1,000 Hours Outside: Progress Report

As of 10/23/22: 191 Hours, 50 minutes
Monthly average: 26 Hours, 15 minutes

My family started our #1000hoursoutside challenge at the end of April. At the time, our girls were just out of pre-school for the summer.

Six months later, we are in Pre-K at our bigger elementary school with set start and dismissal times. Our weekly hours took a huge cut because TBH, there are only so many hours in a day. Which brings me to a close reading of what this challenge actually entails.

The premise of 1,000 Hours Outside is to cut the time that kids spend on the screen by matching it with time outdoors. One thousand hours over one year averages to about 2 hours and 45 minutes per day.

My kids wake up at 6am for school. Attend from 7ish to 2:30pm. Dinner for us is at 5:30, and then bedtime routine and lights out at 7:15pm. At most, my girls get 2.5 hours of free time per day. During the week, they also have dance and gymnastics during this time frame as well.

Here’s where I get a little nit-picky. If kids are spending over 1,000 hours a year watching a screen, you can’t “match” it with an additional 1,000 hours outside. That’s way too many free hours that the typical public school-attending family doesn’t have, given your elementary-age kids aren’t going to bed at 10pm.

If the goal is to “replace” 1,000 hours of screen time with only time outside, that means eliminating screens for the most part. Highly unrealistic, again considering that my girls go to bed at 7pm and not later.

Logically, I would think “matching” screen time with outdoor time (500 hours each) makes a little more sense for a family with younger kids. And for my family, that is about a good goal for us.

No, I’m not trying to poke holes in the mission. I do think we’ve done a pretty good job of taking more family hikes, finding more local parks and outdoor events, and keeping TV time to a minimum.

But, a lot of the other families I’m seeing who are hitting 500-1,000+ hours are not typical public school families. It may be just a reach, but they also aren’t traditional double-income families. Many are homeschooled or in co-op school; programs with a much more flexible schedule and more availability for going outside during the day.

So here are my thoughts moving forward with this challenge for the remaining 6 months:

  • Don’t discount indoor non-screen time. My girls and I have done a lot of cooking together over the summer. They also went to summer dance and gymnastics play camp, all indoors. After-school independent play, imaginative play with each other, cleaning up, helping with dinner; all are complete constructive uses of time, not solely outdoors.
  • We like going outside. I’m not trying to find reasons to stay in. But for a typical family, especially during the school week, it’s a bit more difficult. Give yourself a little bit of breathing room when it comes to setting a time goal, and make sure that that goal is realistic for your family schedule and for the age of your kids.
  • Prior Planning. Because the school week is very packed, we make a special effort to plan something outdoors on Saturday. It’s usually a hike or a festival, but sometimes it’s smaller play dates or going to the dog park. The girls get 30 minutes of recess each day at school, so the bulk of our hours will be on weekends. This also gives us something to look forward to and enriches our family time.
  • New skillz. In the last six months, we have started to pick up some new hobbies or at least some favorite outings together as a family. The girls are really into kayaking (or at least being paddled around in a kayak). They swam independently with water wings this summer. And with their grandparents, they’ve taken on small gardening chores. We let them guide these new experiences and we find there is much less complaining.
  • Infrastructure. Another perk of this challenge is that we are trying to replan and rearrange our outdoor space. We are in the process of fixing up our screened-in porch in hopes of being able to do more of our “inside stuff” out in the open air. We also need to take down a few trees in order to create a more kid-friendly space. Our backyard is very densely wooded and isn’t really level or clear enough for play. But, I’m excited to get a plan in motion so that the girls can be outside safely. If we’re making it a priority to spend time outside, it should reflect in our home’s future plans. And hopefully, that will make outdoor time a positive habit even after the year is over.

I get that my kids are still really young, and this type of planning may not stick from year to year or activity to activity.

The verdict so far: I still like this challenge and we’ll stick with it through the end of 12 months. The winter months should be interesting though. Anyone have any experience with teaching 4-year-olds how to snowboard?

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