The more I learn about the vital necessity of allowing children daily, unrestricted playtime outside for their whole health, the more I want to make it a routine part of our lives.
Have you heard of The Green Hour? The National Wildlife Federation recommends spending one hour outside each day for our holistic health.
I just took the Pledge to be Out There which says I'll make getting outside a priority for my family.
The reality is, it's hard. Life doesn't always make it easy to spend time outdoors. And it can feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to fit it in. But I do have some control over how we spend our time and what takes precedent. I can think creatively to move past the obstacles.
That's why I brought the issue to my family and asked for their input. Together, we came up with an incentive for the rest of the winter. Our goal is to be outside for one hour each day. Recess counts toward the hour. We will reward ourselves every two weeks with fun family outings.
I'm so proud of my awesome kids for jumping on-board with this!
Check out the calendar we made to keep track of our progress and wish us luck!
Day 4 was tough; there were workers here in the morning that prevented us from getting out before the school bus; recess was cancelled again (Grrrrr), and Eleanor had gymnastics class after school.
Still, we made time for the outdoors. We squeezed in 20 minutes before gymnastics at a nearby playground, then we played flashlight tag in the yard after dinner.
I'm feeling proud of my family for making this a priority and making it fun!
All it takes is a little creative thinking to motivate the kids (flashlight tag, smashing icy puddles, pretending we're penguins, etc) and lots of warm layers!
I've been posting about our challenge and putting pictures of us playing outside on Facebook. I'm getting tons of positive feedback from friends saying thank-you for the reminder and the motivation! Here's my response to a friend who praised me for being "good at this":
"Despite being "good at this" the hardest part is just getting out the door. I still get frequent resistance from my kids about going outside. Some days I really have to bring my energy up and drive it. I have to set the tone and coax them with the allure of fun games or adventure. We have some tools in our tool kit that help us remember how fun outside time can be: active games (tonight after dinner it was flashlight tag); make-believe/dress-up (hello forest fairies!); animals (pretending we're penguins is popular); ecologists (we collect 'specimens' like acorns and leaves to bring home and analyze); yard work; dog-walking; sledding; "fishing" (which is just poking a stream with a stick but they love it) - really whatever gets them out the door. It only takes 5 minutes before they've lost themselves in some game or something grabs their attention like a squirrel, and then we're good. Once we're out, nature inspires them and I take a step back. That's the best part; watching how immersed they become in nature and the games they make up. All those ideas I listed above came from them. I think we're lucky because we have a small woods area for them to play in. If we were really urban, I'm sure it would be harder."
We have successfully completed over two weeks of our challenge! The family will go to Flight Trampoline Park as a reward.
Here are some pics of what we've been doing to pass the green hour:
We have been doing the Green Hour for months! It helped us make it through the winter and now finally we have arrived at Spring. With the snow almost completely gone and the temperature rising, my kids have been spending even more time outside than usual. They ask to get to the bus stop early to jump rope or play games with the other kids. They play outside the moment they get off the bus, or I pick them up from school and we visit a park on the way home. They even go back out after dinner to play soccer with their dad or walk around the neighborhood. I don't think we need the Green Hour incentive anymore! It was a great motivator during the coldest months and it helped our family align our behavior with our values. Such a positive experience!!