The 1000 Hours Outside Challenge was created by Ginny and Josh, a couple from Southeast Michigan whose personal aim was to get their children outdoors for at least 20 hours per week. Over the span of a year, this equals roughly 1000 hours outdoors. After experiencing the positive outcomes of immersing their family in nature, Ginny and Josh created their blog “1000 Hours Outside” in order to inspire and encourage other families to ditch the screens and spend more time outside. Why 1000 hours? The goal of spending 1000 hours outdoors is loosely based on the writings of Charlotte Mason, an English educator during the turn of the 20th century. While Mason had originally suggested 4-6 hours of outdoor time per day for developing children, this goal seemed too lofty and was reduced by Ginny and Josh in order to fit their schedules.
There are many benefits associated with immersing children in nature. While it may not be obvious at first, children experience a considerable amount of stress related to schooling, extracurriculars, new situations, and relationships. Spending time in nature allows children to experience a “relaxation response” which includes decreased stress, blood pressure, muscle tension, and an increase in blood flow to the brain. This relaxation response helps children deal with future stressors.
Another benefit of outdoor time is that it encourages and teaches children to be physically active. Fun activities such as a game of soccer or football, hiking, and scavenger hunts are great ways to incorporate physical activity into your child’s routine and encourage the association of positive feelings with physical fitness.
Playing outdoors, especially with other children, encourages socialization and creative thinking. A little imagination goes a long way when playing in nature. A backyard can become a jungle while a simple mixture of water and mud can become a delicious chocolate pudding (not intended for consumption of course!) Additionally, children must work together to create rules and play schemes, therefore encouraging communication and decision making.
There are plenty of outdoor activities to help you and your family achieve 1000 hours outside. The obvious places, such as your backyard and neighbouring parks are convenient options! Consider building playhouses or tree forts in your yard in order to give your children more spaces to play. Going on family hikes or trips to national parks is another great way to bond as a family and immerse yourselves in nature. Ginny and Josh feature outdoor craft ideas on their blog such as homemade lanterns that can be brought along for an evening walk. Other ideas include going swimming, setting up a sprinkler in your yard, skateboarding, gardening, and playing outdoor sports. Try to incorporate more time outdoors for both you and any young family members whether they are your children, nieces and nephews, or family friends. You can make use of the 1000-hour tracker sheets available on Ginny and Josh’s blog in order to keep track of the time spent outside!
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