Monday, May 15, 2023

1,000 Hours Outside

 Hello there! I hope you all had a nice Mother's Day weekend. Our weekend was a good mix of busy and relaxing. On Friday night we had some close friends drop off "build your own pizza" kits for our Meal Train and the kids had a blast making their pizzas. 

On Saturday we went to Bluey Live, 

and now today, (Sunday as I write this) we are taking it easy!

Today I am sharing a little bit about our experience spending 1,000 hours outside as a family.


 If you aren't aware, we spent June 2022-April 2023 working towards our goal of spending 1,000 hours outside. It turned out to be one of the best things we've ever done-- and I think it will impact many of the choices we make moving forward.

Last spring I re-read one of my all-time favorite books, Barefoot and Balanced. This book is written by a pediatric occupational therapist, and she stresses the many benefits of children getting unstructured outside play time. I wrote a blog post about it here, if you want to read further. We were already an outdoorsy family, so I was curious if we could actually make this work. Well, not only did we make it work, but we found that our family thrives when outdoors. I compiled a list of benefits I noticed while our family was spending time outdoors to share with you today, complete with some pictures of us outside over the past year. Let's have a look:

1. My children argue significantly less. I don't know why, but my kiddos seem to get on each others' nerves less when they are playing outside. When they are inside playing with play-doh, a board game, or with some other toy, they are more likely to argue over the toy. Maybe it's the change of scenery, maybe it's the lack of toys to fight over, but whatever the case-- it makes mom life easier!

2. It alleviates my mom anxiety. There have been many studies done linking time spent in nature to reducing stress and anxiety. I know we all get mom anxiety to a certain extent, and I have no problem saying mine can get pretty bad at times. Getting outside makes a noticeable difference to me, especially if we are on the water somewhere. If we are at a beach, kayaking on the river, or even just playing in the creek bed, I can feel a discernible difference in my anxiety levels. 

3. The kids use their imaginations more. When the kids play inside with their toys, they seem to get stuck in a rut of what the toy is "supposed" to do. For example, when inside, Liam thinks his trains can only go on the train tracks that mommy builds (which then gets destroyed within 5 minutes anyway... sigh). But when we take those same trains outside, he drives all over the backyard with them. He takes them up on the swing set and pushes them down the slides. He plays independently with his trains for a lot longer outside than he does inside, meaning this momma may actually get to enjoy an entire cup of coffee while it's still hot. 👍

4. Our house stays cleaner since fewer toys are being pulled out. This is an obvious favorite-- fewer things being pulled out means fewer things to put away! Do they pull backyard toys out? Sometimes. But even when they do, they're quicker and easier to put away. Putting away a bow and arrow is faster than putting away 100 Legos. 

5. The kids sleep better. Imagine you've been at the beach all day, and your kids have been playing hard, in the sun, in the ocean, running up and down the beach. Your kiddos are going to crash come bedtime, right? It doesn't always have to be a day at the beach, we noticed those same effects from going for a nice long bike ride, kayaking, paddle boarding, playing in the creek, etc. 

Tips and Tricks

1. Go somewhere that is convenient, but isn't your own backyard. We are fortunate enough to have an elementary school behind our house, so we have access to two playgrounds and an empty parking lot after school hours. If the kids are getting sick of our own backyard, we walk over to the elementary school and pick a playground, or bring our sidewalk chalk over to the empty parking lot. While you may not have a school within walking distance, odds are that you have one relatively close. Even if it's just a 5 minute drive, sometimes that change of scenery makes a big difference!
2. Try new parks and playgrounds. In an effort to keep things "fresh", we looked for new places to go play. We ended up finding some really great parks this past year that we never would've looked into otherwise. This is how we ended up finding out the kids love playing in the creek so much, which is one of my favorite places to take them too! For older kids, my mom used to print maps of the creek in our backyard and where it led to (she found them at the local library... harder in the 90's than today!), and we would follow the creek while following along on our maps. Bonus points for practicing map skills!
3. Pack water bottles and snacks. If the kids are happily entertaining themselves, you don't want to leave because someone is thirsty or hungry. Come prepared (with hand sanitizer too!) and you'll be able to play longer. 
4. Even if you think you may not need sunscreen, bring it. Unfortunately,
we learned this the hard way this year. Poor Liam burns very easily and there were a few times when I thought we wouldn't be out long, or it was cloudy, or we were in the shade, etc. only for him to have gotten sunburnt. 

5. Try to stay off your phone, and enjoy the outdoors too! I'll usually try to grab a picture or two real quick, and then put my phone away. The benefits of nature really only help if you are immersed in nature too! 

Moving Forward

Moving forward, spending time outside is going to continue to be a big priority for our family. Everyone is happier when we are outside, and we want to keep it that way! Whether it be eating our meals al fresco, playing in the backyard for hours on end, or going to a park/playground/etc., spending as much time outside as possible is something we are going to continue to make a goal for our family. We will probably not continue to track our hours as diligently as we did this past year, and instead will just "go with the flow" a little more. We know what 1,000 hours outside feels like now... we can just do our best moving forward. 😁

If you're curious about giving 1,000 hours outside a shot--  I highly recommend this book

It is filled with fun ideas to get kids outside and is broken up by each season. If you feel in a rut, you can open the book to see a bunch of fun and easy activities.

I would be remiss if I didn't give a huge shoutout to Adrienne for posting about her family spending 1,000 hours outside-- she helped spark this idea for us and I am so very grateful!!

Today I am linking up with Holly and Sarah for Hello Monday. Have a great week!


  1. Wow! What a huge accomplishment and it was so fun to read your experiences and tips- thank you for sharing!

  2. This is really inspiring! I always felt the weather was never right to be outside - too hot, too cold, etc. And someone always has to go to the bathroom! lol.

  3. We like to be outside too, but we could do with some more unstructured play time. I totally agree that everyone seems to get on better when we are outside.

  4. I found my kids ate a bit less too; I mean they still wanted snacks and things but I think a lot of that snacking from boredom was curbed and yes, they fought so much less! In fact whenever they were driving me nuts we headed outside (not always for unstructured play but still).

  5. This is so amazing! I think everyone is happier - kids and adults - when we get some time outside everyday.

  6. You had me at kids fighting less. We are restarting next month and being intentional more with getting outside. No more excuses. Thanks for sharing the books again.