How to do 1,000 Hours Outside in Pittsburgh

It’s pretty likely that you’ve heard of the 1,000 Hours Outside challenge. In case not, let me give you a little summary. The challenge is based on the book 1,000 Hours Outside- Prioritize Nature, Reclaim Childhood and Experience A Fuller Life by Ginny Yurich, M.ED. Yurich talks about how the average American child spends 3 hours a day in front of a screen. Yurich challenges parents to instead turn those 3 hours into time spent outside, which has amazing benefits on health, mood, behavior, and creativity, to name a few. If you spend an average of 3 hours outside, it will amount to 1,095 hours in a year! So, the challenge became to log 1,000 outdoor hours in one year. 

On the above website, they have trackers you can print out and color as you get each hour and there’s also an app that helps you easily track your time and earn badges as you go- my kids love that part! The first year we did the challenge, we did not get 1,000 hours in a year; we only got to about 850. We kept tracking beyond the year and it only took us about another month and a half to get the remaining time. We still called that a win! Now, in 2024, we are really dedicated to trying to get 1,000 hours during this calendar year! It’s a fun little challenge that encourages us to get outside more.

Admittedly, it is a little harder for us Pittsburghers than someone who lives in Hawaii or sunny California. We have cold winters, rainy springs and fall, and a seemingly short summer. However, it just takes a bit of creativity to make it work. I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve for how we’re going to get our 1,000 hours this year and I’m sharing them here!

If you haven’t started yet, you can at any time! Your year doesn’t have to be the calendar year, it can be March to March, or whatever works for you. Our first time trying we started with our school year in August. The originator, Yurich, is very “do it however it works for you.” The goal is not to follow a starch set of rules, but simply to be challenged to get outside more! 

1,000 Hours Outside in the Northeast


Alfred Wainwright said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” If you’re going to try and get outside more, you’ve got to have the right gear. We were able to get 21 hours outside this January even with multiple days in the teen temperatures, and it wasn’t always playing in the snow. We went for walks, played outside without snow, had a frozen toy challenge, and more! All because we had the right gear for the weather and were able to stay warm. 

In the spring, kids LOVE jumping in rain puddles. Make sure they’ve got rain boots, rain coats, and/or umbrellas and you’ll be able to get many more hours outside on rainy days.

I usually buy things like snowsuits and raincoats in a size too big, that way we’ll get more than a year out of it! I also buy things in gender neutral colors so that both my daughter and boys can have a turn wearing them. Lastly, I typically buy gear that isn’t worn a lot (like a snowsuit) at used clothing stores. We go to Once Upon a Child and Kid to Kid oftenThere’s really no need to spend a ton of money on this type of gear! And if you do need to buy something new, buy smart so you’ll get more than one season out of it. 

Take Regular Activities Outside

From spring through fall, we eat dinner outside as a family often, read our read-aloud on the back porch, do crafts in the yard, and even take our schoolwork outside when we can (we homeschool). Heading outside for these tasks and events that we do regularly has accounted for a lot of our extra hours! Taking on the challenge of 1,000 hours outside in a year has helped me look for all the things we could be doing outside. If we can and it’s nice out, we’re taking it outside! It’s been amazing for all of us! 

On a side note: Here are some of our recent favorite read aloud series: The Adventures of Sophie Mouse (21 books), My Father’s Dragon (3 books), and Heartwood Hotel (4 books)- we’re enjoying this one currently! 

Don’t be Afraid of Chilly

We’ve recently had quite a few days in the 40s and even a few in the 50s! Most people would still consider 40s to be cold, but we would just call it chilly. My kids spent over 2 hours outside on February 1st. The temperature got up to the mid-high 40s and the sun was shining for most of the afternoon. With a coat on, this is beautiful weather!! I got my kids some regular gloves (not bulky snow gloves) at Walmart for $1.50 each and we’ve worn those to playgrounds when the temps are in the high 30s/low 40s. Getting 1,000 hours outside does take some commitment to try and get out even when it’s not ideal weather, again, with the right gear.


We obviously can’t get 3 hours a day outside in the winter months, but we make up for it the rest of the year. Last year, we had quite a lot of 6- or 7-hour days outside and even some that logged 12+ hours. The latter was while camping. People have differing views on whether or not you should count ALL of your time camping as time outside. Yurich says it’s up to you! I don’t know if I’d count RV camping since you’ve got actual walls in between you and the outdoors, but we definitely count tent camping. In a tent, you’re breathing the outside air, feeling the outside temps, hearing the outside sounds, and experiencing any precipitation in an enhanced way…to me that counts as being outside!! So, we plan to go camping a few times this year and that really racks up some hours! 

Get Comfortable with a Mess

We have this pit of dirt under our playset that has been the source of countless hours of exploration and play for our kids. Yes, they are often a major mess after playing there, but the creativity that comes from it is worth it. They’ve made mud pies, birds nests (that birds have actually used!), and more. I don’t have a mud room, just a back door that comes right into our living room. I’ve had to get comfortable with a little bit of mess coming in the door. Guess what…all messes can be cleaned up! 

Say Yes

I’ve gotten into the habit of saying “Yes” pretty much any time my kids ask me if they can go outside, even if it means I have to stop what I’m doing and get out some specific gear for them. Going outside can cure boredom, foster creativity, improve sleep, lift their mood, help immunity, and so much more. In my experience, if they want to go outside, then it really means they need to go outside. And typically, when they’re asking to get outside, those are the times they will spend hours out there just creating and exploring, versus the times I’m urging them go outside. 

Count Everything

Every little minute adds up. Maybe you’re standing at the bus stop for 2 minutes. Log it. Hanging out in the courtyard with friends after church for a few minutes? Log it. The app is super helpful for tracking. If you usually have your phone nearby, you can whip it out, open the app, and click the start button. Then just hit stop when you’re done. It will track everything for you. Below are photos from my tracker app. 

This challenge has been so beneficial to our family. We’ve had incredibly valuable family times outside, soaked in as much sunshine as possible, and have simply had so much fun! It is called a challenge for a reason, but it’s totally doable with a little planning and creativity! 

Have you taken the 1000 hours outside challenge? Comment and let me know your family’s favorite things to do outside!

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