder! Yell ‘hi!'” And in just a few weeks of being intentional with our time outside he will actively tell them hi. We’re working on the rest, but I know that will come in time.
3. Prioritizing time outside decreases the time depending on screens
It is so easy to turn on the television. Oh, you’re fussy? Here’s Mickey. You want mommy to play but I’m trying to prepare dinner? Please watch Miss Rachel. Oh, you want to watch the Mandolorian? Fine, one episode.
But, I’m personally not someone who enjoys turning on the television for my children. Most experts say to stay away from screens before two and that creates a sense of guilt for me. But even with those feelings of guilt, I turned on the TV in any of those previous scenarios.
I will never condemn screen time. We use it and will continue to use it. However, the 1000 hours outside movement allows you to help “replace screen time with green time,” and I like that. It’s true. We might have those 30 minutes of programming while I make lunch or dinner, but I’m not succumbing to “one more episode” three more times! (Which can definitely happen when you’re an overstimulated parent who would love some time texting the group chat or scrolling on TikTok after finishing your own tasks!)
4. More intentional play is happening while indoors
Even when we are inside, the requests for screens has diminished. My children are actively finding their toys in the livingroom and playing with them. They are interacting and learning to take turns. There are no cries for, “More mandolorian!” or Mickey.
Why is this happening? Short answer is, I think they miss their indoor toys when they are outside. Outside they are moving around, jumping and pouring dirt on their heads. When we come inside, that attitude of play is already “on,” they just find a new way to channel it with their toys (or each other).
It’s a magical kind of feeling to go upstairs and have them play indepently for a good 10-15 minutes. Besides naptime, it’s a moment for me to take a moment for myself, as well!
5. The 1000 hours outside challenge has shifted some of my own priorities
If you asked my husband to describe me, neurotic honestly might be on the top of his list. I enjoy cleaning. Having a (mostly) dirt free home, freshly washed laundry and a lit candle brings me peace and joy. . . Unless I’m actively in my focused cleaning mode. Then, I can be anxious and not the most enjoyable to be around.
However, the 1000 hours outside challenge means prioritizing being outside. On average, we should be outside at least 2 hours and 45 minutes a day. Some experts think even 4-6 hours should be the bare minimum! That goal might seem even more challenging the hotter it gets in the summer months. So, how can I fit all of the cleaning and cooking I would like if we want to be outside during waking hours? I can’t!
Often when we are inside, I’m preparing meals and tending to my very needy toddlers. (Both of them want “up mommy” more the bigger my pregnant belly gets!) While I am able to keep up with my daily chores, such as unloading & loading the dishwasher or keeping our clothes clean, others get ignored. For example, the only time all of our clothes are put away is when my husband is off. And then, of course, that same night I’m washing a new load anyways. . .
But, this challenge has allowed me to accept that there will always be clutter and always something to be done. Is it important I get it done that moment? No. Let it wait! Your kids want to go play in the dirt outside or visit the sea lions at the zoo near your house! Enjoy the time you have with them, I remind myself.
6. The 1000 hours outside challenge is helping me solidify who I am as a parent
I was not planning on having a list with six reasons, but here we are. Prioritizing time outside through the 1000 hours outside challenge has awakened something in me as a parent. It brings me joy to be outside and breathe fresh air. As a stay at home mom, it’s nice to not feel stuck inside of the same four walls. Being intentional with our time outside has also made me more intentional with how I react to my children and daily inconveniences. I’m a little more peaceful for it, and I’m thankful for that.
I challenge you to be more intentional with getting outside
Getting outside is a habit that you have to be intentional about. It can seem like a lot once everyone’s shoes & jackets are on and then – oh, the toddler needs to go potty! But it’s worth it! We have learned so much from challenging ourselves with the 1000 hours outside challenge – and it’s only been the first 50 hours. I truly cannot wait to see what else unfolds as this year, and challenge, continues for our family.
Join me in just trying to go outside for thirty minutes every day!