If we want children to move mountains, we first have to let them get out of their chairs.
The following is an excerpt taken from “Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children” by Angela J. Hanscom
A day in the life of a typical modern kid- imagine this.
Sarah, a sweet nine-year-old, gets up and dresses quickly in the morning, keeping in mind that if she eats fast enough her mother will let her watch cartoons before leaving for school. As soon as she finishes her last bite, she watches reruns of “Looney Tunes.” Twenty minutes goes by in a flash.
Sarah lives in the country, so it takes about twenty-five minutes to drive to school. Her mom feels guilty about the long drive, so she lets Sarah play on the iPad until they arrive. “Everyone, please take your seats!” the teacher shouts as Sarah approaches her desk, where she sits most of the day, except for a brief snack, quick lunch and a twenty-minute recess. Then it is time to go home.
After another twenty-five minute commute home, Sarah is feeling energetic after a long day of sitting. She instantly heads toward the swing set in the backyard. “Not yet,” Mom catches her. “Homework first”. Sarah groans, shuffles to the dining-room table, and pulls out her assignment.
“Argh…” Sarah is literally trying to pull her hair out. “I hate this! I can’t do this!” It takes about ninety minutes to complete the homework on a good day. By the end, she is exhausted. After two bouts of crying, she feels angry and spent. “Can I play on the iPad for a little bit?” She asks her mother. Her mother, thinking Sarah has definitely earned it this time, says, “Sure. But remember, we need to leave for Girl Scouts in thirty minutes.”
After Girl Scouts, Sarah and her family use the drive-through on their way home since it is already a late night. When they get home, Sarah grabs her Harry Potter book and readies for thirty minutes before it is time for lights out. Tomorrow, she’ll do this routine all over again. Only instead of Girl Scouts, she has basketball practice.
If you’re anything like me, you finished reading this excerpt feeling empty, exhausted, overwhelmed and sad. Sad because while this may not be your family, we all know that family or families that live this exact life. When I think about these children, children begging for time, for play, for life to just SLOW down it truly breaks my heart.
I came upon this book on my Kindle months ago. I started reading it, life got busy with the Holidays and so I set it aside and just days ago started back at the beginning. Two weeks ago I came upon an Instagram account called “1,000 hours outside”. It was pretty easy to see that I was being pointed in a strong, straight line towards the simple concept that our children thrive when we allow them outdoor, active, FREE play without adult interference.
I don’t use the term “called to” lightly. But this, there was no denying. Maybe it’s our current climate, the craziness that was 2020, I’m not sure -but when I came upon “1,000 hours outside” on Instagram I fell in love with her message, her content, her challenge and I didn’t hesitate- 2021 would be the year that the Harsin family committed to 1,000 hours outdoors.
Are we currently behind our (my goal) hours? We are. Do I enjoy being outdoors in the cold? I do not. Is it a fight (with LOTS of whining involved) to get everyone in boots and coats and hats and out the door? 100%.
But, here’s what I already know...after just 12 days: Once we get outdoors and find our adventure- our big girls don’t want it to end. This past Sunday we spent almost 3 hours at Mahoney State Park sledding, hiking, having a picnic and even after all that time- they didn’t want to be done! I’ve noticed that the girls are already asking for less screen time- when we come in from outdoor time they’re so content to just settle in and PLAY. Bedtime is a breeze, nothing wears a kid out more than moving their bodies in the fresh air. Our girls are falling asleep immediately and for the most part, not making a peep for 11-12 hours. If nothing else, these things make it ALL worth it.
The things that I love most about the 1,000 hour challenge (outside of what it can bring to our children): you can begin this challenge whenever you choose, you set your own rules and even if you fall short of the 1,000 hour goal...you still WIN.
If one word of this resonates with you- I challenge you to dig into either of these resources, or the many others that you can find on this very topic and explore. We owe it to ourselves, our families and our children to simply do that...explore.
I am excited for our journey and hope you will follow ours here, while simultaneously finding the inspiration to start your own outdoor journey.