Monday, March 21, 2011

Making Time for a Green Hour: Our 30-Day Check-In

Today’s post is part of “Your Green Hour Survival Guide,” a series which I hope will provide inspiration to make getting outside every day a habit.

A little more than a week ago, we passed the 30-day mark of our efforts to make time for a green hour every day. Our goal was to get outside at least 15 minutes a day; the reality so far is an average of some 55 minutes. Mission accomplished!

I’m still keeping a journal every day, which is helping me to see some patterns emerging – some of which I think are worth sharing. So here goes.

Getting out the door is usually the toughest part.
Toughest to contend with have been the bad moods (mine and the kids’ both!) and bad weather (we missed two days due to rain and severe wind).

So what works in those moments when it feels like it’d just be easier to stay inside? I repeat the mantra “just 15 minutes outside, guys. Then we can come back inside and do whatever we want.” Some days we really do go back inside after 15 minutes, but most days we stay outside longer.

Being prepared helps.
And not just with ideas for what to do (which you can find a ton of here). To prepare for your green hour:
  • Build outdoor time into your schedule. Believe me, free time isn’t just going to magically appear. The trick is to build 15 minutes of outdoor time into your existing schedule. (I promise a future post on this one!)
  • Make cleanup a breeze. The explorers always get dirty when they’re outside. I’ve learned to lay a towel down where the kids enter the house from the backyard – and I have a few more towels on hand for drying off.

Having two young kids of different ages outdoors at once isn’t always easy.
My oldest is 6; the youngest is just shy of 3. Some days are easy enough, but others are quite challenging. One of the kids is grumpy, but the other isn’t. Or one wants to do something the other has absolutely no interest in. Or worst of all – one is napping while the other is itchy to go exploring!

The big payoff here is seeing the kids come together – and they do so far more outside than in. Sure, they still yell and scream a lot at each other, but there are a lot more laughs through the dirt, water, mud and sunshine than anywhere else.

Let the kids lead.
This has far and away been the toughest challenge for me to overcome. Once we’re actually outside, I’m anxious for the explorers to be connecting with nature, not shooting hoops or bashing each other in their annoying plastic fire trucks.

But here’s the thing: They need time to unwind. To do whatever they want with no restrictions or limits from me.

I’ve noticed that somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes after heading outside, the kids inevitably take to exploring something more natural, and are often engaged for quite a while after that. The ideas they come up with remind me of what it means to be a kid – to explore without inhibitions and to let fun trump good sense some times.

Which leaves me the chance to either join the fun or sit back and watch it in awe.

I want to hear from you! What’s your greatest challenge to getting outside 15 minutes a day – and how do you overcome it?


  1. We have some of the same issues as you: getting out the door can be tough. Little ones have a hard time imagining that something can be more fun than what they are doing RIGHT NOW. While I love that they are so "in the moment" it does make transitions tough. Then there is all the gear to put on! I love summer when we just go....Still, we've figured out a few ways to make it easier, like counting to see how fast they can get ready--my boys love to beat the clock. And while it might make them food obsessed when they get older, I often have our snack outside. They are highly motivated to get out and eat ;)

  2. Great tips, Debi. Everybody can do this! I especially like your "let the kids lead" tips.

  3. I just have to do it with them these days. It's good for all of us!

  4. @Mel: I'll have to incorporate that snack idea - it would work really well for us, too. Thanks for sharing!

    @Michele: It is so true, isn't it?!

    @Melissa: One of those 'everyone wins' kinds things, for sure. Good luck!

  5. Just the motivation that I needed today! Great advice. We get outside at least a little bit everyday but it isn't always easy for me. With a one year old and a three year old I certainly struggle with the age issue as well.

  6. @Abbie: So happy to hear this post offered you some motivation! :)

    The reality of getting your kids outside every day isn't always easy, but I feel like the effort is well worth it. Keep up the great work!

  7. Well done Debi! and thanks for the great tips.

    I've found the greatest challenge is simply making the time to get outside. Our 'Green Hour' sits four days a week at the end of work/preschool. I'm often tempted to go and do some chores or rush home and get dinner on. But i'm always glad I make the time.

    I think I need to allow more time for unsructured outdoor play. Having a small urban yard we mostly visit parks. I have to try and find time to go a little further afield and find some bush or perhaps the beach.

    I'm loving your Green Hour Survival Guide. I oten don't take the time to comment sorry, but am reading along and enjoying. Thank you.

  8. @Tricia: Totally understand how challenging it is to just decide to head out the door - especially in the face of errands and chores that always need doing.

    Believe it or not, we spend most of our outdoor time in our very humble urban backyard - especially during the week. I'm a firm believer that there's plenty out there to discover. Leave the "bigger" outings for family time on weekends. Good luck!


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