At the end of 2022, I was inspired to try the 1,000 Hour Challenge with Jack for the 2023 year. I’m actually going to copy and paste the opening paragraph to the first blog post I wrote about this in April 2023:
Some background first: I saw this 1,000 Hours Outside challenge all over TikTok at the end of last year. The challenge is as simple as it sounds: spend 1,000 hours outside over the course of a year. That’s just under three hours a day… People were recapping their “year outside” with beautiful videos and sharing just how much time they spent outside. What really sold me was a video (which I haven’t been able to find again!) about what failing the challenge looked like. This family hadn’t hit the goal of 1,000 hours outside, but they had a full year of beautiful memories. They were sledding and gardening and playing on the beach and picnicking. Their “failure” was still such a win.
I’m going to just say, we FAILED the challenge and it was still such a huge, monumental win for our family. We racked up just over 700 hours for the year. While I am proud of that, more than anything, I’m just thrilled at how much this changed my whole outlook on parenting and the overall vibe for our family. It was a gift and something we’ll continue for, hopefully, ever.
I thought I’d share some of the big takeaways I personally had:
ONE // We all won
I started this challenge thinking I was doing this for Jack. I knew he would benefit and I was just doing this for him. Almost immediately, I realized that being outdoors (aka forcing myself to be outdoors) was also good for me!
There is a huge difference in days when we’re outside a lot and when we’re cooped up inside. Everyone’s moods are better when we are outside. We all slept better. We were all happier. We all had more energy. I wish there was a way to actually measure this because I think the difference would be off the charts. I don’t really enjoy being outdoors– I’m much more of an indoor cat– and, yet, I’m the first to admit now that getting outside was probably the best thing I could have done for myself in 2023. It was a hard year and I can’t imagine what it would have been like had I not set this family goal. It forced us to get up and out and it helped. Even on days when I wanted to sit on the couch or down in the basement playroom, I was cognizant of trying to meet our goal and would choose to go outside.
TWO // It’s easier to be outside than inside
Honestly, being outside is easier than being inside. I would 100% prefer to be outside with a toddler, pretty much 90% of the time regardless of the weather, than be inside. I think there are a ton of Instagram and TikTok accounts out there with all these activities to do outside…. and my hot take is that you don’t need activities. Just go outside. Kids are fully able to entertain themselves, even before they’re two years old. Most of our outdoor time was spent walking around our neighborhood! I would just fully follow Jack’s lead. We’d play with sticks, set up picnic lunches to eat outside, kick a ball around our backyard. It actually took a lot of pressure off me as a mom feeling like I needed to constantly come up with “entertainment.” It made me realize that I do not need to be a cruise director! Instead, I feel like I played supervisor just to make sure he was staying safe!
A major bonus to this is that our house stays so much cleaner on days when we’re hitting our outdoor hour goals. There’s just not enough time to make a mess inside when we’re… not inside!
THREE // I prefer cold weather
On paper, I would have thought for sure that I would prefer being outside during the summer. Maybe it was just an unseasonably hot summer and being in a first trimester throughout the peak of summer surely didn’t help, but I found the winter and shoulder seasons much more enjoyable outside. I’d rather bundle us all up and get outside than be outside sweating and uncomfortable. (Oh and we also had a horrible mosquito season in our town and that made it pretty miserable!)
Two tips I picked up from this year in regards to weather:
(1) The right gears matter! Having the right gear for different weather makes being outside totally doable. Jack has way better gear than I do for some of the more extreme weather moments, but I slowly started making adjustments and it makes a huge difference. Staying warm, dry, cool, etc. makes being outside doable. The minute you get hot, wet, or cold, it’s miserable. If people can get the right gear to climb Mt. Everest, there is gear available to survive a 20 degree snow day in the suburbs.
(2) Kids don’t care about the weather so don’t make it a big deal. I am the baby when it comes to the weather! I try to watch what I say and how I react to the weather because it doesn’t bother Jack. I more try to say it matter of fact in regards to what we need to wear and not make it a big deal. “It’s snowing, we need our snow boots!” “It’s cold, I think we need our gloves.” “It’s super sunny out, let’s put on our hats and sunglasses today!”
FOUR // It’s hard.
I know I just said it’s easier to be outside, but what I mean here is that it is a challenge to hit 1,000 hours outside. It doesn’t happen if you’re not making a lifestyle change and a conscious effort to get out. Three hours a day doesn’t feel like a lot, but then you stop to think about how much time we spend indoors and how indoor-centric society is. It really is something you have to think about and decide you want to do to make it happen.
FIVE // Take it one day at a time
To jump off that point, I think taking things one day at a time is key. Don’t let an indoor day deter you from trying to get outside the next day. And don’t let a great outdoor day give you permission to stay inside the next. I think the challenge works best when you’re doing the best you can every single day and finding ways to get outdoor hours (minutes even) on a daily basis. You’ll have good days and bad days and it can be overwhelming to look at the year as a whole. Focusing on one day a time will have great, positive benefits!
SIX // Find little ways to get outside
To my point earlier, you really don’t need to be a big to-do about getting outside. Some of the outdoor activities we incorporated into our daily routine to get more hours:
– Walks! We started walking as often as possible. We are lucky to live walking distance to town and we started walking everywhere as frequently as we could. Daycare drop offs/pick ups, preschool, the grocery store, restaurants in town, etc. Mike also got a bike and a bike trailer for Jack so they do a lot of weekend bike adventures!
– Meals outside! Pretty much whenever possible, especially in the summer, we’d eat outside. I did so many picnic lunches with Jack and family dinners outside. It was fun and easy and we could go right into playing again.
– Puddle jumping! Sounds so lame, but any time it rained we would go outside for puddle jumping (as long as it was safe to be outside). We had a lot of rain in 2023, so much so that Jack actually has a favorite puddle spot that we went to every day, lol.
– Outdoor playdates! We met up with so many friends throughout the year at parks and playgrounds. It takes the pressure off of having to have your home “guest ready” (aka no need to clean your house before or after) and it kind of makes it neutral and low key. I would send out text messages to different friend groups just saying where we would be and for how long and anyone was welcome to join. EASY and low pressure!