I don’t remember when I first heard about the 1000 hours outside challenge. I am guessing I saw something on Facebook. But, the 1000 hours outside challenge came back into my head last week as I was thinking about our family goals for 2020.
As I mentally became committed to doing 1000 hours outside with my kids, I had a thought… this challenge should be part of A One-Room Schoolhouse! We already have an hour and a half of outside time scheduled into our school day, so it wouldn’t be very hard for families to score another hour and a half outside after school hours.
(Of course, on Fridays, we have even more time outside, with nature study right before lunch! So that’s 8.5 hours each week!)
If you have read my first blog post, you already know that I am not a big fan of traditional homework. As I said in that post, “My homework philosophy could be summed up in three words: read and play.” So, doing 1000 hours outside would fit very nicely within those homework guidelines.
After all this musing and floating my idea of social media… I’m going to make it official:
A One-Room Schoolhouse is going to do the 1000 hours outside challenge!
The logistics will be a little bit different. Each family will be encouraged to start at the beginning of the school year. (I think I might even include these trackers in our school handbook!) The 1000 hours will be “due” on the first day of the next school year. Finally, I think a bonus should be given if someone can pull off a 1000 hours in one school year!
(A One-Room Schoolhouse has over 300 hours of unstructured outside time scheduled into the school year!)
My Reasons for Doing the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge
A quick Google search will yield a million results on the benefits of outdoor play. As I scanned through a few of the most promising articles (look here, here, and here), and wrote down a list of all the reasons kids should play outside.
- Promotes decision-making skills
- Hones gross and fine motor skills without monotonous practice
- Helps kids work through fears and stress
- Develops valuable social skills like sharing, verbalizing ideas, working together, and conflict resolution
- Fosters creativity
- Builds physically healthy children
- Improves sensory skills
- Stimulates better vision
- Boosts communication, organization, and cooperation
- Increases attention span
- Encourages immunity
- Supports mood and overall happiness
- Nurtures executive function: planning, prioritizing, troubleshooting, negotiating, and multi-tasking
- Advances resiliency by learning how to take risks, fail and overcome
- Initiates an appreciation and respect for nature
- Advances athletic skills
- Expands vocabulary
- Lowers risk of behavior problems
- Improves children’s ability to fall asleep
With that kind of list, I don’t know who would not want to play outside??? Why does it take a “challenge” to encourage parents to get their kids outside? What are the roadblocks to getting kids outside?
Roadblocks To Outside Play
Babies: This is my current roadblock. I have a 2-month-old baby! It is getting easier to get her and my other three kids outside, but dang it is hard to get them all bundled up for winter play with a baby in tow. The key here, for me, has been a great stroller (I love my double Bob!) and babywearing. Also, using nap time as a time to get outside really helps.
Weather: My arch-nemesis of winter weather play is children’s gloves. Really! Finding a matching pair and then getting tiny toddler fingers into the gloves nearly drives me nuts! I have no suggestions on this front, other than to stay the course. My 5-year-old is now pretty good at managing his own gloves. So, there is hope! (If you have suggestions on the toddler-glove front, pleeeeeeeease, drop a comment! I would love any tips!)
Clothing: You might have heard the Norwegian phrase, “THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BAD WEATHER, ONLY BAD CLOTHES.” This is so true! Read up on the three-layer system. Also, I would recommend a merino wool base layer. Finally, waterproof rain suits are game-changers for wet days.
Access: This is not one of my troubles, but for many, gaining access to the outdoors can be difficult. Due to city living, two of my siblings have lived for years without a backyard. Amazingly, they are both champions of outdoor hours. Both, with young children, routinely blow through more than 3 hours of outdoor time a day. How do they do it? Priorities and creativity. Walking and biking instead of driving. Utilize the city parks. Outfit decks/patios with water tables, sandboxes, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles. Spend your weekends discovering regional, state, and national parks in your area. The possibilities are really endless with a little creativity.
Screens: Screens are easy. Pop on a show and all of a sudden you can have a hot shower without being interrupted. I am the first to admit I am not perfect in this department. My kids do watch a show now and again. I am all for balance. If I can get my kids outside 3 or more hours a day then: 1) we don’t have much time for screens left and 2) if we do have a little screen time it is balanced out by our outside time. Give yourself grace, but prioritize the outside.
Daylight: Winter is hard. I love that during the summer we can spend so many evening hours outside. But, during the winter it is dark by 5 p.m. and much harder to just let the kids go roam outside. Solution: light up the night. Flashlights are so much fun! Also, I will be making these homemade lanterns this week and I am sure my kids are going to love exploring our backyard with them!
Dangers: I saw a concerned mom post a question on Facebook about dangers in her area. She lived in a place where venomous snakes and bugs were common. Obviously, keeping our kids safe is a top priority. Whether it is cars, ponds, snakes, or poison ivy, I believe education and supervision are key. Educate your kids on the dangers around them and set protective rules to manage their outside play. (In our house, children don’t go outside of the fenced yard without an adult. We live on a lake.) Also, remember that unstructured play does not mean unsupervised play. The level of supervision will vary for different ages, personalities, and family situations.
Scheduling: My natural personality is to over-schedule. It is something I must always keep in check. I often have to re-calibrate my commitments. By prioritizing 3 hours a day of outside time, I have to say no to other activities. It takes time to readjust your schedule to prioritize outside time, but it is worth it!
Are you committing to 1000 hours outside in 2020?
Let me know below if you will be doing a 1000 hours outside in 2020! Also, what do you think of A One-Room Schoolhouse making 1000 hours outside our homework policy? Drop a comment, I would love to hear from you!