'Anyone want to do the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge with me?' my phone lit up, heavy with the question. I had no idea what this was so I did what any parent of 2024 would do, I Googled it.
I'm a mum-of-one and work full-time so the mum-guilt for me is default and always on (I'm working on it) and because of this, I'm constantly on the lookout for things to do with kids, or fun days out, so this invitation piqued my interest.
The 1000 Hours Outside Challenge is a 12-month project to get you and your family outdoors more - and you can start at any time of the year. It's a fast-growing community of individuals and families dedicated to reclaiming time in nature. The brainchild from mum-of-five Ginny Yulrich, its mission is to encourage families to spend more time outside and off screens. It's grown in popularity with a trending hashtag on social of #1000hoursoutside, an Instagram account, books, a podcast, and so many other amazing resources to guide eager parents.
'Yep count us in' I typed in reply to my friend's Whatsapp. How hard can it be, I thought to myself. Turns out... quite hard.
I almost instantly felt the weight of hitting the target. My husband worked out that it would be, on average 2.74 hours each day out of the house. Which, given my kid was 5 years old, meant that school ate up a lot of that time. But, undeterred, I put plans in place - I researched 'best parks in my area' and 'free national trust days'. And having a kid I know that being outside is easier than being inside, it just is. Keeping a kid occupied outside is about letting them be free, and taking their lead. Take a ball, take an interest, stop and look. When you're outside with your kid your job is to keep them safe, not entertained. I'm also a peddler of the phrase 'no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes' so we had all the gear whether it rained or snowed - we were prepared, so what happened?
We failed the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge (and I'm okay with that)
I can't even tell you how many hours we clocked up because I failed at filling in the tracker thingy too. Yes, they even supply you with a really helpful tracker poster to get the kids involved, colouring in how long we've been outside, I downloaded the apps and regularly cruised the resources (they told you what to expect weather-wise where you are) and I dutifully saved and shared all the Insta posts telling you how many daylight hours you get depending on what month you're in. But, what I didn't factor in - blinded by all my good intentions - was habit. Our habit as a family.
I know I said at the beginning of this article how 'I'm always on the look out for things to do', and I am... I never said I did them. No, habitually we are not a 'doey' family. 'Doey' is a term I fondly use for people who actively get up and go to all the places and do all the things on all the weekends. And that is not us. Going out for hours on the weekend isn't something my husband and I have naturally done, so factoring this in was a chore. And because it was a chore for us, it didn't come naturally to our son either so many a time he didn't want to go out, and that's okay.
We don't 'overschedule' our son, but he does get tired from a full day at school because well, school is tiring. And we both work full time so we need to take it easy too, plus working out the hours spent, hours owing is just not on brand for me as a mum - a fact I should have been a lot more honest about from the start. As parents we are constantly told what we 'should' be doing and it can be hard to block out that white noise and focus on our family values. Ours is to value rest, to listen to our bodies, and move when we feel we need or want to.
So, while we failed at hitting that 1000 hours, we did win in one small way. As cringey as it sounds our win was that we changed some small habits. For instance, I noticed Ted went to bed so much smoother and his body calmed quicker when he had been outside for more than an hour that day. So we made a 'family pact' that it was our goal to get outside once a day regardless of the weather. And we worked out - for us - doing that first thing worked best.
What I learned from failing the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge
- We - the office-working-grown-ups - miss being regularly outside.
- I should always put a sports bra on - even if I think it's just a walk.
- The more time Ted spent outdoors playing, the better his overall behaviour was.
- I prefer cold weather when outside.
- A child’s 'job' is to be a child and their 'work' is to play.
- My husband and I were more creative, patient, and tolerant of each other after we'd been outside.
- I don't need to constantly set activities up for my kid.
- I don't mind playing 'cafe' with tree bark and leaves.
- Running, climbing, watching and playing are great for critical thinking.
Find out more about the 1000 Hours Challenge
If this has interested you, and you want to give it a go with your family I wish you all the luck in the world. Take a look at the website; 1000hoursoutside.com, browse their Instagram page and maybe download their app - it's all really helpful. And my final tip... take it easy on yourself. Day-to-day life can take its toll without adding more to the to-do list.
Elsewhere on our site, we talk about body autonomy for kids and what 'healthy eating really looks like', how to talk to your kids about mental health and this list of the top 5 podcasts to listen to for better mental health.
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Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodToKnow covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. Just keeping on top of school emails/fund raisers/non-uniform days/packed lunches is her second full time job.
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