Challenge Accepted! Children Thrive Outside

1000 Hours Outside Challenge Window Cling
1000 Hours Outside Challenge Window Cling

By Jaci Foged, Extension Educator in Lancaster County

It seems like everywhere I go I see young children glued to a screen. In the car, at the baseball game, waiting for their food to arrive at the restaurant. Of course, often the adults are just as guilty — myself included. Likely, people are unaware of how much time they are spending on their phones — after all, in the past, a phone was just a phone. Have you thought about all the uses for a phone today? Now we use our phones for watching movies, driving directions, gaming, a camera and more.

Gone are the days of children leaving the house at dawn and returning at dusk covered in dirt with windblown hair. Some of my most unforgettable childhood memories involve my time spent outside in nature with my siblings and close friends. I fondly remember my childhood activities of peeling corn kernels from the cob, tossing cow pies in the field, swimming in the ditch, under umbrellas in the rain, cartwheels in the grass, a basketball game of P.I.G., climbing trees and making mud potions.

There is an amazing opportunity for learning and development — it is just outside the front door, all you have to do is open it. The best part is, the only thing it will cost you is your time. The Children and Nature Network has developed some amazing resources about the wide-range of health benefits we receive simply by going outside. For example, spending time in the bright sunlight is healthy for our bodies (vitamin D) and our eyes (reduces nearsightedness). Spending time in nature can help children focus their attention, improve academic performance and decreases problem behaviors. There are ample opportunities when we spend time outside for decision-making, increased scientific knowledge and even building a sense of community as children learn about their neighborhood, town and beyond!

My friend and colleague, Katie Krause was sharing a concept with me earlier this year named 1000 Hours Outside. The purpose for this concept is to help families try to match the number of hours their children play outside with the number of hours their children may be utilizing some type of screen (phone, computer, tablet, etc.). 1000 hours inspired us to create the Children Thrive Outside Challenge.

Nebraska Extension’s The Learning Child Team is excited to bring you the Children Thrive Outside Challenge. Childcare providers and teachers can sign their program or classroom up for the challenge here: To help show you have accepted the challenge and are committed to getting children outside, Nebraska Extension will send you a window cling and trackers to count and keep track of your outside hours. We also invite families to join the challenge! The goal for the program is to work toward 1000 hours outside. That might seem like a BIG number, so we are creating mini challenges of 50–100 hours at a time.

Meet with us quarterly to discuss how you are engaging families in the challenge and how you are tracking your hours! For more information on the challenge, sign up for our Outdoor Learning Environments training on May 10 at either 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. CST. You can sign up for the class here: In this class, we will talk about the many benefits children receive when they spend time outdoors and about the barriers we experience in getting children outdoors more often. We will also take time to think about our own outdoor spaces and brainstorm ideas to make them more natural, comfortable and engaging for children.

The challenge launches on May 15. Follow us on Facebook @UNLExtensionthelearningchild or Twitter @UNLExtensionTLC #kidsthriveoutside.

Learn more about 1000 Hours Outside, download a tracker sheet and sign-up at