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.
Friends, we are starting to struggle. Life is getting back to “normal”, the weather is growing colder and my kids are starting to resist when I say “go outside and play.” Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to fight with them. So our after school outside play is less than before and we’re earning fewer hours than when we’d just go to the playground or similar with friends. Sometimes it’s just easier to let them play inside (no screens until a certain time of day) or rationalize that they’ll move their bodies through structured inside extra-curriculars, like gymnastics. If I had to guess, I’d say we averaged about 1 hour outside a day this month and are around 805 or so for the year. Pretty sure we’re not making it to 1000 by January 1st. I’m at peace with that likely result, yet will still try.
So what am I doing to encourage outside play even though we have the urge to curl-up by the fire and veg? Well, first things first – you need the right gear! When my children complain that they’re cold, my initial response is to quickly scan their bodies and make sure they’re wearing sweaters, hats, gloves and snow pants. (Even if there’s no snow, that layer will keep you warm.) I buy so many of those things for them off Kidizen or other used sites.
Also working to keep family outdoor activities on our schedule. We hiked on Thanksgiving and have penciled some ski dates into the calendar. (Totally know that ski gear can be expensive. Get used whenever possible. Will save a ton of money plus better for the Earth! I was totally thrilled when a friend left me a free pair of skis by my car.) Ice-skating at the local pond is another option once the weather freezes. I find that getting my kids out there is half the battle. Once we start, if everyone is properly dressed, we wind up having a good time! Also, to me, there is no better feeling than spending some quality times outdoors and then cuddling up at home for the rest of the day. Makes me feel like I “earned” it.
I have a bunch of thoughts about this challenge and how it’s positively changed my family. Will share next month when I close out this series. However, as the new year approaches, I really recommend giving it a try – kids or no kids, city or rural living. You’ll grow a deeper connection to the seasons and the Earth, and your body will thank you! – Rachel
PS Did you see the news that Biden signed an executive order to make U.S. government carbon neutral by 2050? The president aims to leverage the federal government’s massive buying power to jump-start the market for clean energy, electric vehicles and more efficient buildings. Not soon enough, but at least it’s something. Meanwhile, forecasts like the one above, are giving me “climate grief.”