In December of 2021, I came across an Instagram page called @1000hoursoutside. A mom started the account while living in a townhome without a yard and was set on making a better attempt to focus her time and energy on spending time outside with her family. The whole idea behind the 1,000 hours spent outside came from a study done on screen time in children saying the average child spends about 1,000 hours on screens a year, she was trying to flip the narrative and spend this many hours outside instead. While I dislike blaming screens or writing them off completely, I too have found immense value in spending time outside for myself and my children.
I started tracking our outside hours come January 1st. My youngest son was born at the beginning of January, so during the first week or so of the year we were not able to clock many hours. But once we were home from the hospital, even he got in on the action at only a few days old!
One of the benefits of tracking our hours for us was the motivation behind it. If we knew we could add more hours to our tracker app to earn badges and see how far we’ve come, it made it more motivating (especially in the colder months!) to get out a little more. Even spending 20 minutes outside adds up eventually!
Tracking hours may seem arbitrary, and to some, it may be. To us, it gave us motivation and a starting point to see how far we had come. For example, in the month of January, we spent 22 hours outside, but in February we were able to jump to 24 hours outside for the month! It may have only been a 2-hour difference, but it felt like such a big win to us. By March we were up to 36 hours and in April we spent 82 hours outside!!
In the end, we didn’t end up getting a full 1,000 hours outside. We finished off the year with around 890 hours. But did we fail?
If we’re only talking numbers, then yes.
But did we also win?
We won more family time.
We won the development of gross-motor skills.
We won the time spent being curious over snow hills left over in the spring.
We won more fresh air.
We won afternoons with friends at the park. And evenings gathered around a fire roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.
We won a balmy spring day by the river, and a hot summer’s day lounging out by our camper.
We may have lost the number game, but in the end, I think we ultimately won. And next year, we’ll shoot for higher. Not to meet a number from a random statistic in a study, but because time spent outside is never wasted.
You don’t have to read a blog post or Pinterest quote to see the benefits of spending time outside. You just have to get outside and the benefits will show themselves tenfold.