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Happy family on a camping trip sitting by tent.

1,000 Hours Outside: A Challenge to Benefit Children

I love a new year! It is a time to reflect, refresh, and consider what adjustments I can make personally and within my family. This year, we are embarking on 1,000 hours outside. I was inspired by a close friend who marked their journey, and here we are! While I enjoy being outside, I must admit, it is not prioritized every day. I am familiar with the benefits of open-end play, physical exercise, and being out in nature, but something hit different when I read, “Nature can take children’s boundless energy.” As a parent that is often overstimulated by my environment, I recognize that when we are outside, there is a shift in energy for us all. Most often, I feel a sense of calm when I’m outdoors, and the children can explore and challenge their physical movement with limited boundaries.

As I considered this challenge, I began to think about potential barriers and how to navigate around them. This mostly includes extreme weather and attitudes. My oldest daughter is frequently the child that notes she does not want to go outside and would rather watch a show. This is especially true now as the weather is cold. It can be challenge for anyone to leave a cozy home, when outside feels less than ideal. On this occasion, I planned on doing some chores while the children played outdoors, but I realized that I needed to make a shift to encourage her. I suited up and we began to play soccer. The attitude began to melt away, and there was laughter, connection, and much needed exercise for us all. When we returned inside, there was hot chocolate and a poll of our outside time. She was first to raise her hand and give accolades about our time.

Spending time outside sparks creativity, teamwork, and problem-solving skills in children. They work together to build forts out of sticks collected around the neighborhood. An old tree stump becomes a stage. They explore creatures they find in nature and try to figure out things they don’t understand. This does not mean that everyone is happy and cheerful each time we are outside. Sometimes their project does not go as planned and frustration rises, or they are tired in the middle of the bike ride. Yet, at the end of our time, we are better for the experience. We are learning our limits and finding what we need to safely explore the outdoors. This looks like ensuring we have the proper attire, snacks, and water, and we take breaks when necessary. Our time outdoors is mostly spent in our backyard and around our neighborhood. We will also take full advantage of our beaches and state parks. Will we complete 1,000 hours outside? I’m not sure, but we will create new memories, build skills, and connections along the way.

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About Jeane N. Liburd, MA, CCLS

About Jeane N. Liburd, MA, CCLS Jeané Liburd has worked in the field of child Iife since 2005. She earned a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and is trained in play therapy. She currently serves as an adjunct instructor for Liberty University. Throughout her career, she has provided services for children and families in various settings including hospitals, pediatric hospice, and community programs. The focus of her work is supporting children and families who have experienced illness, grief, and loss.