I’m not sure what inspired me to take the plunge and publicly declare that my family was taking on this challenge with our kids for 2023. Maybe it was the result of post-holiday cabin fever, or maybe it was because deep down I know that being outside is best for all of us. I see the way my kids laugh as they splash each other in puddles, how my daughter asks questions as we walk through the forest and picks up leaves, sticks, and forest fodder. They smile more, fight less. And if I’m being honest, I am far more relaxed when we’re outside too.

When I first symbolically “signed up” for the challenge by downloading the 1000 Hours Outside booklet (and the accompanying app), I calculated the number of hours we would have to spend outside and found the task quite daunting. We were going from 2-5 hours each week to closer to 20 hours a week if we wanted to hold a steady pace throughout the year. I almost abandoned the plan before even starting. Then, as if serendipitously, @1000hoursoutside posted a photo and in the caption it said: “But what if I fail? Then you win…You win because I believe you will be a better parent. Mother Nature takes the edge off. It’s the way it was meant to be.” That resonated deeply and was further embedded when I read Family Fun Saskatoon editor Erin McCrea’s 1000 Hours blog.  She noted that she didn’t make 1000 hours the first year, but looked at the blessing of having spent as much time as they did outdoors and continued counting as 2021 rolled into 2022 and beyond. Check out Erin’s interview about her 1000 Hours Challenge on CBC here.

We made it to 50 hours this month and more than the hours we’ve clocked, I’ve learned some important things along the way:

  • You don’t need to have “the right clothes” to go outside. I used to believe we couldn’t spend time outside because I didn’t have a proper rain jacket, my kids didn’t have proper gloves, and the list went on. Having the right gear certainly helps, but we’ve all adjusted to using what we have and making a list of what we might need going forward.
  • Having a second set of kid’s items is helpful.  Instead of running around trying to find where a wayward hat ended up or looking for a solitary boot, we have a second set of basic items (warm jacket, hat, boots).  This makes it more attainable to get out the door in a timely manner before two small kids (or their mama) start to melt down.
  • (Almost) anything can be done outside. On days when I need to work and my kids are home, I take my computer outside with me while the kids play in the backyard.
  • Plan your outdoor time intentionally. In the beginning, I thought about going outside as something that we would fit in around the indoor activities. Now, we plan our day around being outdoors.  On rainy days, we try to plan forest walks so we’re covered by trees, on clear days we venture farther from home to take on a larger outdoor adventure.
  • Carriers are key. We have small kids and while they are both walking, they get tired quickly. Having a carrier to put each of them in (one hiking carrier we purchased off FB Marketplace, one from a friend) has been a life saver in extending our days.
  • Always bring snacks. For the adults and the children. In fact, bring more snacks then you think you will need.

Finding inspiration through other families doing the 1000 Hours Challenge and people who share unique outdoor locations around Metro Vancouver has also been immensely helpful.

  • @littlefeetintheforest showed me that being outdoors didn’t have to mean going for a hike every day.  Angela noted that it wasn’t the big adventures that made the difference in pushing them past 1000 hours last year; it was the 15-30 minutes of playing before getting in the car, or eating outside when possible that quickly added up.
  • @marinas_and_mountains has swoon-worthy reels of hikes her family has taken. I’ve added so many of her locations to our list to visit.
  • @stephen_hui: For Father’s Day last year I bought his book “Best Hikes with Kids” and gave it to my husband. I figured he might enjoy going on hikes with our kids. Now I’m pulling the book out and finding places for us to visit as a family.
  • @1000hoursoutside. Ginny is the real deal, the one who started this challenge over 10 years ago. A book club for adults, a list of monthly picture books for kids, and a podcast interviewing inspiring outdoor enthusiasts and childhood specialists have all helped me embrace this challenge and find joy in being outdoors more.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out some of our favourite outdoor activities and ideas for your family to get started!

  1. Making Fairy Gardens
  2. Fishing is Fun!
  3. Your Next Adventure: Port Moody
  4. Kid-Friendly Bike Rides in Metro Vancouver
  5. 9 Playgrounds Worth the Drive
  6. 7 Family-Friendly Ski Hills in BC

1000 Hours Outside

Date: January 27, 2023
Hours accumulated: 50