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Outdoor Play: Why it's important and how to get your kids outside more

"It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation."

-Charlotte Mason

We've been attempting to complete the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge for three years now. This year, 2023, is the first year we have successfuly completed it! This challenge encourages families to get outside more.

Benefits of Outdoor Play

There are many benefits to children when playing outdoors:

  • better immune function and improved moods

  • decreased stress

  • increased creativity

  • higher muscle strength and gross motor skills

  • more independence

  • higher appreciation and understanding of nature

  • better sleep

  • learn risk-taking

and so much more!

Practically speaking, my home also stays a lot cleaner when my children are playing outside! My two and five year old get a long better outdoors and they also have more chances to play independently and creatively.

How To Get Outside

Here are some strategies that have worked for us for getting more outside time:

  • read books outside - I've been reading through some chapter books with my five year old. The boys play while I read and that helps them to pay attention

  • have meals and snacks outside

  • take walks in the neighborhood

  • visit parks, playgrounds, and creeks (pack picnics!)

  • gardening

  • build forts

  • have bonfires

  • go hiking

  • look for animals

  • dig for worms

  • go camping

  • walk in the rain with boots and umbrellas - search for puddles

We are blessed with a great backyard with woods on a dead end street so my boys have many opportunities to play at our house. We have a play set but the most creative play has come from our sand pit, the woods, our mulch pile, and dirt. Kids love open-ended opportunities to explore and get a little dirty! If you live in an apartment, you have to be a bit more creative! When my children are reluctant to go outside, I often gather a snack and some books and go out with them. Once they eat and listen to the story, they're ready to play and explore. On rare occasions when the boys were sick or there was a rainy day, I slightly cheated and set up the TV on our front porch to help them get some fresh air and get some hours. :)

If 1000 hours seems daunting to you, pick a smaller number, or just aim for 1 hour per day. The 1000 hours website has some great trackers you can print out and use. Since we've finally accomplished our goal, I'm going to take a break from tracking the hours in 2024. But we will still try to get outside as much as possible!

Here's a free 100 Hours Outdoors Tracker if you need to get started with something a little less intimidating than 1000 hours!

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