Reclaim childhood, reconnect families and live a fuller life. It’s the slogan for a movement called “1,000 Hours Outside,” which aims to get kids off their screens, get them outside as much as possible and challenges families to see if they can hit 1,000 hours outside in a calendar year.
There’s an eye-popping statistic on the 1,000 Hours Outside website: The average child spends four to seven hours a day on screens, but only four to seven minutes of unstructured free play outside each day.
The Sanders, a family of five in Bend, heard about the challenge from friends and decided to give it a go in 2023.
“The main thing I love about it is if you want your kids to get off their screens — instead of saying ‘We’re limiting screen time,’ you can say, ‘Let’s get outside more’ and the screen time’s naturally limited,” Kate Sanders said.
They quickly realized it provided that little bit of extra motivation and accountability. They needed to stay more consistent with their outdoor time.
“Just like we have breakfast, just like we have quiet times or nap times and just like we have dinner, it was just kind of set into our schedule,” Zeke Sanders said.
Throughout the year. Kate and Zeke, along with their three kids — Eliza Wyatt and Colt — biked, hiked, played in the snow, ran through sprinklers and made a point to do it all, more and more.
“I didn’t know about all the benefits until after we were doing it, actually,” Kate said. “Emotional development. Their mental health. Their social skills. Their circadian rhythms and sleep. Curiosity and learning. All of that was like endless benefits.”
The whole family was on board.
“I think 1,000 Hours is great because I love playing outside,” Eliza said.
“Playing in the snow,” Wyatt said when asked what he liked to do outside. “Playing in the dirt.”
Mom and dad saw nothing but positive results.
“We saw better sleep, better attitudes, less bickering,” Kate said.
“And the days we spent a lot of time outside. I mean, the amount of just arguing and just disputes in general I would say significantly dropped,” Zeke said.
At the end of each day, the Sanders would do a quick tally of their time spent outside, and one of the kids would get to color and mark their numbers on the tracking chart.
When it was all said and done, the Sanders fell just short of 1,000 hours in 2023, finishing with 958. But they finished with motivation to do it again in 2024.
“Forty-two hours short. We just needed one more camping trip, but we’re trying to beat it this year,” Kate said. “So on the app we had our we have our monthly totals from last year. So, we’re trying to challenge each other monthly to beat each month now to try to make it to 1,000 this year.
“We are for sure going to do it again. It’s definitely, it’s a lot of work. It’s a commitment, but I think, like we said, that’s what we value as a family and it’s a commitment that was well worth it,” Zeke said.
“We’re fighting harder to do it this year,” Eliza said.
And like the founder of 1,000 Hours Outside likes to say — even when you fail, you win. The Sanders agree.
“I just would challenge any family in Bend to be able to make it happen and I think that you’ll quickly see the benefits,” Zeke said.
The Sanders had one tip and piece of encouragement for new families taking on the challenge. They said not to get discouraged when you fall behind on hours in the winter because summer offers all kinds of opportunities to catch up and get back on track for the year.