Did you know that the average child spends 1200 hours each year in front of screens? Neither did I. A mom from Michigan named Ginny Yurich, clearly rattled by this statistic, started the 1000 hours outside challenge with the goal of motivating kids to match their screen time with their outside time and the thought of what would happen if they actually did this. You can read more about it here
I first heard about this challenge in a parenting group on social media and was immediately intrigued. After another long, hard high-risk pregnancy with my third baby I felt a twinge of guilt that my little ones may have watched one too many episodes of their favorite cartoons and played one too many puzzle and match activities on my phone. Although the screen time was educational, I noticed they were starting to argue more over shows and games.
Starting the 1000 hours outside challenge
Since starting the 1000 hours outside challenge, so much is changing in my own home (or should I say “outside” my home) and the best part? It’s free to start. It’s exactly like it says – spend time outdoors and keep track of the time as you approach your big goal. A thousand hours doing anything is daunting but there are free tracking sheets that make it easier and we have incorporated a lot of our favorite activities to make it really fun.
The tracking sheet on our fridge is filling up with rainbow colors by the hour (literally!) as we are making a pretty good attempt at demolishing the challenge. At first I wondered how they would spend an average of fours hours outside per day to reach this goal in a year but we are doing it.
Activities we love doing outdoors
Here’s some of their favorite outdoor activities:
- trips to the park
- walks on the trails
- backyard fun
- skipping rocks at the beach
- collecting seashells, rocks and outdoor treasures
- eating at our picnic table
- playing with the baby on our deck
- bouncing for hours on our bouncy castle (an investment we made when I was high-risk pregnant and could barely walk with two little ones at home).
My family is now addicted to the outdoor challenge
The health benefits they are reaping from all that fresh air and sunshine they are getting are mind blowing. In fact, I never expected any of these bonus benefits. Nature is certainly a wonderful healer and I am excited to share them with you. I hope they inspire you to print out your own free tracker sheet and give it a go.
Our kids love seeing their 1000 hours outside tracker on the fridge. It gives them that incentive to well, get outside. The more hours they track, the more they want to add. It’s an addictive challenge (and an awesome way to get them off of screens). I promise you won’t be disappointed. You might even end up like my family and become addicted to tracking you outside time.
10 crazy health benefits my family is experiencing from the challenge
They Sleep Better
At the end of the day, they are tired. Their bodies are moving through grass and dirt, picking up rocks and seashells, sliding down slides and swinging on swings for hours. My husband is walking a ton and carrying our youngest around outdoors, pushing the stroller and assisting our toddler. No one has trouble going to sleep anymore. They play hard and they sleep so soundly.
They Eat Better
They ask for berries and smoothies and energizing foods. Their junk food intake is way down. My husband knows his body needs the energy to keep up with them and his eating habits are drastically different as well. They crave healthier options and their overall digestion seems to be much better. Multiple hours outside a day seem to be keeping the doctor away.
They are Happier
They laugh and giggle and get excited for their next adventure. They are happy getting out of bed and ready to get the day rolling. They speak kindly to one another and listen to new ideas and suggest things they could do outside together. They are bonding and creating happy memories.
They Have More Patience
They are slow to snap and quick to get their shoes on and out into the fresh air. The great outdoors seems to be teaching them to slow down somewhat and really take life in.
They Look Healthier
Summer has barely begun and they already have that outdoorsy glow. Their eyes are more vibrant and they are starting to tan. They are working their muscles without even realizing while climbing, crawling and collecting.
They Have More Energy
When they first started the 1000 hours outside challenge they were tired from adventures early on in the day. Now, they have built up a pretty intense habit that keeps them wanting to be outside right up until just about bed time.
They Argue Less
It’s hard to fight over who gets to watch what show when you are outside. We rarely hear those bickering arguments that ran rampant on our couches through the winter. They are enjoying activities with one another and even if they are just kicking a ball they no longer seem to have moments where they get bored (like they did frequently while inside all the time).
They Drink More Water
They could certainly be tracking their water intake as well but they don’t need to: their bodies are keeping score. They are grabbing way more glasses of water a day than I ever saw back when they spent much less time outdoors. I used to ask them if they were thirsty: now all I seem to hear after another escape to the wilderness is “Mom, I’m thirsty!”
They Complain Less
Their bodies just seem to be built for nature. They don’t complain about boredom or sore eyes or having trouble using the potty. Things that used to bother them are no longer at the forefront because they are enjoying themselves so much. They are getting quality time with Daddy, and they are content. Content kids don’t complain and it’s a beautiful thing.
They Could Care Less About Screen Time
The kids who once argued over screens in our home and shows they wanted to Watch, seem to not really care anymore. They still have screen time, buy they are so busy with their 1000 hours outside challenge that they seem as though they could take it or leave it.