"I don't see how you're going to do it," my husband said to me, eyeing our 1000 Hours Outside tracking sheet. Not even the top row of hours was filled in, meaning that we had more than 950 hours to go for the year.
My husband is a realist. He wasn't trying to discourage me, what he was saying was that I needed a plan. If I just tried to shoot from the hip and hope for the best, like I've been known to do before, I'd fail this challenge.
So, I thought about it, and going forward, this is our approach so that we don't fail the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge.
(If you haven't heard of the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge, it's just a way to encourage families to get outside more often! It is free to join- all you have to do is download a 1000 hours tracking sheet and get outside. You can check out the website here!
How Not to Fail the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge
1. Aim for at least 1 hour outside a day in January, February, and December.
If you live in a warm climate, then this isn't an issue. But for us, getting outside in the winter months is a huge struggle. By committing to averaging 7 hours a week in the winter months, I'll have less catch up to do in the summer months.
Notice that my goal here is average. There are some days that are just too cold, too windy to get outside. If we stick to this average, we'll have 60 hours by the end of February, and can tack on another 31 hours in December.
2. Spend lots of time outside every day in nicer weather.
If I reach my winter goals, that means I have 274 other days of the year to get my kids outside for 909 hours. That means we will need to spend 3.3 hours outside each day. That sounds like a lot. Before we started formal lessons, it was easy to get my kids outside for four hours a day. Now it's more of a struggle. But again, I'm going for an average, and we tend to have summer days where we spend 8 hours outside, playing in the sprinklers after church, and then having our Sunday dinners al fresco. Which leads me to my next action step.
3. Have meals outside.
Eating outside is an easy way to up those outdoor hours. My kids love having picnics, and it honestly helps keep our kitchen clean, too. If I pack lunches and then clean up before heading out for the day, I love coming back to a clean kitchen.
We'll strive for lunches and dinners outside on every nice day.
4. Figure out how to count it if all my kids aren't outside.
I struggled with this for a bit. What if only two of my kids go outside? Or what if my daughter goes to her homeschool playdate and spends three hours outside, but her brothers are inside the whole time? For the love of LL Bean, how am I supposed to count those hours?
I decided to stop overthinking it. If two of my kids are outside, then most of them are getting that good, brain-building time. I'll count it all. If one of my kids is outside, I'll count it as half. I imagine some people might want to fill out a sheet for each child, but not this mama. The simpler, the better.
5. Plan a camping trip.
In the summer, if we're lagging behind in our outdoor hours, I'll plan a camping trip. I don't think it matters if it's in our own backyard or the mountains, the point is extended hours outside. Does tent camping "count" as outdoor time? If being bundled up in winter counts, then yes, tent camping does! A whole weekend of camping would give us close to 48 hours of outdoor time!
6. Keep tabs on screen time.
The creators of the 1000 hours outside challenge said that most kids have at least 1200 hours of screen time each year. Whoa! I don't think that my kids come close to that, but we were sick almost all of December and half of January, so we watched lots of Daniel Tiger and Mr. Rogers. I decided to print off an extra 1000 hours sheet to track our screen time. I just wrote "screen time" on the top in a very official way, and now I keep track of those hours, too.
6. Focus on the principles behind it, not the tally sheet.
Of course, as is like anything else, it's easy to get caught up in tallying hours and forgetting why we're committing to something like this. It's not about the 1000 hours. It's about making outdoor time a priority, committing to getting our children outside when the rest of society is committed to getting their children to yoga class.
I don't want to get too obsessed with racking up those hours, and then forget that this time is not a tally on a sheet, but a sweet childhood passed out of doors.