When I was adapting to life as a new mom, my baby and I would get outside as often as possible, which led me to stumbling upon a challenge that really inspired me.

My now 5 year old was a year old and absolutely loved being outside.  As a former teacher, I knew of the great benefits of being outside so I was inspired to find activities which would engage and help him grow. This led to my discovery of the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge.

For the last four years, my family and I have participated in this challenge which has given my children the nickname of “the Gamble all seasons, any weather kids.” 365 days of the year they don’t shy away from going outside. 

Over the last year, the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge has exploded on social media. This year has been the perfect year for adopting this challenge as much of our typical lives have been put on hold. I have so loved watching families engage more with the outdoors with plans of carrying this through the winter and beyond.

woman and boy
boy in front of truck

What is the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge?

If you haven’t heard of this challenge yet, this is the brainchild of Michigan natives, Ginny and Jason Yurich. As a young family, the Yurich’s came across the recommendation that children should be outside 4 – 6 hours a day. 

Though what seemed daunting at first, this inspired the Yurich’s to start a personal family goal of outdoor hours for the year. Through research, they decided to aim for 1,000 hours in a year.

Basically this challenge is simply a way to encourage everyone to get outside more often!

boy with greenhouse

Wait, did you say 1,000 hours…a year? 

If this seems crazy, focus on the principles of the challenge, not the actual hours. Easier said than done, right?

One of my favorite quotes from Ginny Yurich is, “The unique thing about 1000 Hours Outside is that it accounts for the seasons of life; there are certain times where you are struggling, or you are swamped at work, or you have more babies. You can mold it to your own families. If that 1000 hour goal seems insurmountable, then change it. The intentionality really is the key.” 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of 1,000 hours outside, you’re not alone. Though my kids are “all seasons, any weather kids”, don’t let that nickname fool you, I’ve been there.

My biggest takeaway when starting was just trying our best to be outside everyday, even if it was only for 15 – 30 minutes. The beauty of this challenge and one of the things I absolutely love is as Ginny says, don’t stress about the details, but adjust your family’s goals to the season of life you’re in. It’s a customizable stress free challenge! 

Another aspect of the challenge I love is how the Yurich’s understand life is busy, so to help make this a fun goal for all, each year they release a themed tracker.  But again, don’t let “the hours” take focus away from the real goal of connecting together, exploring the natural world by growing a sense of nature, and basking the many benefits being outside brings. 

boy with horse

The Benefits of Being One With Nature…

Though this challenge is geared towards kids and families, its benefits extend beyond that subset. This is a great personal goal for everyone to have, as all can benefit from being outside. The health benefits of being outside include:

  • Natural source of vitamin D
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves mood
  • Improves focus
  • Helps boost your immune system
  • Reduces stress

As we head into the New Year, what a great time to adopt this goal! We’re lucky to live in an area that is relatively temperate with access to many great natural areas, but you might be thinking, “wait… the winter is so cold, I can’t be outside for hours on end like we are during summer time!”

boy making mud pies
boy playing on logs

Being Outside in Winter… 

Getting outside in the winter months can be hard as the temperatures in Indiana aren’t always the most ideal. Some days are just too cold and blustery to get outside, as these are typically the harshest months of the year. But, Indiana is known to have many days of gorgeous weather in these months!

For this reason, I encourage everyone to aim for (at least) 15 – 30 minutes outside a day in January and February. By having a smaller goal during the winter months, you’re not only building stamina for being in the cold, you’ll still feel successful, gain the positive outdoor benefits, and once spring returns, you can flex the missed hours when you know you’re more likely to be outside. If you stick to a 30 minute goal each day, you’ll have 29 ½ hours by the end of February!

As we speak of these cold winter months, having the correct winter gear will ensure a more successful time outside. Having snow/rain boots, shoes for walking, layering clothing, waterproof gear, a hat, and warm socks will make you much more willing to go out in all kinds of weather.

I feel like as parents, we ensure our kids have this gear but then forget about ourselves. When you aren’t feeling cold, the more enjoyable it will be and you’ll be more apt to wanting to stay outdoors.

Local Favorite Winter Activities….

In the winter months, I feel like you have to be a bit more creative with your outdoor time. You can still enjoy many of the same activities you do the rest of the year, but with a twist. Here are some of our favorite outdoor winter fun ideas #AroundFishers:

  1. Walking on the many greenways and trails within the city. Our family’s favorites include Bee Camp Creek loop trail, Flat Fork Creek Park, the Nickel Plate Trail, Heritage Park, and the Cheeney Creek loop trail. It’s fun noticing how the beauty of these locations change with each season. 
  2. Scavenger hunts are a favorite with our family while taking walks! Whether its a printable nature treasure hunt or a “let’s find it” game, these games are fun and add a bit of play to a typical winter walk.
  3. Geocaching is always a fun activity while out walking and enjoying the parks. This is an especially fun activity for those reluctant to head out in the cold.    
  4. Participating in a daily outdoor winter fun calendar.
  5. Embracing all the opened-ended snow fun… sledding at Flat Fork Creek Park, snow ball fights, building snow castles with sand toys, snow volcanoes, painting the snow, and making ice ornaments. 
  6. Playing at playgrounds, especially Brooks School Park and Holland Park.  The giggles that come from going down a snowy slide into a fresh pile of snow is the best!
  7. Go on an ice treasure hunt using colorful ice. Hide the colorful “gems” around your yard, the park, or on a trail for your family to find. 

Tips for Being Successful in this Challenge…. 

  1. Intentionality and gearing the challenge to where you are is the key, not the actual number of hours.
  2. Involve the entire family in planning
  3. Dress for the weather by investing in outdoor gear 
  4. Remember the positive health benefits that being outdoors brings
  5. Join the 1,000 Hour Challenge community for support and recommendations

To learn more about the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge, I highly recommend checking out the 1000 Hours Outside website and joining their Facebook group for great resources.

On a final note, if you’re wanting additional resources I recommend the following books which the creators of this challenge encourage all participants to read as you adapt to this challenge in your life.