Most children spend over 7 hours a day in front of a screen and just 7 minutes outside. I want something different for my kids.
When Michigan mom Ginny Yurich found out that “children ages eight to 10 spend an average of six hours per day in front of a screen,” she knew she wanted her kids’ screen time to be balanced by time in nature. She set the goal of spending 1,000 hours outside as a family every calendar year.
One thousand hours in one year translates to almost 3 hours per day. It seemed like a wild proposition, especially in snowy Michigan, but she found the experience life-changing for her family:
Our greatest times as a family, and my most successful times as a mother, point back to these fully immersive nature days.
As she began to spread the word, it turned out a lot of other parents were on the same page. They were looking for a different way to spend time as a family.
Many modern children live with a lack of free play and time in nature that is honestly disturbing. Researchers have coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe the problem, which was first explored in the groundbreaking book, Last Child in the Woods.
Direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of both children and adults. In fact, doctors around the world have started to prescribe “forest bathing,” or focused time spent in nature.
Time spent outdoors is so beneficial that, if it were a class, it would have a mile-long waiting list. Human beings are meant to be immersed in nature and God’s created world.
But instead, the average American child spends a measly 4 to 7 minutes a day playing outside and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen. The situation is frankly tragic.
1000 Hours Outside is a global movement designed for any age child (or adult) and any environment. Join the journey and watch your life transform before your eyes. Nature holds tremendous power for each and every one of us at any age or stage.
Yurich has made it wonderfully easy and fun for parents to hop on board the 1000 Hours Outside bandwagon. She’s developed a simple app to track hours and her site includes a number of beautiful paper tracker printables. She also offers really delightful activities and prompts in her free kick-off pack.
I’ve followed Yurich’s work for years, but the idea of tracking hours outside seemed overwhelming with a houseful of little ones. The new app, however, tipped the scales for me: It’s so easy to use that I finally decided that I could handle tracking one more thing. So this year, 2022, became the first I attempted the 1,000 Hours Outside Challenge.
We did not get off to a propitious start in January. I live in Chicago, which is snowbound for much of the year, and my four children are all too young to put on their own snow gear.
So it took me upwards of 30 minutes just to get everyone bundled up. I joked to a friend that I should be allowed to count the hours getting kids ready to go outside!
Still, we clocked 12 hours that month, even if I sometimes had to bribe the kids with hot cocoa to get them outdoors. We enjoyed some memorable hours of sledding, ice skating, and snowman-building.
February took a big boost when we traveled to Florida to visit my grandparents. One week in the Sunshine State pushed us to over 60 hours outside. I felt relieved that we were back on track to complete the challenge.
Now, in March, the weather is finally warming up and I’m chomping at the bit to spend much longer days outdoors. My children each have their own tracker sheets and are excited to fill them in a little more each day.
Ultimately, I know it’s all right if we don’t meet our 1,000 Hours goal. Any effort to spend time in nature will enrich and benefit our lives. Even if we “fail” at the challenge, we “win” in gaining delightful memories and huge health benefits of days spent outdoors.
I believe that these hours outside are one of the best gifts I can give my children, and I’m so grateful to have found this 1,000 Hours Outside community that gives me an extra push to prioritize something so wonderful.