What is the 1000 hours outdoor challenge? Why parents love it

Parents explain why they love the 1000 Hours Outside challenge.  (Photo: Ginny Yurich)

The five children of Ginny Yurich, founder of the 1000 Hours Challenge, display an enlarged version of an hourly fresh air tracker available on the movement’s website. (Photo: Ginny Yurich)

Kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours in front of a screen — every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s probably not the most shocking statistic since between video games, TikTok and the latest streaming series, there’s a lot do for a screen. But what happens if you replace a good chunk of those hours by spending time outdoors, looking at trees or a sky or even the ground? For some parents, the answer is simple: only good things.

Enter the movement of 1000 hours outdoors. Ginny Yurich, mother of five from Michigan, started the eponymous blog in 2013, followed by related books and the popular podcast, which inspired parents around the world to take their kids outside – and track their hours with as goal to reach 1,000. And by 2021, Yurich said Today, over a million children had taken part in the challenge. Today there are over 607,000 #1000HoursOutside posts on Instagram.

Before starting her blog, Yurich struggled with raising her young children. She constantly shuffled them from activity to activity and was frustrated with how short the time frames were. Then a friend read the writings of British schoolteacher Charlotte Mason, who encourages outdoor play for children, and asked Yurich if she would try spending some time outside with both of their children in the park. Although Yurich initially had low expectations, she was shocked by how “refreshed” she felt afterwards. She held on.

“I started noticing that our kids were doing well,” Yurich tells Yahoo Life. “They slept better, they ate better. They didn’t get sick that often. They tried new things outdoors, new kinds of movements. And over the past 10 to 12 years, I’ve come across piles and piles of research on how simple outdoor play helps children with every facet of their development. It helps their cognition, it helps their physical abilities, it helps them emotionally, it helps them with their social skills – and it does a lot for the parents too.

Why go outside?

Much has been written about why getting outside is so important for kids, including how it helps them synthesize vitamin D from the sun, which is important for building a healthy immune system. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health states that children ages 3 to 12 who spend more time outdoors are less sedentary, meaning they are more likely to exceed the CDC’s 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at a time. to fetch. day for optimal health.

Michelle Kondo, a scientist with the US Forest Service, tells Yahoo Life that the mental health benefits of outdoor play are perhaps the most impressive.

“Being outside can help improve our mood. It can reduce our stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression,” she says. “Spending time outside can reduce loneliness. Being outside can also improve the functioning of our brains. It helps us focus and pay attention.”

A study published in Science Advances in 2019 found a link between nature experiences and psychological well-being, as well as a reduction in risk factors for certain types of mental health problems, such as ADHD and anxiety disorders, something echoed by the American Psychological Association (APA) in a synthesis from 2020 of the mood and cognitive benefits of nature.

There is also evidence that unstructured social play can be hugely beneficial for children. Many parents may think that the ideal is to provide their children with plenty of organized activities but allow them free time not dominated by organized activities, where they have to come up with their own pleasure, can help them develop creativity, according to research from the APA.

What parents say

Challenge followers, who can track their progress thanks to a graph on Yurich’s website, don’t need concrete proof to know that getting outside is a great idea: the proof is in how their families feel after getting lots of fresh air. have got. , sun and natural time.

“We do a lot of park days and hiking trails,” North Carolina mom Makenzie Alaniz tells Yahoo Life of her two kids, ages 5 and 2. As a homeschooling parent, she was looking for ways to fill her children’s days with adventure. and fun’, and is convinced that her family will reach the 1000 hour mark, as they are already at 200 hours. “When the weather warms up a bit, we go to the beach. We also have a horse, so grooming and riding her takes quite a bit of time… When it is above 40 degrees, we have at least an hour or two of play time!”

Natalie Waddell, a Texas mom of two, ages 2 and 4, also loves the challenge. She decided to jump on board in late 2022, after noticing that her kids were often getting sick and spending too much screen time. They keep it simple by playing in front of their house most days.

“When I think about my weekend plans, I try to find something that would also double for hours outside,” she says. “If the weather is bad, we try to get through it, and if it doesn’t work out, we take a little walk and make up the hours on another day. Texas is having some pretty crazy weather and we’re just going with it. For example, the February goal was one hour a day and most days we would do two hours or 20 minutes, but we still met our goal.”

Since the start of the challenge, she notes, her children have not gotten sick — something previously rare in January and February.

Plus, she says, “My kids fall asleep much faster and sleep better throughout the night.”

Social media influencer Carly Riordan also sees the practicality of spending more time outdoors, telling Yahoo Life that the fresh air was “great” for her family’s overall mood.

Then there are some practical advantages.

“We’ve also had the benefits of longer naps and a cleaner house,” she says. “[There’s] spend much more time with friends. It’s easier to meet in a park than feel pressured to invite a family into our home. You don’t have to clean before or after!”

Riordan says she especially likes “not having to plan activities” to keep her toddler entertained.

And, he says, “he’s happy outside with minimal effort or guidance on my part.”

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