10 Things I Learned From The 1000 Hours Outside Challenge

It has taken me a long time to write my thoughts on this topic because there were many things I both liked and disliked about this challenge.

I could easily delve into my concerns about the 1000 Hours Outside movement which has rapidly become a trend and another perceived expectation for parents.

But my focus of this article will be based on my own experience.

I can't speak for other parents, but this is what I personally learned from the 1000 Hours Outside challenge:


No. We didn't make 1000 hours outside.

I'm not even going to tell you how many hours we clocked because it doesn't matter.

This challenge made our year lovely.

And while, I appreciate Ginny Yurich's sentiment when she says, "even if you fail, you win," I'd like to rephrase that as:

"You cannot fail."

The end.

Because the experiences you gain far outweigh any number-based goal you might achieve. 

I don't love all of Yurich's content and I wish her Instagram posts had less focus on numbers. 

But I do agree that quality outside time, even in small increments, is infinitely better than no outside time.

That being said, there are many factors that contributed to me getting outdoors with my kids so much in 2023.


Not everyone has the time and resources to attempt this challenge.

The creator of the 1000 Hours Outside challenge, Ginny Yurich, insists that it doesn't take much to spend an average of 2 hours and 43 minutes a day outside with children of any age.

I disagree.

Personally, I get stir crazy if I'm indoors for too long. I crave fresh air even when it's freezing cold. 

This alone makes it that much easier for me to get my little kids outside with me. 

I'm not tougher than your average mom; I simply need outside time for the sake of my mental health, and I know that is not the case for everyone.

When it's difficult to get my kids in their cold weather gear or slicked up with sunscreen, I at least have the desire to go outside for myself.

Many parents simply don't have that desire, and that is not their fault.

There's a myriad of other reasons why going outdoors is not so simple.

A number of parents and/or their children have severe anxiety, asthma, allergies, sensitive skin, and so on.

Also a lack of shade, good parks, or even a car, make it extremely difficult to give our kids outside play.

Other factors such as your kids' ages, school, work, daycare can all have a huge impact on your ability to spend extended periods of time in nature.

None of these setbacks diminish the benefits of outdoor play.

I believe that any amount of outside time is good for me and my family, but that may not be the case for you.

Don't let this trend become one more thing you feel you're failing at as a parent.

If you genuinely want to get outside with your children more often, go for it!

Keep in mind that this challenge is meant to improve the lives of those who choose it as well as their kids. Don't let yourself become a slave to the idea as that goes against the spirit of the challenge.


One might think that my house would be a bigger mess because I had less time to clean.

The reality was that the house was just messy in different ways, and in some ways it was cleaner.

For an entire year, the clean laundry was left in baskets more often than not.

And, for lack of time, I had to clean the bathrooms one section at a time throughout the week. This usually happened right before I took a shower. I would scrub a toilet, or mop the floor, or scrub the shower. I rarely time to clean the bathroom all at once.


There were far fewer toys scattered around the house because my kids were too busy with sticks and rocks outside.

And we remove our shoes when we come inside which also helps keep messes to a minimum.

During our 1000 hours year, my kitchen floor and table rarely needed to be cleaned because we ate most of our meals outside.

And, as previously stated, not everyone has this luxury.

We are lucky to have a sturdy outdoor table and chairs. When my kids got messy or the table was sticky, I would clean them off with the hose.

We also have large trees in our north-facing backyard that enabled us to enjoy our outdoor meals in the shade.

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't less work.

I had to transport food and dishes in and out of the house constantly. And forgetting just one thing was quite an inconvenience.

It was just a different kind of work which gave me a break from sticky surfaces and toys underfoot.


I know this is a big focus for the whole outside movement, but more outside play didn't make a difference for us and screens.

Granted, my one year old rarely had any screen time regardless of how long we were outside.

I still held onto it for my four year old, however, because it was my only chance to have some alone time. So, while my baby napped, I still turned on a movie for my older child.

I could have utilized that hour or so to add even more outside time to reach my annual goal, but I'm a better mom when I can be alone for a fraction of the day.

Then, we would go back outside together where my son would reenact all his favorite scenes from Moana with a large stick as his Maui hook.


My goal is to provide opportunities for my kids to interact with nature and be active. And sometimes, my kids just did not want to be outside.

My kids are young enough that they do not make yearly goals. This was my goal, not theirs. And so I knew I had to keep my expectations low.

It's one thing to set goals for yourself, but it doesn't make sense to set goals for other people, even tiny people, and hold yourself accountable.

I can estimate how many hours I can reasonably get my kids outside but 1000 hours will not happen if they don't want to do it.

When I went through all the effort to get them on a trail or to a park and one them wanted to leave after five minutes, I would set a timer and say we would leave in five or ten more minutes.

Usually, before the timer went off, they would feel better and forget about going home altogether.

Some days, that did not happen and that's okay. The intention is for them to love the outdoors and I can't make them care about my goal.

If I wanted to be outside, I would encourage my four year old to come in the backyard with me, but I never told him he had to stay outside. He was free to play alone in his room while I listened to the birds.

This, I think, made him more receptive to my encouragement.

Let's not let our vision for the life we want for our kids prevent us from truly seeing our kids.


If it is, then you've completely missed the point. Yurich herself misses the point of her own movement at times, but we don't have to fall into that trap.

1000 Hours Outside may be a catchy name, but that's all it is. There is nothing magical about any number.

While all of this is true, I also found that it was helpful for me to set an attainable but challenging goal.

Having this general number in mind helped me to stay out just a little longer when I was ready to go home but my kids were having a good time.

Often, when I waited even just ten more minutes, we would see something really cool like a hawk, a rainbow, or the biggest garter snake I have ever seen!

For me, it was about the numbers until it wasn't.

When I chose a specific number to shoot for, I found greater patience with my kids.

At first, I had no problem with them taking their sweet time on a hike because it meant we were logging more hours.

That turned into actual enjoyment hiking at a snail pace because I got to see the world through their eyes a little longer.

But when you've never done this before it's hard to determine a reasonable number of hours for your family.

It wasn't until a few months into our 1000 Hours year that I set a specific goal. By that point, I had a good idea of what we could do while also making it a challenge.

The first year we actually tried this challenge was 2022. I didn't track a single minute but I did make a concentrated effort to go outside with my kids more than ever before which was great. 

Then, when the 1000 Hours Outside app launched at the start of 2023, I decided to see what it would be like to actually track our time. 

I wouldn't have tracked hours at all if not for the app. (It was $2 when it was first launched, but it now costs $4 to download.)

This was super helpful because it was fun to see how far we could go, and also annoying because I was attached to my phone in order to track numbers. 

There are also free coloring printables to involve your kids in tracking hours. But to me, that feels like grading my kids on playtime. 

Unfortunately, a hyper focus on counting hours can easily distract us from truly enriching activities. 

Playtime at a park is not superior to a visit to an aquarium just because one is outside and the other indoors.

There is much to be said about building resiliency in cold weather, but it won't be beneficial if it's forced. 

In the dead of winter, you and your kids might benefit more from two hours at an indoor trampoline park than another freezing walk.

And that's coming from someone who likes to go on walks in a snowstorm. It all simple depends on what you and your kids need at any given time. 

Outside time may be important (if you decide it is) but it's not the be all and end all of rearing healthy children.


You've heard of the acronym S.M.A.R.T. for setting goals, right?

It stands for: "Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound."

Well this is the specific part of this goal. It's fun to see how many hours you can log in a year, but if you want to get serious about this challenge, (and possibly enjoy it) it's helpful to determine a doable amount of hours for yourself AND make a plan.

Or at least have some ideas.

Honestly though, the 1000 Hours Outside book was just okay. Very few of the ideas were new to me and many, if not all, of them can be found online.

However, Pinterest was very useful for collecting outdoor activity ideas. And this is where I found many of the suggestions found in Yurich's book and so much more for free.

The only benefit to owning a hard copy of her book is it's usefulness to my kids. The pictures make it easy for them to flip through and discover activities they would like to try.

This gave my little boy more chances to initiate outside play.

But it was also fun to show him the ideas I had found and saved on Pinterest.

I went to Instagram to find parks and other outdoor activities near our home. This helped us create some variety in lieu of going to the same playground over and over or just playing in our own yard everyday.

I challenged myself to take the kids to 12 different parks over the course of the year. We had favorites that we kept going back to and the new ones helped change things up every now and then.

I also kept an ongoing list of ideas for each season. Some things I had to book ahead, like a festival or rodeo, and having a general plan for the year made it easier to actually get to these outdoor events.


We all seemed to feel happier during and after outside play.

Maybe happier isn't the right term. More peaceful.

My kids didn't fight nearly as much when we played in the backyard versus the playroom. And the park was even better.

I had to keep a close eye on them at the park, of course, especially with my toddler being so little. Again, it was just different kind of work, but I enjoyed this kind of work more than breaking up arguments about toys.

I have no doubt that the fresh air and physical activity did wonders for us all. And, yes, it was worthwhile even when it was cold.


This took a lot of practice but I came to enjoy being out with my kids more over time. The more we all got used to it, the more relaxed we all were.

We would fall into a rhythm where my kids would play (within the safety boundaries I had repeatedly established) and I would keep one eye on them while being still and noticing the sights and sounds of nature around me.

Outside, I had space to be unproductive and feel okay with that, though this required practice.

When I did crave something to do, I could tend the garden, read, shop for grocery pickup, listen to music, listen to and send messages on Marco Polo, and write blog posts on my phone.

It was a lot of the same stuff I would be doing at home, but without the nagging feeling that I should be getting something done that is never actually done. Like laundry.

And somehow, I was interrupted less at a park than I was at home!


Like with anything, you only get better with practice.

I can offer plenty of tips to help you get outside with your kids, but that won't get you very far.

In the early months of our 1000 Hours Outside year, I often reminded myself that it's all just practice.

Each time we went to a park for a couple hours or more, it became less intimidating to me.

With experience, I learned where to find the cleanest bathrooms, and how to change diapers outside or in the car with less difficulty.

Practice also helped me gage how many snacks, diapers, changes of socks and shoes, and how much water to bring on a specific outing.

Most of all, my kids and I became more comfortable in the outdoors. With time, we were less bothered by the weather in all seasons.

Wind became less annoying, rain became an opportunity for fun, and my kids came to enjoy sledding almost as much as I do.


Basically, going on outdoor adventures with my kids is marvelous!

Overall, counting the time we spent outside added very little value to the experience despite my brief sense of accomplishment at the end of the year.

Imagine counting the minutes each time you enjoy a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant. That would be distracting and completely unnecessary. 

Have you tried the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge? What did you learn from your own experience?

And did you enjoy this post? Let me know what you think in the comments! 


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