Episode 131 | Getting Kids Outside | Ginny Yurich of 1000 Hours Outside

A change in season is the perfect time to make a change in your family’s habits.  If you have been feeling the pull to get outside more with your kids, you don’t want to miss this conversation with Ginny Yurich of 1000 Hours Outside.  Not only does Ginny share a whole host of reasons why outdoor time is beneficial to our children, she also shares practical strategies for making outdoor time an achievable and celebrated part of your family’s life.  I make it a priority in my own family to get plenty of time outside in nature, and the benefits are undeniable.

In this episode, we cover:

  • How spending time outdoors can ease difficult seasons of motherhood
  • The impact of outdoor time on children’s academic well-being
  • A surprising factor in healthy eyesight 
  • Overcoming the challenges of getting outside with young kids
  • Making outdoor time a priority no matter where you live
  • Enjoying outdoor time during cold winters
  • The number one way to maximize outdoor time
  • When to allow risk-taking and when to step in
  • What you can put in your yard to encourage free play
  • Finding community in the shared goal of spending time outdoors

A change of season is a good time to change habits. Because you can just say to your family, “You know what? I think we’ve been spending a little bit too much time on screens this winter. The weather’s getting nicer. Let’s make a change.”

Ginny Yurich

About Ginny

Ginny is a Michigan homeschooling mother of five and the founder of 1000 Hours Outside. She is a thought-leader in the world of nature-based play and its benefits for children. One of her top priorities is to inspire parents to invest in spending time in God’s creation with their children. Her 1000 Hours Outside Challenge spans the globe and many people from all walks of life look to her for inspiration as well as practical tips on how to put down the screens and get outside. Ginny has a BS in Mathematics and a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Michigan and is also a speaker, author and illustrator.

Resources Mentioned

1000 Hours Outside App on iOS and Android

Smart Moves by Dr. Carla Hannaford

How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott D. Sampson

Glow Kids by Nicholas Kardaras

Hike it Baby

Wild and Free

1000 Hours Outside Facebook Group

Connect

Ginny Yurich of 1000 Hours Outside | Website | Podcast | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube 

Lisa Bass of Farmhouse on Boone | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | TikTok | Facebook | Pinterest

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Transcript

Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today I’m having on Ginny from 1000 Hours Outside. This is actually take two. Our first podcast recording got a little bit messed up with audio, and so we decided to record again because she has so much great information and motivation to share on getting outside— why it’s beneficial, important for kids, important for moms, and then some tips on how to do it and how to fit it into your schedule. As you can tell from the name, her goal is for families to get outside 1000 hours a year. For some of you, that will sound like not enough. For some of you that will sound like a crazy high number. So listen in on our conversation and hear what she shares on how to actually make this happen and why it’s important.

Lisa Bass Well. Thanks so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. 

Ginny Yurich I’m so glad to be here. 

Lisa Bass It’s getting more to where— like, I think last time we were centered more around winter, but now it’s full outside tiem. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah. Totally. 

Lisa Bass So start off by telling a little bit about your mission and your website. I found out that you had an app. I don’t think I realized last time that you had an app. 

Ginny Yurich We do have an app. You know, people asked for years and years about having an app. And I was like, “No, you know, we’re trying to like veer from screens.” But just having an app that helps people to record their time— it’s a timer, it gives little badges. It’s a fun app and it came out last fall, and I think it’s going really well. We get a lot of cool feedback about it. It’s got a journal feature. People can put a couple pictures in from the day and then go back and look and see what they did and keep track of their time for them. 

Lisa Bass That’s cool. I actually thought my husband invented it for you because he was like, “Well, she needs an app.” And so I search it, and I was like, “Oh, she has one.” 

Ginny Yurich Did you make that? 

Lisa Bass So yeah. You already thought of that. But yeah. Tell us a bit about what 1000 Hours Outside means and what your mission is. 

Ginny Yurich Okay. So I think it’s fairly straightforward, although it’s not necessarily super easy to implement, but our family is aiming to be outside every year for 365 day period for 1000 hours. And it started back when our kids were really young. I was drowning with young children. I didn’t really know what to do with them. I was trying programs and just miserable. I was miserable because they didn’t really want to go and it was so much work to get them there and to get them home and to get packed up and all those types of things. And so it’s been almost ten years. It’s been over ten years actually since we first went outside for an extended period of time intentionally at the prompt of a friend. And it really changed my life to see how kids can be so engaged in the outdoors. And I can take a second to catch my breath and recompose myself and bring my blood pressure down and feel like I’m not failing. But in those beginning years, I didn’t even know that it really did anything for the kids except that they were entertained and I got to be a little bit more present, help my mental state. But over the years I began to read about how when we just let kids play and it doesn’t have to be adult directed and it doesn’t have to be anything that we spend time preparing for— when we just let them play that it helps their cognition, so academically, and it helps their social skills, and physically, and emotionally, and all of these ways it helps them develop. And the prevailing research is showing that about 3 hours a day is what is ideal for kids— kids of all ages, really young, through teenage years, they’re included. Those teens are included to help with decompression and to help release toxins out of their body, to learn how to manage their time, to find what they love. But practically speaking, who can get outside for 3 hours every single day? Not many of us with appointments and different commitments. And so we just have this goal over the course of a year to really balance out virtual life and real life. You know, kids are on screens for— well, back when I started it in 2013, kids were on screens for 1200 hours a year. And I actually think that number has gone up quite a bit. So it was an effort to balance and then to honor sort of that 3 hours a day time frame but sort of to give some flexibility to it, knowing that life is really nuanced and tricky and layered. And so maybe we can throw a camping trip in there or maybe we can stay out real late on a summer night and watch a sunset, and it sort of balances out. And our life is still filled with these hands-on experiences. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, it seems like 3 hours a day, that’s not too much. But then for every day that you don’t make it outside, that’s 6 hours. And so I can see how it’s a doable goal, but also one that would be sometimes a stretch to actually accomplish, but in a good way. Because if we can spend 1200 hours a year on the on the screen, you know? 

Ginny Yurich That the time is maybe there. And families, they adjust the goal. Some go for way more. You know, some say that we can do more than that. And then some say, “I’m shooting for 500,” or “I’m a single mom. You know, the most I can do is 250 hours.” But it’s about being intentional, about knowing the value of it, both for the child and for the parent and for the family unit. And just modeling for our kids that life is good. Real life is still good and still has a lot to offer us. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. So you’ve written on your—and you even spoke about this just now—but I saw in your Instagram that if you want your child to thrive academically, socially, emotionally, and physically, you have to build time into your life to spend outdoors. I think a lot of us can see the social, emotional, and physical connection. But tell me more about the academic connection. How does time outdoors contribute to a child’s well-being academically? 

Ginny Yurich This is a big one is, isn’t it, Lisa? This is one of the things that parents are really concerned about. And I think there’s a lot of societal pressure for our kids to perform well academically. It’s a way that we measure our kids. And so I think that outside play can get left by the wayside because it seems like a frivolous use of time. You know, it’s not a lesson, it’s not tutoring, it’s not French, it’s not violin or any of those things. But actually what’s happening is that when our bodies engage in complex movements and those movements get harder, our brains form connections and they form more connections and those connections become faster. And so what happens is our computer is working faster. So there’s this statistic that’s really fascinating, actually, in a book called Smart Moves by Carla Hannaford. She’s a Ph.D., a pediatric occupational therapist. She’s retired now because she’s getting close to 80. But she has this statistic in there, and the study says that elderly people who dance regularly have a 76% less chance of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. So 76% less chance. I mean, that’s huge. And so what’s happening is that complex movements of dancing—and it’s similar for playing a musical instrument—that the complex movement is enhancing and protecting their brain function. And so for kids, if you take a step back and watch what kids are doing, they are moving gradually through more complex and more complex movement. So, remember they start to toddle, right? And then they’re going a little faster, and then going up and down the hill, and making sure they’re stepping over roots and logs and sticks, and then they’re climbing up on things, and they’re jumping off, and they’re climbing a little bit higher, and then they’re climbing over. I mean, a big thing our five-year-old just learned is how to climb a fence. And it took her probably two years. She’s been working on it for two years— trying, no, I can’t do it. You know, she finally got it. And and then our teenagers, they’re shooting baskets, and they’re trying to dribble. They’re trying to do all these cool dribbles through their legs. So it continues on if we allow the time and the space for it. They continue to work on these complex movements. They’re driven to do that. And so that’s just one part of it. You know, another part of it is our eyesight. You know, whenever we’re moving and especially through these uneven terrains, or you’ve got your baby in your pack, and you’re walking, and with each gait, with each step, their eyes are having to readjust. And so they’re learning to work together. They’re teaming together. And that will help when they start to read. And because their eyes are used to functioning together as a team, as a pair, there’s that. If kids are hanging from monkey bars or they’re hanging from tree limbs, that’s strengthening their shoulder girdle, through their arm all the way down to their wrist, that’s going to help them with their writing posture. You know, the outdoors helps with attention span. I mean, there’s really a whole host of reasons why outdoor play sets kids up for lifelong success academically. It really helps them with their cognition. And, you know, the jobs that are coming are the jobs for entrepreneurs. So we’re looking for skills like creativity and innovation, and those stem from play. They stem from play from non-electronic toys where we have to bring full imagination to make the corn husk into a doll and all those types of things and to create these imaginary worlds. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, I see what you’re saying. So basically, though you could spend 8 hours a day maybe reading a book to absorb certain knowledge, it’ll be better taken in, you’ll actually retain it and you’ll be able to see better and formulate what the words are saying in a shorter amount of time. And so you actually could end up learning a lot better whenever you spend time outside, which makes perfect sense because we are designed to be outside. And of course we’re not going to do as well if we’re not. Another interesting thing you brought up was the eyesight thing. I actually learned this recently. I didn’t know anything about the eyesight thing. But I took all of my kids in for eye doctor appointment because my husband has really bad eyesight. And so I thought, you know, we probably genetically have a few kids that need something, and they all had 20/20. And so I started doing some research. I started digging into— I was just Googling it actually. And I learned that there were some studies done that whenever your eyes have a chance to take a natural light and when they adjust from something close and then a hill miles away, that’s what strengthens them. And so that was new information to me that being outside really could actually be good for your eyesight. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah. So we have a friend who’s—I’m not quite sure how you would say it—her glasses have gotten less thick over the years and they say it’s due to her outside play, which I didn’t even realize was a thing. Usually it gets worse. But you know, the rods— there’s rods and cones in the eyes, and those are still forming. The shapes of those are still forming up through elementary school. And so even with the actual eyesight, outside play is helping. And like you said, they’re looking at a little ant, right? They’re following the ant, the ladybug that’s on their arm, all the way to the big tree, all the way to the leaves that are swaying above. There’s a lot of movement and there’s a lot of depth and there’s a lot of varying shapes and sizes. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah, that strengthens it. That’s interesting. So you mentioned this already a little bit, but getting outside can seem challenging for some families. So whether it’s just because they live in an urban environment, they have really busy schedules, it can take some planning to get outside. So what practical advice and tips can you share to encourage families to get outside more often who find it a little bit challenging? 

Ginny Yurich Yeah, I think it can be challenging for a lot of reasons. You know, if you got a bunch of little ones, it’s challenging. If there’s no other kids to play with, it can be challenging. So, you have to look and see what’s near you, what feels safe. I’ve got a brother that lives in Brooklyn, New York, so he’s in an apartment there, and we’ve gone and visited. And for him, there’s playgrounds. There’s playgrounds within a couple different blocks and things like that. And so, you find what works for you. And maybe you start with one thing. I think that when you have kids, it’s got to be the right place. If you have a child that tends to run, it’s got to be a place that’s far from traffic or maybe that’s fenced in. But you find the right place. You only need a couple. So it might be your patio. Maybe you’ve got a patio. You put a water table on it. You know, you put a little sand thing. You’ve got some flowers out there that you can go water. You sit out there and you read a book. Even that, because then you’re experiencing that natural sunlight, you got this orchestra of sounds from insects and birds and things. So you find the right place and I think you have to schedule it in. I would say that one of the biggest challenges is finding the time. So maybe once a week you say, “You know what, we’re going to try once a week to get out for a couple hours as a family. Which day might have the best weather? Where would be a place that’s doable for us to go in terms of travel? And do we take a backpack and we fill it up with a little bit of snacks or a meal or something like that? I think the cool part of it is that it adds some uniqueness. It’s not all the same for all of us, you know? So for some people it’s going to be playing on the farm and for some people that’s going to be walking around the block and seeing what flowers are popping up in the spring. And for some people, it’s going to be walking around the city block seeing if maybe they see the same people here and there, or what do they see? How many dogs can they count? And that type of thing. But it’s a unique expression of our families. And nature is everywhere. You know, Scott Sampson, who’s on Dinosaur Train, he wrote a book—Dr. Scott Sampson—called How to Raise a Wild Child. And he has the coolest thing in there. He says, “Nature is thrusting up in the cracks of the sidewalk.” Dandelions and anthills and all of those sort of things. And those things are enough fascinating for kids. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. Honestly, I think I got outside more whenever we lived at our old house, which was on a quarter-acre in town, mostly because of my level of responsibilities. I just had two little kids. I had— well, you know, at one time I had a two-year-old and a baby, then I had a four-year-old, a two-year-old and a baby, and I’d put them in the stroller and we would go on walks up to the library, would walk around a field, and just go all over town and then come back home. And I remember going at certain times of the year and like watching this certain tree bloom out in the spring and then looking at how it looked throughout the year. And we weren’t anywhere where it was exactly, you know, scenic. It was just town. But there were so many things to observe and we spent so much time outside.

Ginny Yurich Yeah, I know my parents, they love to walk around their neighborhood. You know, they’re on a just regular sized lot in the neighborhood, and the different seasons, they look for different things. They’re looking for different seasonal decorations. Who’s got what up? Obviously right now they’re looking for crocus and they’re looking for daffodils. And my mom told me the other day that they were called “the dream couple”. The dream couple, because they’re always out walking together. I was like, “Oh, that’s so funny.” She told me actually a couple of times about it. I was like, “That’s really cute. I’m going to start calling you the dream couple as well.” you know, there’s a lot of joy. And then there’s a lot of kids out, and they’re building relationships with their neighbors, and saying hi, and feeling that that neighborly bond. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah. Like you said, we would know by what season, what we’d be looking for and we’d yell, “Sign of spring!” We know the first thing that pops up is the daffodils. And then when that trees starts to bloom and then you start comparing it to the year before. “Remember last year we walked on this date, it was bloomed, and now this year we’re about a week behind.” And observing all of those things. You can do it no matter where you live. And it really does teach you a lot. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah. There’s a word for— I can’t remember what it is, but people are going to listen and then they’re going to know. Maybe they’ll message. But there’s a word for like— it’s like when this happens, that’s when the strawberries bloom. Or it’s like these simultaneous events in nature, which is really a neat thing. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. So there’s the May apples, that’s what they’re called. No, is that what they’re called? Now I’m like blanking out. But when they pop up around here, the morel mushrooms are out and so there’s these connections that you know. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah. Those are cool things. So when you can mark time by seasonal events, not just the time. 

Lisa Bass Yep. I know. I love doing that. And my husband also says whenever you mow the grass twice is when morels are up. So that’s when the soil temperature corresponds to morels. I’m like, I did not know this. 

Ginny Yurich Wow, that’s really neat. I love that kind of stuff.

Lisa Bass Yeah. There’s so much beauty to be seen. Right now, when you’re driving by the fields, they’re all purple here where I live. The fields that haven’t been planted, which none of them really have at this point. And then after a while, you start to notice a new thing. And all through the summer, there’s something new to see. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah. And our brains are wired for that. Our brains are wired for novelty. It’s one of the things I learned from a book called Glow Kids by Nicholas Kardaras. And if our brains are wired for new things, screens obviously are providing that with the swipe and the swipe and the swipe, and your feed is constantly changing. And so whoever is designing those understands that our brains need that. And actually I think it stems from survival. Like, you had to notice that something was new or different in your environment. But what’s neat is to show our kids that nature provides it, too, and provides it really well, I think. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, it does. Not at the same pace, but at a pace that our brains can actually keep up with. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah, that’s a really good point. Exactly. 

Lisa Bass So obviously the weather’s getting a lot nicer, but what are your tips for like middle of winter inclement weather? It’s a lot of work for still getting outside and enjoying that. 

Ginny Yurich It’s a lot of work, isn’t it? This is the first year where we only had one kid I had to help into snow gear. 

Lisa Bass Ooh. You’ve arrived. 

Ginny Yurich But there’s been years where I’ve had five kids we had to help into snow gear. And it takes more time. It takes more time to get out than you’re actually out there when you have kids and you’re trying to get them in their gear. But that fresh air, man, and that light, the natural light, it really does something for your inner self. And even if you’re only out there for 15 or 20 minutes, you come in feeling refreshed. But there’s a really good book. It’s called There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather by Linda McGurk. She refers to herself as Rain or Shine Mama, which is really cute, but she’s got a really good book. It talks about how in Scandinavia, which I think is bad weather a lot, that they just go out. They just change what they’re wearing and they still go. And her book— you know, I’m a little bit of a cold weather wuss, but her book challenged me to look at the seasons for what they have to offer, which I think is also a life lesson. But what do these seasons have to offer that the other ones don’t? So in the winter, we freeze things. It’s one of my favorite things to do. We take bundt pans— I went to the thrift store one year and and bought ten different shapes of little bundt pans— a star and a heart. And we fill them with a little bit of water and put in some— we save maybe some petals from the summer. We’ll go get a bouquet of flowers or something. We freeze or we put little citrus slices in them, and we freeze them and we hang them up and they’re beautiful. I mean, they’re so pretty and they catch the light and they shimmer. We make snowball lanterns and ice lanterns and ice bricks. To the point, Lisa, where every once in a while people are like, “I wish I lived where there was snow.” And I used to be like, “If only we could leave Michigan and live in Tennessee.” But then now people are saying the opposite. It seems so enticing because it is fun. You know, sledding is fun. And we don’t ski, but people who love to ski, that’s something that winter provides that the other seasons don’t. And snowmen. And this heavy work. You can paint the snow. When you hike in the winter, whether you’re in a snowy location or not, you can see further because there’s not too much foliage. And I think winter fires are really fun. Hot chocolate. So that’s what I’ve tried to do, spurred on by Lynda McGurk and her book, is to try and cherish what we can only do in that season, and grin and bear it. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah, I agree. It’s a lot of work, but—especially where I live—it’s still totally doable because we don’t actually get— sometimes we get the extreme temperatures, but for the most part it’s just a matter of not wanting to get all the kids ready, but really it’s worth it. So this last year—this whole last winter—we actually probably more than any other year just did a lot of outside time. Just send the kids outside, dress them all up, make sure they get out every day because we get stir crazy. If it’s above 30, we’ve got to get out. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah. And it makes a difference. I just feel like every single time when I doubt— I mean I doubt every time. I’m like, “This is a waste of our time.” But then every single time I’m like, “Oh, no, that was good. I’m glad we did it.”

Lisa Bass Yep, totally. And hiking is, by far, best in the winter. I feel like we didn’t take advantage of that enough this last season. We did a lot of outside time here, but we didn’t go on our family hikes like we used to, probably because we had a new baby this year. But it is so much better. You don’t have to worry about poison ivy, mosquitoes, wasps. I was going to say, whenever my sister had her first baby— you know, when you have your first baby, you feel a little bit trapped? Like before, you could just get out any time. Well, she had her right in the middle of winter, and her standard was like ten or above, she’d bundle her baby up and go in the stroller, and people looked at her like she was crazy. She was like, “I have to get out. I will go outside.”. 

Ginny Yurich Wow. But it’s what people do in other countries. And I thought that was an eye-opening thing about Linda McGurk’s book is to realize that people are getting their babies out in these colder temperatures in other places. You know, they’re doing it safely, but they’re still doing it. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. No, if the baby— here’s the thing about babies, because people are like, “That baby looks uncomfortable,” whenever I have them in my wrap or something. And I’m like, “Here’s the thing about babies— they tell you. They don’t just deal with discomfort. They let you know.” So if you have them bundled up enough, you’re going to know because they’re going to be comfortable and just enjoying it. 

Ginny Yurich That’s such a good point, Lisa. And it’s so true. They’re so vocal. 

Lisa Bass They’re not just going to be cool with it. 

Ginny Yurich Sometimes I’m like, “How can they be so little and know they don’t like this?” Two weeks— they’re going to let you know. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. For sure. So you’ve made the case for why it’s important to get outside and how. So, what do kids do outside? What are some of your kids’ favorite things, or do you have any really good suggestions for that? 

Ginny Yurich Well, I don’t really even know what they do outside, Lisa. They just play. I think there’s this interesting thing I read in a book— another pediatric occupational therapist. And those are the people to kind of look out for because they’re the ones who are on the front lines with kids. They’re the ones who maybe would see, “Oh, there’s a difference than there was 10 years ago, or 15 years ago, or even 5 years ago.” But she has a book—Angela Hanscom—called Barefoot and Balanced, and she talks about how it can take up to 45 minutes for kids to figure out how they’re going to play. You know, that’s a long time. And so I thought that was an important piece of the puzzle because sometimes you go out, it’s been 10 minutes, they’re bored still, so I go, “This isn’t working.” But you have to give them time. But what I have found— the best thing to take with us for nature time is a friend. Hands down, there’s nothing better than a friend. I think not only for—especially if you have little ones—to have another set of eyes with you, it feels safer. Someone else who can help with a skinned knee, or a you’ve got another person to help. More kids, but still more adult eyes. But then everyone has a playmate. Our kids aren’t necessarily keen on going out with each other, even though there’s five of them. And you’ve got a lot of kids, too. I think a lot of people assume like, “Oh, they’re fine. They’ve got these built in playmates.” But it’s not the same as if you have cousins over. If you call up a girlfriend and you know, she brings some friends— or some of her kids, and then there’s playmates. Or a small group of friends or something. So especially when we’re with friends, the kids— I don’t know what they do, but they sure find stuff to do. They’re climbing on stuff. They’re making things. They’re sitting around talking. So if we’ve got some good snacks and we’ve got some friends, sort of no matter where we go, things are good. But hikes are a favorite of ours, too, because there’s a start point and an end point and you’re kind of on this common mission together. And a lot of times, you can find different various lengths of hikes, you know? A half mile. Or maybe if you need a wheelchair accessible hike, you’re finding what works for you. And two mile or, you know, it depends on what age and stage and sort of what you need. And there tend to be maybe some different options. So we like that a lot. And now that our kids are older, goodness, it’s fun. We can actually go to these really cool places that we couldn’t do before. But it was fun then, too. I mean, it’s all been really special, and it feels worthwhile, even if it’s just kind of like a flat nothing hike that’s a half mile, you know? We always see something— birds or whatever it is. So, you know, what do they do outside? I don’t know. 

Lisa Bass They always come up with games. I know that my kids—whenever we have friends over—within 10 minutes, there’s some big thing that they’re all working on or playing. Instantly something emerges. So I think parents who— if you feel like your kids won’t get there because they’re not used to going outside, just let them be bored for, like you said, up to 45 minutes and they will not be able to stand it. They’ll come up with something for sure. 

Ginny Yurich Yes, that’s such a good point, Lisa. I can’t remember where I read it, and I talked to someone about it. There was this experiment. This is so fascinating. There was this experiment where they had people that were stuck in a room with nothing—absolutely nothing—except that they could slightly electrocute themselves with the push of a button, and that’s what they would do. They would rather electrocute themselves than be bored. So it was saying that people choose pain over boredom. 

Lisa Bass I mean, boredom is pretty bad. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. So kids do. You know, in time they sort of sort it out, and they figure it out, and then their make-up worlds and their— like you said, they’re chasing each other. There’s this quote by John Holt and he says, “If children are living happily and energetically and fully, they are learning a lot, even if we don’t always know what it is.” And I feel like it fits so perfectly because they don’t totally know what they’re doing, but they’re living energetically and fully. And so we can be assured that they’re learning and that it’s contributing to their growth and helping set them up for the future. 

Lisa Bass What are your parameters for danger level? There’s a whole spectrum of some people won’t let their kids climb down a set of stairs. Some people won’t let them climb to the top of a tree. And then there’s somewhere in between there. 

Ginny Yurich It’s an interesting question. I think risky play is a hot topic right now. There’s two components of risk. One is: how dangerous is it? How badly could you get hurt? In combination with: how likely is it to happen? So an example would be if you let a toddler play by the edge of a lake, how dangerous is it? Extremely. How likely is it that something could happen? Extremely. You know, so that’s too risky. You say, okay, how dangerous is it for a toddler to climb up onto a small fallen tree? How badly could they get hurt? Not very badly. They might get scraped. How likely is it? Pretty high, right? That they might bonk or get a bruise or something like that. And so we step in when that danger level is dangerously high. Could they fall and something catastrophic happen? You know, that’s when we tend to step in. If they seem like they can’t assess that risk themselves, I think as a parent— you know, playing near traffic. That type of thing. 

Lisa Bass Yeah that’s always a bad idea. 

Ginny Yurich And so, you know, knowing that those are the two factors. I mean, we want our kids to learn how to— it’s a pretty quick assessment that we are all making. We want our kids to learn how to make those assessments. We want them to learn their bodies. What are they capable of? What are they not capable of? So we’re just looking for the catastrophic instances where, I mean, they could get hurt very badly and then that’s when we would step in. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, right. I’m always yelling at my son for being up in a tree. He’s actually a pretty cautious kid in some ways. But then whenever it comes to climbing a tree, he has this confidence way beyond what he should. And my husband lets it go. And I look out there, I’m like, “Uh-uh. That’s too much.” I think husbands and wives have different— dads and moms. 

Ginny Yurich Well, in our family, we’re opposite. So it’s an interesting thing. My husband is more cautious than I am, and I think the more you’re with your kids, the more you know. So we’ve got a daughter that’s a tree climber, and she’s a big Bear Grylls fan. He talks about test every branch. You know, I’m not quite sure exactly how he says it, but she’s real cautious with it. She tests everything. I’ll hear her say, “This isn’t strong enough. I’m coming back down at this point.” Or “I’m not going to go any higher.” So I think nature is really a neat place because it does tend to grow with kids. Like they can start on these smaller trees—an apple tree or something—long before they’re able to even reach the lowest branch for a larger tree. And I like that about nature. Right? One of the things that we never did was we never put our kid up on the thing they were asking to go up on with the bigger kids. So maybe the kids are up on a really large boulder and the three year old wants to go up but can’t get up there. And we say, “Well, no, you’re not old enough.” 

Lisa Bass Right, you can’t get up there. 

Ginny Yurich You know, “And once you are old enough, then you’re in a better sense to understand what your body can do and can’t do, and you’ll be a little bit safer.” So I think they’re safer in the long run if they’re able to experience reasonable risk that’s not catastrophic, life-altering for them. 

Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah. I think that makes sense. I still am not going to let him climb that high in that tree though. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah. Because that’s a catastrophic thing. I think that’s wise, you know. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. So have you set up your yard or whatever to have certain things to encourage play or are you more leaning on free play? 

Ginny Yurich We have stuff. We have a play set. We have a trampoline, which was a big contention between my husband and I. Like I said, he’s on the opposite. 

Lisa Bass Okay, so since he’s cautious, maybe he didn’t want it? 

Ginny Yurich Yeah, he didn’t want it. But we got one of the ones that doesn’t have the springs and it has a net around the edges. So they said—and I don’t know, everyone’s trying to sell their product—but they said that the majority of injuries are happening because a child’s leg is getting caught in the springs or— I don’t know, that type of thing. So on this kind of trampoline, we haven’t had any issues, we’ve had it for a bit. So we do have that. And then we have some hay bales. 

Lisa Bass The round ones? 

Ginny Yurich We have a couple round ones and we have square ones and they make little things. I mean, I feel like I could buy— if I could buy enough square bales that was the same cost as a video game, they would have play forever. Because you can like stack them. 

Lisa Bass Oh, that’s the upstairs of our barn. We have probably over 100 bales up there.

Ginny Yurich I mean, it’s the best. Hay bales.

Lisa Bass Yeah, they’ve done that. Forts, yeah.

Ginny Yurich We’ve got a garden, and so they can come out and putz around in the garden. We’ve got a basketball net. We definitely have stuff and it definitely gets used when friends come. Sprinkler. You know, of course, you’d love to have everything. Like, I’d love to have a zipline. I’d love to have a pool. But you have what you have. We’ve lived in a bunch of different homes. We’ve lived in a townhome where we didn’t have a yard at all. We just had a little side patio. Put a water table out there. And that was when when we were doing what you were doing, walking to the library and going to the school playground, the one that we could walk to. And so in each home—I think we’ve lived six different places—we’ve had different situations, and they’ve all been fine. You know, you utilize what you have, and you go places if you can to find different types of experiences. Some of the parks even have cool things, like they’ll have mud kitchens there to play with or they’ll have a teepee set up. Or we went to this one park and it had like this cascading water table. It was like the coolest thing. There was a pump at the top and then the water would flow down to these different levels and they could channel the water with these different pieces and use cups and it was awesome. Or those splash pads. Really in the summer, there’s so many places. Where we’re at, there’s more places to go than we even have time to go to. 

Ginny Yurich Oh yeah. Same here, definitely. Now, you were saying that whenever you first started this, it was when you had a couple of young children and you met up with moms. Can you encourage any moms of like three and under, which is a whole—now looking back—a whole different stage of motherhood than the one that I’m currently in. But I remember it very fondly. And we did similar things to what you did, where we would just be out for the day. Where did you find your friends for that? What kind of places did you meet up? And I think you even said you did it every day for a while. 

Ginny Yurich We tried to do it most days where the weather was good. I met our friends at MOPS, primarily. And I tell you what, Lisa, I think it’s hard. I think that beyond those years being very physically and emotionally draining, I think that the friendship piece is also really hard. And I think in this day and age where there’s so many opportunities for people, people tend to cancel a lot. And I remember feeling a lot of rejection in those years. Like, you make plans and you think you invite five or six families and they all say they’re going to come and maybe nobody shows up or maybe just one person shows up and then your kids are crying because they thought all the other kids were going to show up. That was a piece of it that was hard. So I think I just want to say that because maybe that’s an experience that other people are having that has nothing to do with being outside, just has to do with being human. And I think it’s scary to be the inviter because you put yourself out there to be rejected or for people to not show up. And I don’t think they’re rejecting you. I think their lives are just chaotic, like how ours are, or ours were. It’s not purposeful at all. But you still feel a little bit of a sting. So we would look ahead at—I would, I guess—look ahead at the week, which days would be good. And depending on the season, 10 to 20 places to kind of rotate through and just say this what we’re doing, and you just hope people show up. There was a mom’s club. 

Lisa Bass I was in MOPS, too, for a short time. I think it was just one year. So what we did back in that phase of my life is we had a Facebook group. I think we called it playgroup or something, and so I guess it took a little of the pressure off of it being like an invite. And it wasn’t exactly— it wasn’t like a certain day of the week. It was just whenever it was nice, we’d be like, “Hey, I’m going to be at this and this park.” And then people would comment if they’re coming. And usually we’d get five or six moms and all of their kids there. So that was a pretty easy way to do it by doing that, just assembling like local group of women. And then if you meet one, say, “Hey, I’ll add you to my Facebook group,” and then you could set it up just on any nice day. And we did that a ton. Like you, we would be out for— my goal was to not come back inside on a nice day until lunch, and then we did nap, and then my husband was home. That was a way to make those days— now my days are so different because just older kids and homeschool. They’re so segmented, I’m not trying to get through the day. Whereas before, it was like you’re— they feel long, like you’re trying to get through them. Like they’re just endless. 

Ginny Yurich Now it feels like it’s not long enough. 

Lisa Bass Oh, no, not at all. 

Ginny Yurich Doesn’t it feel like that? But now I feel like I don’t have enough time, and I couldn’t ever have imagined feeling that way. 

Lisa Bass Me neither.  It was— those early days—

Ginny Yurich I felt like the day stretched out. It felt like 100 hours. 

Lisa Bass Exactly. 

Ginny Yurich You know, how am I possibly going to make it through? And now I’m like, “Oh, I need like three more hours for every day.” 

Lisa Bass I could use three more at least. Yeah, it’s a whole different— and now, the years are just zooming by because of that. But back in those days, it was like, “How can I get through all of this time I have with these tiny people who I don’t really— I mean, you can read to them and all of that, but you couldn’t do school with them. 

Ginny Yurich How many books can you read for 10 hours? 

Lisa Bass Exactly. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah. You’re trying to pass the time in a way that, I think, fulfills them and also fulfills you, and nature time does it. I think the Facebook group is a great idea. There’s also already organizations. Like Hike It Baby is one that’s set up in a way that caters toward younger kids, and they have weekly events, I think, different chapters. Obviously, Wild and Free has chapters all over the world. And I commend them. I think because I’m still dealing with my own rejection from those early years. That’s hard. You know, I’ve got a girlfriend, she has set up a group here near us called Go Wild all on her own. Same thing. It’s a Facebook group. And she says it’s hard. People commit that they’re going to come. They don’t— maybe there’s a small cost involved because it’s different things. And they don’t come, they don’t pay, they don’t bring what they’re supposed to do. And I guess my point is is that it’s hard. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. 

Ginny Yurich It’s harder maybe than it even feels like it should be. But it’s also still worth it. 

Lisa Bass It is. 

Ginny Yurich It’s still worth it for the people that do come and the relationships that you do make. And I think it matters. If you can be an organizer, you can really enhance the quality of other people’s lives. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. And it can be super low key. So the one that we had— it might as well have been a text group. I mean it wasn’t anything organized, it wasn’t anything like, “We’re going to go to this certain event.” It was always just, “We’ll be at this park,” and then people would comment. And there might even be better apps to do that on these days than Facebook. I don’t know. That’s what we did at the time. And then now I have a group of friends that we’ve just sort of assembled ourselves from friends of friends and just connections, and we’re just in a text group now. 

Ginny Yurich That’s what we have, too. Just a little text group and whoever comes comes. And yeah, I would just encourage people. I think it’s a really good use of your time to try and build those relationships. And actually, the ones that we built when our kids were really young are extra special. Even if I’m not seeing those people now on a regular basis, there is something that ties you together, I think, for the rest of your life, because those are really hard years and you weathered them together. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. What happened with mine is I span multiple groups. So I was with this group and they had their kids and I had mine and then theirs grew up and went to school and then I had another set of kids. And so then I find a new group and then their kids are off into school. And now I’m with, you know, I still have toddlers and babies, but I also have teenager. So it’s like, I’ve kind of— I’ve had to go through them because of my continuing of having children.Yeah. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah. And we’ve got friends like that too. And I think that is how you do it. You have to be with the people that match your kids, not just necessarily maybe match your personality. It’s like dating, but with way many more factors. 

Lisa Bass Yeah. Well, that’s the thing, too. We’ve carved out a little group and these women all have multiple ages too. So they all have older kids and younger kids and we all homeschool. And now, like you said, we’re a little bit like we don’t want to mess up the vibe, you know? 

Ginny Yurich Right. You don’t want to feel like you’re snotty. 

Lisa Bass No. I want it to not come off like that at all. But yeah, not that. 

Ginny Yurich But I also get it. 

Lisa Bass But do you see what I’m— sometimes that—

Ginny Yurich It’s tricky. 

Lisa Bass And it gets trickier, too, when you have older kids as well, because they have to mesh with all of the kids, like you said. And we have a huge— the group’s large, and so at some point it’s like we’re going to show up at this park and we’re going to just take this place over. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah, well, we had that, like with a larger group and then it gets to be winter and then everything was closed, so then we’re trying to meet in people’s homes, and that was a disaster. That didn’t work, so we had to disband for the winter. 

Lisa Bass That’s what we currently do. We currently meet at homes, but our hosts are kind of like dwindling down to where it’s just a couple people because it’s so much. So I think that we’re trying to put into place a few— like now that it’s nice out, a few parks so that it’s not, you know— yeah it can be a lot of kids, but it is worth it. I always tell my friends because whenever they leave my house, it looks like a disaster, like inside and out. I’m like, literally this takes me one hour of me and my oldest kids just completely devoting time to cleaning this up. It’s not any worse than that. As bad as this looks, it’s quickly resolved. And so we’re just going to still do this and have fun. All right, well, tell us about your Instagram, your podcast, the best places to find you, and then what you offer for people to track their progress and to get their 1000 hours outside. 

Lisa Bass Our website has some cool stuff on it. So we have these free tracker sheets that have been designed by the 1000 Hours Outside community. And there’s really cool ones— caterpillars, and butterflies, and space theme, and a mandala— I don’t know how you say that word, but anyway, just really neat things to fill out, and they look real cool when you color them in. So those are free. They’re always free on our website. And different articles that are encouraging with some good information on them. You have a kickoff pack, so every month of the year—and that’s also free—has like a book list for the month—they’re picture books—but a picture book list, and then adventure prompts. So if people are kind of stuck, some cool ideas for April or for May. And I don’t know, sometimes— I couldn’t do it like for every hemisphere or whatever. So I’m like, you just got to cut and paste. Because people are like, “Well, I can’t do this.” I’m like, “Well, just cut something from another month then.” There’s hiking prompts in there, like a muffin hike, or ways to make it just unique. If you’re feel like you’re low on motivation, you can make some muffins and you’re going on a muffin hike or something like that. So we have that on our website. And then I’m on Instagram. Everything is just @1000HoursOutside with the numbers. And sometimes people hashtag #1000HoursOutside. And there’s a lot of those, which is really neat. And I’m on Facebook as well. There’s a Facebook group that has about 85,000 people in it. People are posting all over the world the cool things that they’re doing, and they’re asking questions about hiking boots and bikes and all the questions. But the thing that gets talked about most are those climbing domes. 

Lisa Bass Okay. Somehow that ends up being the topic. 

Ginny Yurich I don’t know. Everyone has questions about the climbing domes. And ticks. Ticks is the one. 

Lisa Bass Ticks. Oh yeah. I get that question all the time. 

Ginny Yurich Or what tent should we buy? So that’s a good group, and I’m just on regular Facebook as well. And then we have a podcast and an app that’s on iOS and Android that has some neat features to it. And we have like a small lifestyle— a selection of products that we started in July of 2020. And so we have picnic baskets that are insulated and lunch boxes. And we’ve tried to source the things that we actually use. I don’t think you need much to go outside, but there are some things that are helpful. A picnic blanket, having a place to put your food, a water bottle. And so it’s the stuff that we use. It’s like the water bottles that we use. We’ve got backpacks coming in June and so we have that as well. And that’s on our website, 1000HoursOutside.com. 

Lisa Bass Cool. Yeah, I’m looking at your stuff now and you’ve got this like cool coffee mug. 

Ginny Yurich Yeah, we got some fun stuff on there. 

Lisa Bass Neat. Awesome. Well, I encourage everybody to go check all that out and start getting outside. Now’s like not even a hard time at all. If you’re going to start trying to be intentional with getting outside, this is it. 

Ginny Yurich It’s a good time. Yes. A change of season is a good time to change habits. Because you can just say to your family, “You know what? I think we’ve been spending a little bit too much time on screens this winter. The weather’s getting nicer. Let’s make a change.”

Lisa Bass Yep. I completely agree. Well, thank you so much for joining me. 

Ginny Yurich Thanks for having me. 

Lisa Bass All right. Well, I hope that you enjoyed this conversation with Ginny from 1000 Hours Outside. I know I did. I’m always inspired from her by the books she shares, her encouragement, and of course her mission on Instagram to get families outside more. I hope that you go over there, follow along, and get outside more. It’s a perfect time of year to do it. Personally, we just purchased a grill for the first time so that I can start cooking outside. I’ve never actually done that. Don’t know why. But we made a little patio area. We got a grill with a side burner so that I can start spending time outside when I do something that I do three times a day, which is cook. So as the days get warmer, we have a table out there now. I can spend time even whenever I’m super busy making meals for my family. So I’m looking forward to that and I hope that you find some ways to do that this season as well. As always, thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. 

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