I love getting outside with my children and the importance of having plenty of outdoor time is something that I feel quite strongly about. At the start of the year, we joined in with Thimble and Twig and The Ladybird’s Adventures for their ‘Wild about Winter’ challenge where they shared a different activity to get outdoors each day in January. I decided to start tracking our outdoor time and see how much time we actually spent outside in a year, which soon led to taking on a challenge to spend 1000 hours outside over the year.
1000 hours outside is a challenge that aims to balance the average amount of screen time children get (1200 hours a year in the US) with time outside in nature. It isn’t a competition – it’s simply a way of encouraging families to get outside with their children more and enjoy the benefits that outdoor play and immersion in nature has to offer.
For me though, once I set myself a target, I am determined to reach it! I have to admit I found it harder than I expected though. There were times when I found the self-inflicted pressure of a target stressful, especially when I had a long to-do list of things to do at home. That said though, I always felt better for getting outside and it turned out that not all the items on the to-do list were really necessary anyway!
Having a target helped encourage me to get outside each day, even when the weather wasn’t very appealing. We’ve enjoyed getting out for walks, spent hours playing in the garden and enjoyed time outdoors in all weathers. Being restricted in our outdoor activities during lockdown did make it harder to get outside for longer periods, especially when the weather wasn’t so good, but we did enjoy having an outdoor classroom during those months of home-schooling! I’m not sure I would have taken quite so much of our learning time outdoors had it not been for the challenge encouraging me to do so.
One thing I would suggest if you’re planning to reach the target is to try not to fall too far behind in those early winter months. In spite of trying to get outside each day in January and February, we only averaged just over an hour outside during those months. I thought it would be easy to balance out in summer, but it took most of the summer to regain the ground I’d lost early on.
I used the Hours app on my phone to keep track of our outside time but there are some lovely printable trackers on the 1000 hours outside website that you can use if you’d like to join in.
Even if you’re not aiming for 1000 hours outside over the course of the year, there are lots of ways of trying to get a little extra outdoor time. Here are some ideas for ways to get outside:
- Take a flask of hot chocolate or soup to enjoy outdoors. It’s a great way of making a winter walk more appealing.
- Go hunting for geocaches.
- Take the toys outside so the kids can play in the garden. Our tuff tray was great for small world play with the toys.
- Build a den in the woods
- Go for a walk outside at night and look up at the stars.
- Throw a little garden party.
- Go camping in the back garden (this one’s on our list for next year!)
- Have a scavenger hunt in the garden.
- Do some shadow drawing or play shadow tag.
- Have fun doing some nature art.
- Bring a magnifying glass outside and take a closer look at nature.
- Grow your own veg.
- Set up bird feeders and see how many different birds visit your garden.
- Dance in the rain and splash in puddles.
Getting outside has so many benefits. I always feel much less stressed after getting out for a walk and being able to spend so much time in my garden made the first lockdown much more bearable. I’m not sure I’ll be setting myself a specific target this year, but we’ll certainly continue to aim for some quality time outdoors each day.