50 Ways to Play Outdoors | 1000 Hours Outside Initiative

Remember back when we were kids, and we spent hours outside roaming the neighborhood, only to come home when it got dark? Those days of freedom outside can be harder to find, as technology has advanced and our schedules have filled. What if we slowed down a little bit, and reconnected with the peace that came with those long days outside?

That’s where the 1000 Hours Outside initiative comes into play. The challenge was created by Ginny Yurich, with a simple goal–to increase our outdoor time, and decrease time spent on screens. The idea is to log 1000 hours of time outside as a family in 365 days.

You don’t have to start in January, you can start today! The thought is that kids (and adults!) do better emotionally, mentally, and physically with the critical time outside. From the vitamins, the fresh air, and free play, there is so much to learn from our time in nature. There are even studies to support decreased anxiety and depression from increasing our time outside. So, are you up for the challenge? Here are 50 different ideas to get started on your quest to log 1000 Hours Outside.

Year-Round Activities  |  Warm Weather Activities  |  Cold Weather Activities

Written By Erin Dague & Audra Fesler

Year-Round Outdoor Activities

Go to the Park

Opt outside to your local park! Swing, slide, or check out a climbing structure, to get out the wiggles and soak up some vitamin D. Our kids love checking out parks all around the city of Indianapolis.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-4 hours

Go Puddle Jumping

Rain means one thing here at our house–puddle jumping! Grab your rain boots, or go barefoot to enjoy splashing and stomping in freshly made puddles. This activity brings so much joy, and memories that will last a lifetime.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Climb a Tree

A classic childhood activity, tree climbing is a great way to challenge your skills, and reach new heights (literally!) Kids can work on problem solving, gross motor, and fine motor skills in this simple, yet fun activity.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Go Fishing

Fishing is a timeless activity, passed on for generations. Learning the art of using a fishing pole, patience, and casting the line will build up many skills for your kids, that will follow them for years to come.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-4 Hours

Go on a Hike

Hiking is an activity that we do year round, and enjoy differently in each season. From the blooms of spring, to the leaves in autumn, there is so much to see and explore on a family hike.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-4 Hours

Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt

Are you looking to mix up your family walks? Create a simple, yet fun list of things for your kids to find outside together. From birds, to plant species, they will have a blast learning and finding the items on their list.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Play Basketball

Are your kids into sports? Grab a ball, and hit the basketball court! There are many free courts available for use at local parks, where you can play as a family, or jump in on a pick up basketball game.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-3 Hours

Bike Riding

Biking is one of our favorite family activities. From riding around our cul-de-sac, to hitting the nature trail, it is such a fun way to play together outside.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Build a Fort

This activity gives your kids an opportunity to get creative. They can compile sticks, logs, brush, and other materials to make a fort. Our kids like to use the big tree in the backyard as a starting place, but your imagination will lead the way in this activity.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-3 Hours

Go to a Festival

Did someone say apple donuts? Festivals are a staple here in Indiana, and for good reason. Tractor rides, apple picking, and corn mazes are all great ways to opt outside and make family memories.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-4 Hours

Visit a State Park

Indiana has a variety of State Parks, where you can log hours outside enjoying nature. Playgrounds, hiking, fishing, swimming, wildlife, and more–the choices are endless!

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 3-5 Hours

Play Football

Family football sessions are some of our best hours logged outside. From playing catch, to running around “tackling” the kids, this is a perfect way to play together outside.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Horseback Riding

Not only is horseback riding fun, but it is a great workout! Engage those core muscles with a guided trail, where you can ride together and enjoy the scenery.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-3 Hours

Collect Things In Nature/Make A Collage

Aren’t our pockets always full with fabulous finds our kids can’t part with? Take a bag, encourage them to collect all the things! Finish up in your outdoor space making stick frames, flower collages, rock sculptures or whatever else their creative minds come up with. A glue gun and heavy paper come in handy for this activity.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-4 Hours

Draw With a Stick in Snow or Mud

Simple right? One of my kiddo’s favorite things to do is take a walk after a light dusting of snow; testing how various sticks make different paths.

Using a heavier stick is advised with mud.. see how deep the sticks can be squished into the mud or add water for different consistencies.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Homemade Bird Feeder

Keep a backyard bird ID book handy and bring our feathery friends to your own backyard. Explore Pinterest for many many ideas to make your own environmentally friendly feeders

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-3 Hours

Take A Destination Walk

Let your kids have some control in your adventures! Give them 2-3 options on where to go and be prepared for wherever they pick! Gas stations for a drink, local restaurant for lunch, or a creek near your home? Don’t have anywhere close to home? Drive to a downtown area and head out from there.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-4 Hours

Build a Fire-Roast Hot Dogs/S’mores

Fires are great all year round. All ages love the mesmerizing flicker of the flames. Food is always an added bonus! Pick hotdogs, s’mores, fruit pies, grilled cheese, or even baked potatoes to indulge in. For added time and education, add flint and steel to your tools and teach your kids how to start a fire safely.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-4 Hours

Hang A Hammock

Rest in your local park or backyard. We normally think of hammocks as a warm weather activity but change it up! Kids love different, so try the hammock when it is cold. Take a blanket and breathe in the crisp air.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Collect And Paint Rocks

This is another activity that feels like a warm weather. Take a winter hike, collect all sizes of rocks, and take them home to paint. Doing this is the cold weather adds some color to those gray winter days! Make a rock garden under a tree or place them throughout your neighborhood to add some cheer.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-3 Hours

Visit A Local Farm

Many local farms will invite you in to lend a helping hand! Their chores are never ending and never on vacation. Give your kids an up close and hands on experience with all the responsibilities it takes to keep a farm running.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Stargaze

Drive out to the country, spread out a blanket and look up. Obviously, this can be done in your backyard too. The farther away from light pollution the better though. Plan ahead, pick a few constellations to look for!

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Creek Racing

Collect outdoor objects–twigs, sticks, walnuts, hedge apples–and take turns dropping them into a flowing creek. Do the race together, float or sink?? Have your kids make guesses before each race for a friendly scientific competition.

1000 Hours Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Take Indoor Toys Outside

Sometimes the novelty of playing with toys normally played indoors, makes for a whole new toy.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-3 Hours

Warm Weather Ideas

Swimming

Grab your suits and head to the pool! One of our favorite ways to log hours outside is with water play. Indianapolis has many community pools to pick from, for the perfect day in the sun.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-4 Hours

Go to the Beach

Surfs up! Grab your sand buckets and hit the beach for a day of water play. Enjoy the water, sand, and family time while logging your hours outside.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 3-5 Hours

Build a Sand Castle

Whether it be at the beach, or in a sandbox, my kids love spending time creating beautiful castles. A shovel and a bucket is all you need for this sun summer activity.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Creek Stomping

Creek stomping is a great way to log time on your quest to 1000 hours outside. Trudge though the water, search for fish and crawdads, and skip rocks on this fun family outing. There are so many creeks to explore here in the Indy area. Pro tip- bring a change of clothes and a towel for those slippery kiddos post creek stomping.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-3 Hours

Play at the Splash Park

Splish splash, we are having a blast at the splash pad! This activity is fun, and free! With community splash pads throughout the Indy Area, this is a great way to run off some steam outside in the summer.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-3 Hours

Boating

Rent a pontoon boat, for a day out on the water with your family. You can bring lunch, water sports gear, such as water skis, and spends hours outside together soaking in the vitamin D.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 4-6 Hours

Kayaking

Kayaking is a great way to mix up your routine and try something new. Many state parks offer kayak and canoe rentals, for you to work your muscles and be up close and personal with the water.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-4 Hours

Flower Picking

At the first signs of spring, my daughter loves to hit the trail by our house to see what flowers she can find. We love collecting them and bringing them home to display in the house. There are also many U-Pick flower with large fields around Central Indiana.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Read A Book

Find a shady spot, a hammock or the perfect sunny place. Pick your favorite reading pleasure and get comfy! Still reading to your kids? Let them pick out the book(s), the spot to listen and breathe in that fresh air.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1 Hour

Night Bug Hike

Grab your flashlight and go hunting!! Summer nights are the perfect environment to find a whole world often missed! Watch cicadas hatch, spiders catch moths, and all kinds of other nocturnal creepers. There is much more to summer nights than fireflies!

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Chalk Art

Add all kinds of color, images and fun sayings to your driveway or sidewalks! Easy cleanup and hours of entertainment!

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Tube/Float Down A River

Most communities have a river within driving distance to enjoy. Canoe companies often offer a tubing option but you can also buy your own and find the public drop-in. This is the most relaxing way to experience the river. I always recommend having an extra tube to hold all of your food and beverages!

1000 Hour Outdoor Tracker: 3-6 Hours

Picnic

This can be as simple or involved as you choose. Make lunch and step outside your door to eat or pack a special lunch with a blanket to visit a green space near you. For an on the go option, grab your favorite takeout and eat at a local park or splash pad.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-3 Hours

Skip Rocks

Finding the perfect rock is half of the challenge! Pair this with a picnic and creek stomping, you will have a full day!

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-3 Hours

Frisbee

Perfect for a pair or a whole group. Get outside and toss around a frisbee. Have older kids? Find your local frisbee golf for a more challenging, competitive activity

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-3 Hours

4 Leaf Clover Hunt

Not feeling very energetic? Find a field of clovers and have a seat! Bring along a magnifying glass to make it even more of an experience! You never know what you might find down there hustling along the clover.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Wash The Car or Bicycle

Water and bubbles… a perfect combo on a warm day. Fill up the buckets, hook up the hose and let the kids go to town!

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Backyard Camping

A great way for the novice or experienced campers to get a plethora of outdoor time! No need to plan ahead and pack up everything but the kitchen sink, just step outside your back door!

Set up a tent, comfy up the trampoline or hang some hammocks. There are all kinds of ways to sleep outdoors, try them all!

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 6-10 Hours

Summer Sprinkler

Set up your outdoor sprinkler to cool off those hot summer days! Set up a slip and slide or baby pool as added water stations. Water balloons can be filled quickly if you have a crowd. Wet, wild and slippery hours add up!

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-4 Hours

Cold Weather Ideas

Build a Snowman

Do you want to build a snowman? I know my crew does! Every winter, with each snowfall, they anxiously wait to see if they have enough snow for a snowman. This activity will keep them busy for hours! Creating, team building, and perseverance are just a few things they will work on with this activity.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

Go Ice Skating

Pop up ice skating rinks are offered in the winter months, and are a great way to get out of your winter funk. We love checking out an outdoor rink, and then grabbing some hot cocoa to warm up afterwards.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-3 Hours

Go Sledding

When the snowflakes start to fall, my kids excitedly go searching for their gear, so they can go out to play. Sledding is a favorite winter activity, and there are lots of places to go for sledding here in Indy.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-3 Hours

Snow Tubing

There are several places to check out this winter sport in Indiana. Snow tubing is a great way to get out and have fun in the wintertime.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-3 Hours

Snowy Animal Tracking

Visit a local nature preserve or state park after a fresh snow. Take some paper, pencil, ruler and your cell phone camera. Record all of your findings: draw the tracks, measure how far apart they are and snap a pic. Take your findings home, look up animal track images to make your discoveries!

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 2-3 Hours

Snow Fort

Use a storage container or a block made specifically for making snow forts to create your own life size igloo! Don’t have either of these things? Build a snow hill and make an opening in the front. This makes for hours of outdoor time as this is no small task!!

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 3-4 Hours

Halloween or Christmas Lights Walk

Walk your neighborhood to find all of the homes lit up to celebrate the holiday! Visit other neighborhoods, park and then roam. Take along hot chocolate as an added treat.

1000 Hour Time Tracker: 1-2 Hours

These are fun ideas to help encourage outdoor activity—some will appeal to you, some won’t. The point is JUST GET OUT THERE! Nature and fresh air will take over.

If you’re feel overwhelmed with 1000 hours, start at 500! Remember, the number is only a goal to make outdoors a conscious decision—do what fits for your family. Print your own 1000 Hour Time Tracker online.

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