Navigating the icy Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park is a challenge for even the most seasoned of hikers, but Marcy Stump, of Northumberland County, tackled the adventure as a way to encourage 13-year-old-son Noah with a concerted effort to spend more time outside as a family.

“Noah challenges me to do things I wouldn’t choose to do on my own,” she said after their trip on a recent Friday afternoon. “Thankfully, he is always there to offer assistance.”

“We got to see Adams Falls, which is frozen over. We hiked some of the Falls Trail, but weren’t able to hike the whole loop,” she said. “We also got to go out on the frozen lake.”

The trip was one of many such adventures for the Stump family, which has reconnected with each other and the natural environment thanks to the 1,000 Hours Outside challenge.

​The movement was started by Ginny Yurich, of Michigan, in response to statistics that show average children spend 1,200 hours a year on electronic devices – but only four to seven minutes a day with unstructured time outdoors.

“The entire purpose is to attempt to match nature time with screen time,” she said. “If kids can consume media through screens 1,200 hours a year on average, then the time is there and at least some of it can and should be shifted towards a more productive and healthy outcome!”

Stump heard about the concept via a post several years ago on a homeschool Facebook group.

“I appreciated Ginny’s mission to provide more balance for her kids – and kids across the country,” Stump said. “She started sharing things out with others and it has picked up steam to become a pretty big movement.”

Since then, she has used the 1,000 Hours Outside program as an incentive for her family.

“I don’t want to force it. Some people divide the 1,000 hours into the weeks or days in a year, but we fluctuate depending on the season and opportunities available,” she said.

Jennifer Soisson, of Altoona, first heard of the 1,000 Hours Outside program in December, and it has already become a mainstay for her, her husband and their children.

“Especially with COVID, it has helped us create an intention flow to each day and week,” she said. “With winter, we look forward to our weekend hikes. Long hikes on the weekend make us get our inside chores done during the week.”

By focusing more of their weekends on outdoor hikes and other activities, it takes some of the pressure to be outside on busier week day schedules, Soisson added.

Beyond hiking, the Stump family looks for unique opportunities to stay outdoors during the winter months.

“Of course, we love to hike, but we also look for outdoor employment that hires young kids, such as working at a horse ranch or volunteering at an outdoor festival,” said Stump. “When it snows, we take advantage of that by making interesting things out of ice and snow.”

Soisson enjoys the challenges presented by being outdoors in the winter, adding that the key to success is being prepared.

“Having appropriate clothing, footwear and making the commitment to follow through is important,” she said. “It also helps to find other people who are willing to go, too. It seems a little less intimidating when other people are invested in the cold outdoor experience, too.”

Part of the intentional shift outdoors is finding ways to move every-day activities into the outside frame of mind, according to Stump.

“You can really take a lot of the natural things you do in a day outdoors,” she said. “Kids can work on school work, homework or other activities in an outdoor setting at a picnic table or under a shade tree. You can do more cooking over a campfire in the back yard.”

“My son really enjoys riding his Ripstick, which is basically a skateboard on two wheels,” Stump said. “There is a place near our home where the kids can look for fossils. It is important to give the kids some free time to explore on their own, too.”

Soisson has also learned the value in being creative, regardless of the circumstances.

“Living in ‘Graysylvania,’ we’ve learned not to wait for a perfect day, because it just won’t happen,” she said. “We also make sure to include my (8-year-old) daughter in the planning and what things she’d like to climb and explore.”

Ultimately, the results of taking on such a challenge has led to a number of benefits for both families.

1,000 Hours Outside:

 For more information on the 1,000 Hours Outside program, including creative tracking forms and cool gear to help your family stay committed to the challenge, visit 1000HoursOutside.com.

 The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper would love to hear if your family gets involved with the 1,000 Hour Outside program. Email midsusriver@gmail.com with your updates, tips and photos and some  favorites will appear on social media to inspire others to get outdoors more in 2021.