How much fresh air do you and your family get each year? Do you spend most of your days indoors? One Blair family decided to change their amount of time and challenged themselves to 1,000 hours of outdoor time in 2019.
Amelia Jacobitz and her family, including children, Colin, Graham and Vera, reached their goal by the end of the year and plan to do the same for 2020.
"We are homeschoolers and the method we use recommends three or four hours of outside time every day," Jacobitz said. "That is way more than culturally we are used to doing."
Jacobitz wondered what would happen if it was too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer.
"I kept giving myself an out, maybe go outside more in May and June, not January," she said.
A Facebook group she follows said to see what it looks like over an entire year.
"It was an accountability thing to make sure we were getting the hours over the year," Jacobitz said. "We have a sheet on our refrigerator with 1,000 little boxes and we colored them in as we went."
How do you spend so many hours outside? It takes a combination of activities and plain old-fashioned kid time.
"One of the points is to let kids be kids," she said. "They did a lot of climbing and running."
They went for hikes, played sports with the neighbors and set up a snow cone machine as some activities. When there are so many other things to be doing, such as laundry and dishes, and then taking the time to gather the winter coats or sunscreen, Jacobitz said having an assigned time to meet people at the park helped keep the motivation.
"It's a lot, but it was always worth it," she said. "The kids wanted to stay home and they had to put in the effort at times, too."
Boys have a lot of energy.
"When they're outside and running and not inside being destructive, not fighting as much, making messes as much, they're more productive with their energy than they otherwise might be," Jacobitz said.
While being good at limiting screen time for the children, having less time inside kept them from being drawn to the screen as much.
Jacobitz said they didn't necessarily give up things but had to make different choices.
"We didn't go to the children's museum as much as we would have," she said. "We went to the zoo a lot and then have to choose between going into the aquarium and seeing the elephants."
Jacobitz said the kids were proud of their success and they became more confident, knowing their limits or needing to learn their limits, climbing high into the trees, for example.
She was challenged by the effort to be outside.
"What we consider bad weather had to change a little bit," Jacobitz said. "If Mom's cold, we couldn't stay out for very long so I had to get a warmer coat."
Another challenge was letting the kids free play.
"There is so much value in free play and you have to back off and let the kids do that," she said. "That was hard, too."
Their project started as a New Year's resolution.
"I'd like to do more hours this year but don't know if we can make it," she said. "I hope to spend some nights outside this coming year."
Jacobitz inspired her friend, Bethany Norine, to do the same.
"I didn't know she was doing it until reading their Christmas letter," said Norine, who is also from Blair. "It was so inspiring to hear how they took their regular lives and incorporated outside time."
Norine was feeling cooped up after having a baby last March — it's hard to go out when it's too hot or too cold.
"I miss being outside and spending time outdoors," she said. "This will be a good year, the baby is starting to walk around.
"I was intrigued by what they did and learned," she said. "At end of the day, I round to the closest hour and fill out a grid. Our family works at a camp in the summer, so will be outside a lot."
Norine hopes to get her family outside once a day for 30 minutes.
A last-minute trip to the zoo was inspired by this challenge.
"We spent a total of one and one-half hours outside," Norine said. "I might not have thought of that if I didn't have a goal to be outside more often."
Norine homeschools her children and said she plans to take the homework outside.
"(We want to) do regular lives and transport it outside," she said. "I'm very excited about what's ahead. We know a few neighbors and hopefully we will get to know a few more. It's inspiring."