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How They Spend 1,000 Hours Outside Every Year (Virginia Yurich)

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Ginny Yurich 1000 Hours Outside Humans Outside Podcast

In the beginning she was just trying to save her sanity, says Virginia Yurich, who goes by Ginny. With a passel of little kids she was feeling run ragged brought by all the commitments shuffling children here and there. When her friend invited her to simply spend some time outside, letting her kids explore and live a little, she was skeptical. But after seeing the benefits, her skepticism vanished — and she was hooked.

Now Ginny shares her experience through a vibrant community of parents and families with one goal in mind: getting their kids to spend at least 1,000 hours outside each year. That seems like a huge number, but Ginny says it’s both possible and completely lifechanging for the whole family.

Listen to this episode of the Humans Outside podcast to learn how Ginny makes it happen, and how you can integrate her lessons into your own life.

Some of the good stuff:

[1:41] Virginia Yurich’s favorite outdoor space
[3:21] Where her 1,000 hours outside project came from
[14:47] The learning misconception
[24:42] How nature enhances learning
[27:34] How to work towards 1,000 hours outside
[33:11] What they do in the winter
[46:00] How to get started
[43:50] Their favorite and most essential outdoor gear
[46:18] Her favorite outdoor space

Connect with this episode:

Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts

Register for our newsletter to win a decal: https://humansoutside.com/contact-us/

Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. 

Amy Bushatz 0:01

American kids spend an average of 1200 hours a year in front of screens and of course, that number fluctuates as experts look at that. Ginny Yurich, who holds a master’s in education and homeschools her five kids, decided if it was possible for her kids to spend that much time a year in front of a screen, they could spend at least 1000 hours outside each year. You know, here at Humans Outside my goal is to spend at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day, which I find was a big old commitment given my busy life. So when I read that Ginny and her family are making 1000 hours a year, that’s about three hours a day, by the way, happen, I just knew I had to talk to her. And as we’re thinking about back to school after an amazing summer outside, what better time to talk about the practicalities of building a life outdoors into your kids everyday habits than now? Ginny, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast. We’re so glad to have you.

Ginny Yurich 1:26

Thanks for having me, Amy. I’m thrilled to be here.

Amy Bushatz 1:29

So we start all of our episodes imagining ourselves having this conversation in our guest’s favorite outdoor space. Tell me, where are we with you today?

Ginny Yurich 1:39

It’s a tricky question because, I like all of our outdoor adventures, whether it’s in our backyard or a local park, but I’m really am partial to Asheville, North Carolina. Have you ever been there? It’s like waterfall Mecca there and our favorite one is called Slide Rock. And it also might be called Sliding Rock. But anyway, it’s like this 60 foot waterfall, and this big kind of flat sloping waterfall that you can ride.

Amy Bushatz 2:14

Oh, you know, I saw a picture of that on your blog!

Ginny Yurich 2:16

Oh, it’s so cool. And it drops you off in this freezing cold pool of water at the bottom and you just go over and over again.

Amy Bushatz 2:23

So I’m so glad you told us about that because I saw a picture of that on your blog, and I thought, Man, I got to go there!

Ginny Yurich 2:29

It’s a bucket list place for sure. It’s really phenomenal. And then there’s so many other waterfalls in the area.

Amy Bushatz 2:34

We visited in Missouri, I think a place called Johnson Shut-Ins, which is very similar and makes it sound like there’s a bunch of lonely folks there. But no, it’s rocks. Yeah, and they are natural waterfalls like that. But yeah, very cool.

Ginny Yurich 2:52

There’s one in Sedona too, and that’s why I get them confused. I think the one in Sedona is called Slide Rock State Park and then the one in North Carolina is called Slide Rock.

Amy Bushatz 3:03

Well, listeners, add that to your list, you guys because that sounds so fantastic. So from one outdoor challenge person to another, although my 20 minutes sounds really puny –

Ginny Yurich 3:14

20 minutes sounds fabulous!

Amy Bushatz 3:16

Start by telling us how your 1000 hours came to be, give us all the background.

Ginny Yurich 3:21

The realization of screentime came later. Our journey outside started with being completely overwhelmed. And really it was my own personal journey at the very, very beginning with having young kids. Our first three kids were really close in age; they were like two and under. And I was sort of drowning trying to get through the day with the three little ones. And you know, my husband had a job where his commute was an hour so he was gone, you know, 10 and a half hours a day. I was really stressed juggling, like in every area emotionally, sort of with this massive amount of needs that I felt like I could not meet. I really didn’t know what to do with my kids, you know, it’s like you have these babies, and there sort of is no direction – like what are we going to do? I had ideas for certain schedules, you know, but they don’t ever follow the schedule. So we did like the library programs, we signed up for classes and because that’s sort of what I thought that everyone else was doing. And we signed up for library classes and swim and music class. And it was expensive and also so difficult to manage. You know, I’m trying to pack up for three kids and they’re all in diapers and they’re all nursing. And it was such a monumental effort to get them to the swim class or to get them to the library program and to sit through it for 45 minutes. And I felt like every day, you know, by 11am, I was so exhausted and sort of done. And you know, I’d have seven hours until my husband came home. So I just, you know, I wanted so badly to enjoy those early years, and I was drowning. And so what happened for me was I had a friend from church who I was planning on homeschooling her kids, so she was starting her research because her kids were a little older than mine. And she came across this educator who didn’t even have children of her own, and from like, you know, right around like 1900, a long time ago. Her name is Charlotte Mason, and she has like these volumes written about education and children and family and parenting. She was, like, prolific and these ideas that you had way back then, lot of them hold true today. They’re like research based. So one of her ideas was that kids should spend four to six hours outside a day on any tolerable day. So obviously, in Alaska, it’s not going to be every day. We’re in Michigan –

Amy Bushatz 6:14

Michigan, it’s not every day either.

Ginny Yurich 6:18

And so my friend had said — You know, I want to try this out. And I, Amy, I just thought she was like, absurd. You know, I said — Well, what a silly idea, you know, what are kids going to do for four to six hours. This common sort of path of parenting, things last, like 45 minutes to an hour. If you sign your kid up for soccer, you know, everything is sort of in these smaller chunks of time.

Amy Bushatz 6:44

And not just that, like, if you sign up for soccer after 45 minutes, they’re done. You’re done. We’re all done.

Ginny Yurich 6:52

It’s done. It’s over. And so it seems to sort of be this modern way that we parent and to the point where I thought this idea was like completely ludicrous. You know? I mean, how is this really gonna work? So the life changing decision here was just saying yes to that. So she said — we’re going to meet at this park. Now it wasn’t a playground. You know, it was this flat open field. There was a creek that ran through and there were ducks. There’s a little bridge, and she says — Let’s try it. We’re going to meet from nine to one – pack a picnic. And I couldn’t wrap my mind around like — well, how is this gonna go like, we don’t have anything for them to do. You know, should I be bringing things? I just brought a picnic lunch, I brought a picnic blanket. I had, you know, a two year old, a one year old, and a nursing baby. And she had somewhat similar, her kids were a little older. And what happened was, I sat on a picnic blanket for four hours with my nursing baby and had a conversation with my friend and the kids just ran around and played. And my mind was blown. Because I didn’t leave exhausted, you know, I left refreshed. And it was my first experience of that kind where something worked. And so, you know, at the very beginning, it was just for myself, you know — how do I get through these expansive days with these young kids? And very quickly, and within weeks, you know, I started to notice that my kids were like, more coordinated. And they were just developing rapidly. And, you know, putting two and two together with this time outside, we were getting together like three days a week. It worked out so well that we’re like — let’s do this three days a week, we’re going to meet up at different local parks, we can do little hikes. And we’re going to meet from nine to one and we bring our picnic and so you know, we started doing it three days a week. And the differences developmentally in my kids are substantial. And so in time, you know, I came across – there’s so much research about and so many books like Richard Loup has Last Child in the Woods and Angela Hanscom has Barefoot and Balanced. And there’s so many about play and, and all these fabulous books and and it’s good for adults too. So we kind of changed our whole lifestyle and it was fabulous. We’re all thriving, right? And we were doing it for about two years and just never running into other kids. And when I say never, it’s not an exaggeration, you know, occasionally at a playground kids would come and go, but like out on the hiking trails and we live sort of in the Metro Detroit area. It’s very populated. We’ve moved out into the country a little bit at this point, but, you know, back then we were sort of in total suburbia, so these parks were not anywhere on the outskirts. They’re five minutes from people’s homes or it’s very close, and just never running into other children. And so I am a math major, I don’t even know what made me think to add up how much time we were spending outside. But I’m like — well add it up. If we’re doing these like four hours, three days a week. And you know, some time on the weekends, we were getting about 18 to 20 hours outside every week, so I added it up and it was 1200 hours a year. And I happened to right around the same time see that that was the average amount of time that kids spend on screens every year, it’s about 1200 hours. And so what hit me the most was not that, you know, screens are evil. Screens definitely have a great use and they’re helpful for so many things. But what I realized was kids are losing out on so many experiences. You know, that the 1200 hours in a year is like this depth and breadth of experience, you know, of these relationship-building things, of these things that honor my kids’ development and help me thrive as a mother and help me be present. You know, you can’t even really put into words how many memories you build in 1200 hours in a year. And so that was sort of the impetus to the blog and the movement, which I call 1000 Hours Outside because it’s a little catchy or, I don’t know, it gives people a little more leeway, too, 1200 hours versus 1000.

So the point is that if we have this time to spend and we have it going to screens, what would life look like if we flip flopped a bit? It’s really the simplest thing. It’s about being intentional with our time, knowing that there are academic, emotional, social, you know, and physical benefits. And it’s extremely good ones when we take our kids outside to play, so that was sort of the start of it. It’s been around since 2013. It has waxed and waned, we’ve had more kids and moved, ahd job changes, and the like. But over the last 18 months, we have been able to put a little more time into it and, and people are doing it all over the world. There’s a little freedom in it, because you can revolve it around your own life. You know, everyone has hard seasons and, and we also have just different seasons based on the weather. And so here in Michigan, I mean, we’ll have days when we’re outside all day in the summer, eight to eight, you know, and in the winter, we might only get out for 20 minutes, or we might not get out at all. Or there’s days when the kids are sick, or there’s seasons where you have other evening commitments, you know, different sports things, or music, or the like. And so what’s been neat for me to see is how it looks so different from family to family, from location to location, but the benefits are still the same.

Amy Bushatz 13:23

Right? So, you know, I want to touch on two things. Because I think that in a pre-COVID world, people would have been like — well, I, you know, how do you possibly do that? How could your kids possibly be learning everything they need to learn, you know, in school enough and to also make this work? Well, I think one of the things that folks have learned while doing this sort of distance learning, or you could call it homeschooling, for their kids who are usually in school is that really, learning does not take the full eight hours that they’re in school. There’s just not enough work to do. The learning is a day long thing because other things are integrated in. And in your case, that’s going outside, right, like kids are excited. They’re not absorbing math for eight hours a day. They’re just not, right? It’s different. It doesn’t work the way you think it does in your mind. It’s more, it’s group activities. It’s group learning, right? That takes that long. And when you take kids out of that environment, and put them in front of books, well, the learning, you know, our school said — if your kids are learning for two and a half hours a day, that’s almost too much, right? Like don’t have them sitting in front of books doing book work that long. And of course, that depends on grade level and all that stuff. So all of that other good learning is just experiences. It’s getting outside doing stuff.

Ginny Yurich 14:47

I think that like, there is a huge misconception there in America, at least, for sure. I think that most people equate sitting with learning, you know, like you said worksheets or you know, listening to a teacher. There is a really good book by Carla Hanford and it’s called Smart Moves. Why learning is, is not all in your head. I don’t know if that’s the tagline. It’s something like that. She’s a PhD and her book is all about how movement and learning are intrinsically related. So she gives a stat, which is phenomenal. She says that elderly people who dance regularly, so we’re talking about complex movements, right? Elderly people who dance regularly have a 76% less chance of developing dementia. I mean, that’s a huge percentage. You know, if you could put that in a pill form, everyone would take that pill at 76% chance. So her whole book talks about how when we move into more complex movements, and this is what kids do naturally, right? They don’t just sit. They crawl and then they stand up and then they walk and then they jump, and then they run. And really, that continues all the way through high school, my nine year old just got a rip stick, which is like a skateboard with only two wheels. I don’t know, I can’t even stand up on the thing. And within a couple days, you know, his buddy had one, and within a couple of days, he’s going down the driveway, he loves it. So, you know, casting a fishing pole. These are all complex movements. And so as they become more complex, then it strengthens those brain connections and the brain becomes more efficient. And so, you know, learning is not necessarily about stuffing your mind full of facts. It’s about having an adaptable, quick working brain. So her book is fascinating.

Academically, outside time offers a lot to our kids. You know, learning is happening all the time. We went down to Florida. That’s what we do in February in Michigan, not every year, but we try to go most years. So my story has always been my sort of aha moment was when we went down to Florida. We start our kids reading a little later on than the school systems do. If they were interested, I would start younger, but our oldest was, you know, seven, seven and a half. And we started reading with him, and he caught on really quick. And he hadn’t been reading for very long at all. We went down to Florida, and we were at a nature center down there. And the worker was like, you know, watch out on this side of the building, there’s a certain type of snake. I don’t remember the name of the snake because I didn’t know what it was. But all of a sudden, my son would just start to learn how to read. He was eight years old. He starts like spouting off all these facts about that particular snake. He knew fast it moved, its habitat, and what it ate. I was like — Well, hold on. I don’t know any of this! It was eye opening to realize that kids learn, even when we don’t realize they’re learning, and all that learning counts. It doesn’t have to be the second grade standards, the third grade standards, you know, sometimes they gain all this information from their environment, from things they’re interested in. And that becomes a part of them, you know, things that they know forever. Whereas some of the other book learning is just to jump through the hoops or check the boxes and you don’t remember it, you know, years down the road. So, you know, I think parents are learning the value of baking bread and, you know, sort of, that’s what we’ve lost is the value of downtime and knowing that there’s value in these hands on things that we do, and there’s a lot of value.

Amy Bushatz 18:54

I think, you know, you kind of just answered my next question, which was, you notice that your kids were improving – I use that word sort of loosely. Like it’s not like current problems that just – developing I guess would be a better word – developing in leaps and bounds by spending all this time outside while you’re, you know, cooling your heels with your friend, right? So everyone’s having a very pleasant experience. And I’ve totally been there, carting my kids around. I guess I’ll backtrack a second to say, if you don’t homeschool, you may not be aware of the pressure there and even in that community to do Co-Op and this and that and music and pool and all of this stuff. It’s just so overwhelming. For the little bit I homeschooled, my kid was in kindergarten, I mean, kindergarten, I felt like I was spending about 4000 times more time carting him hither and thither this only gonna, you know, get worse. He’s 5! But I see these friends whose kids are in high school doing the same thing. So, um, you know, it’s just it gets crazy out there.

I’m wondering why you think outside has this developmental quality that you can’t replicate somewhere else, even with all of the insane activities that we try to stuff into the periphery of our day?

Ginny Yurich 20:18

Everybody comes at it from the basis of wanting the best for their kids. And the problem is, I don’t think we have the right information. And that may go back to even just a money thing, which is like, you know, nature things, for the most part are free. You may pay, you know, in our state, it costs $10 for the whole year to get into every single state park. I mean, there’s not a lot of money there. Whereas, you know, people who offer these cool programs, bilingual or, you know, they’re going to advertise and they do have merit, but then the problem is you have all these different voices that are saying — take this, take that, you know, you don’t want your kid to be behind. We want the best for our kids. But as it turns out, nature play – and this is like all the way through life really. I mean, it’s not even just in childhood, but this time in nature, it hits every facet of development. And it’s a very lengthy conversation. I mean, movement is one piece of it, you know, the fine motor and large motor, the gross motor, you know, that’s another component. So if we want our kids to be able to write, they have to be able to have good writing posture. And so their shoulder has to be strong and their core has to be strong to be able to sit up and they have to have good fine motor skills. And so, outside time naturally develops that. Kids hang from branches and they’re using their fingers and they’re grasping at small things. Eyesight is a component. We think about vision as 20/20, nearsighted, farsighted, but our ability to use our eyes together helps with reading, it helps with tracking words on a page. And so when kids are successful in those early literacy skills, that’s going to help them for the rest of their life. It sets them up to be successful.

And so even babies, you know, if we put them in a little carrier, a little wrap or a baby carrier, we take them for a walk with every step, they’re adjusting their eyesight because there’s a little bit of up and down motion. And so these experiences outside are helping our kids’ eyes work well together. And then the more senses you engage, the more you’re learning. So if you go outside, you’re engaging all of your senses. You’ve got the auditory things going on with sort of the different noises that are surround sound. You’ve got the breeze, you’ve got things that you can touch and taste and smell and see and there’s variety. It’s different, even if it’s only in your backyard, you know, or on your porch.

So, you know, academically, there’s this really cool quote by John Holt. And he says, it’s something like if you are living energetically, you know, and if you are living well, you know, you’re learning, even if we don’t know what it is. And so it’s sort of like embracing a little bit of that unknown, and being okay that it’s not quite so linear. Here, I’m going to read it. I’ve got it here – it says, “Living is learning. And when children are living fully, and energetically and happily, they’re learning a lot, even if we don’t always know what it is.” So that’s been my experience. It’s like the experience with the snake. I was like — Well, my child has been learning things. And I didn’t even know that he was learning such and such. But he still has been learning and it sort of contributes to this whole person. Academically, you know, and that seems to be one of the biggest concerns for parents is, you know, how kids are doing academically. And so this really sets kids apart. And so in so many ways, you know, from the compact movements to the things that they can learn through nature. There’s so much.

Amy Bushatz 24:27

I think it’s all about balance, too. We’re not saying go outside in lieu of actually, you know, learning to read. We’re saying — pair these things together. We’re not saying don’t learn to swim at a class, we’re saying learn to swim and then take it to the pond.

Ginny Yurich 24:42

Sure, sure. Yeah. Or that, you know, knowing that it’s an enhancer. You know, the nature should have enhanced his ability. It. It sets kids up to be successful, maybe so they don’t struggle quite as much. We did square foot gardening this year, it’s our first time doing a garden. And, and so we have these raised garden beds that are eight by four. And you know, we talk about area and perimeter all the time in math that comes up like every year, and nobody remembers what it is. And like, we’ve talked about the zone any time so the perimeter is the rim, you know, when we said this garden bed, and they have 32 squares to figure out what they want to plant. And so it becomes a sort of multidisciplinary, you know, they’re learning math, they’re learning, you know, botany, you know, so it’s a science in there, they’re learning about the soil. There’s so much depth to it, you know, in terms of how nature time helps kids with academics. And I think as they get older, they tend to specialize in things that they’re interested in. You know, if one is interested in farming, well there’s a whole whole lot you can learn about farming and if one is interested in right or rock hunting or if one is interested in geocaching. It’s not going to be a checkbox on your report card. And so I think as a parent, you have to know that it’s still valuable even though it’s not part of that linear, you know process of, of compulsory education.

Amy Bushatz 26:35

I want to talk a little bit about the practicalities of this. So you have a couple of trackers on your website – do you encourage people to track this daily or how do you encourage people to hit the goal if they are as goal oriented as I am?

Ginny Yurich 27:34

Yeah, I do encourage people to track it daily. We have ours up on our fridge and I think people just sort of have it in a place where they walk in the house. And it is really an out of the box thing, you know. In the 80s or the 90s, no one was tracking their time outside because everybody was doing it. You know, kids are playing outside after school until dinner and things weren’t quite so busy. We’ve been doing this since 2011. It’s so easy to lose the time. There are so many things that we need to do just on a daily basis. And there are so many great opportunities out there. So what we have is at our house, we have our tracker, it’s up on our fridge, and it’s just something that we include the kids on, because their world is full of technology. And so this is modeling to them. That they should be intentional about hands on life and not having their faces in front of screens – and I think that when they become parents, technology will be even more prevalent. For example, we were at Costco the other day for the first time in a long time, because of the Coronavirus but they have these fridges out that have screens on the front you know full screen video.

Amy Bushatz 28:55

My 11 year old is really interested in having one of those, by the way. This will never be happening in his life, right? My eight year old is like, we went backpacking and he literally packed in a stick, his favorite stick from home. Okay, like, we’re backpacking, and he packs a stick and the backpacking was his idea. My 11 year old’s best life includes a hotel. So

Ginny Yurich 29:20

Yeah, yeah, everyone’s everyone’s got their thing.

There’s this thought that, you know, if you have an 11 year old, and we have an 11 year old as well, you know, they’re a decade away possibly from becoming a parent themselves. I think what we’re trying to do is to model balance for our kids, because we have such a screen pervasive society. And it wasn’t necessary, you know, decades ago. But now, first of all, there’s like a slew of opportunities, and good ones, of things that could take up our time and also there’s a lot of screen pressure. And, and screens are, you know, the companies make them so they’re a little bit addicting and that sort of thing. So we’re up against a lot. So we have our tracker sheet out, even though I am so fully aware of the benefits and have been doing this for, you know, nine years, I still have to have a goal. Otherwise, the time slips away. And it’s just one of those things that’s too important to miss. And I think the yearly goal, it gives parents breathing room for, you know — the biggest question is, well, what about winter? You know, and I get it, you know, like, I don’t want to go stand out in the frigid cold. I mean, there is that whole thing about there’s no such thing as bad weather, but I kind of disagree.

Amy Bushatz 30:54

I mean, like if you have enough jackets, right? I even say it like there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. But I do agree with you that that only goes to a point. I am going to go outside no matter what every single day for at least 20 consecutive minutes but I would be a big old liar if I said that at 19 minutes I wasn’t standing in my driveway waiting for the 20th minute to hit on the days where we have, you know, sub zero temperatures and 60 mile an hour winds, which by the way is not an exaggeration whatsoever. That happens and my jacket is very very warm and I kick myself every time I put it on for not buying it sooner.

Ginny Yurich 31:39

Maybe there’s less to do, like if you have a little one and the snow is deep. If you’re wanting to get outside and you’re wanting to get outside – Charlotte Mason she’s old like she’s she’s you know dead and gone. But there is research that backs those timeframes. So Angela Hanscom has her book, it’s called Barefoot and Balanced. She’s a pediatric occupational therapist. And so, you know, she’s saying that kids are presenting with a lot of difficulties. And that it’s solely stemming from missing this nature play. And so, you know, she talks about, I mean, it’s extensive. I mean, she says for, you know, for like preschoolers that should be six to eight hours of free play a day, ideally outside. But they should just have so much play. And it goes on through, and the smallest amount of time is for high schoolers, but it’s still like three to four hours, you know, they show they still should be getting downtime. And it’s research backed. So, you know, anecdotally you see it as well, I saw it with my own kids. But the research definitely points to the fact that kids need hours of movement and hours of sort of that time when they’re directing their own time. And it’s just really easy to not have the time if you don’t prioritize it.

Amy Bushatz 33:04

So, I mean, legitimately, what about winter? Do you make up your you know, because there are bad days, there are days that you’re sick.

Ginny Yurich 33:11

Yeah. So we don’t go outside every single day. And, and that’s sort of how we started. We started by picking like the three best days of the week. We kind of revolve our life around the weather, which is different than how other people live, I think. And it’s not how we were living before. You know, you have your, like, Tuesday night is this and Wednesday night is Awana, and Thursday night is, you know. Whereas all of a sudden, they started to change and say — well, Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday look great this week. You know, we can go strawberry picking, or we can go sledding, or depending on the season. And so, you know, we’re trying to pick the optimal times to go out, you know, working with the seasons, and knowing that, you know, there’s going to be spring, summer, and fall days where we’re out for eight hours. And maybe in the winter, we were only out for one, or there’s going to be a week in the winter where everyone has the flu and we don’t go out at all. So the year long goal really works pretty well.

Amy Bushatz 34:13

You have a year to make the time.

Ginny Yurich 34:15

You do and you embrace the different seasons. And so we’ve been trying to do that a little more with winter. Like, you know, cooking, having a bonfire out in the winter is a fun thing, or, you know, just the snow type things are actually really fun. But, you know, they’re like you said they’re not fun in sub-zero temperatures.

Amy Bushatz 34:32

No. And, you know, I find the other thing is that like, the fact that I’ve made this goal of going outside has necessitated, I find something to do outside and so yeah, I have a lot of outdoor winter hobbies that we never had before. Now I’m keenly aware of my privilege in that too, because I can afford to go buy skis for my family, right which a lot of people feel like they can’t do or feel like they can’t do or don’t want to do or whatever, right like so I’m very aware of that. I have a privilege, we’re a military family. And our base has a downhill ski area that is affordable and we can afford season passes to it because they are very, very inexpensive. Whereas downhill skiing is famously a rich person sport because it’s so expensive to go.

Ginny Yurich 35:19

We have never gone. We’ve got five kids, we’ve never, I don’t think we’ll ever go.

Amy Bushatz 35:25

But you know, this coming year, we’ve decided that – I mean, it’s, it’s the middle of summer when we’re recording this. We’re already thinking about winter. Talk about Alaska life. But this coming winter, we’ve decided that instead of downhill skiing, we’re going to do a more accessible version, which is in our area, cross country skiing. It doesn’t require a long drive. We’ll be signing my kids up for the cross country ski team which is done through the school. It will be very affordable. Actually fun Alaska fact for my listeners, you know, I love this. A good portion of the US Olympic team for cross country skiing comes from this part of Alaska and they train not terribly far from my house. And so that’s really, really cool. Right? But like, these are things that we never would have done if we weren’t trying to be outside.

Ginny Yurich 36:17

In the winter, you have to be creative. And I think, you know, life is fluid. I think that all of these things are worthwhile to teach our kids which is, which is okay, you know, this is something important. You know, how can we make it happen, or as kids get older, you know, you can’t take a three year old cross country skiing, but when you have an 11 year old, you know, you’re sort of always adapting. I think that that journey of life and showing kids that we adapt, and we change, and we change to the seasons, and, you know, is a valuable lesson for them because their life is not going to be static. They’re going to have all these changes and things that come up. And so, you know, we’re modeling stuff so much for our kids when we model like what you said, you know, thinking ahead and trying to figure it out and, and having things that we value and in working our way around those values.

Amy Bushatz 37:12

Right. And you can take a three year old cross country skiing, by the way. You may not want to, and it may not be that fun, but it can be done.

Ginny Yurich 37:19

That’s amazing. They can actually do it?

Amy Bushatz 37:23

Yeah, absolutely.

Ginny Yurich 37:24

Yes. I’ve seen that. I’ve seen 18 month olds doing downhill.

Amy Bushatz 37:32

That goes back to what you’re saying about that balance and about the movement. I mean, can you take 35 year old downhill skiing? Maybe not, but 18 month olds ski downhill. And I’m over here like — maybe not today, Amy. These little guys who’ve been just doing it since they have been old enough to stand are out there doing things that I can’t even imagine. It’s incredible. Okay, so one more practicality question. Are you using a stopwatch? Are you rounding up? Like how are you tracking?

Ginny Yurich 38:05

Okay, yeah, I do round. I don’t use a stopwatch. If we’re going somewhere, we tend to get there at, you know, if we’re going on a hike and we meet our friends at 1030 and we stayed till three. So, you know, I’m loose with it. I’m not going minute by minute. My daughter, who is 10, she’s really into it. She has a stopwatch. She carries it everywhere. She puts it like on the door. It’s magnetic. And so like, every time we go outside, she counts all the things. She seems a little obsessive with it. I’m actually concerned. Like, you don’t have to get every single minute, but it’s fun for her. She’s trying to, you know, see how many hours that she’s getting.

Amy Bushatz 38:56

As a minute counter, I endorse her actions.

Ginny Yurich 38:59

Yeah. Yeah, it’s a personality thing. It’s really even not necessarily about the number because, like I said, the number originally actually, for us was 1200. We talk about privilege, I’ve had parents who contact me and say — Well, look, I’m a single parent, and I only have my child for 50% of the time and what I can do is I can do 200 hours a year. And, and so it’s not, it’s not necessarily the exact number that it is research backed, you know, to a degree for kids development, but also life is life. And so, we have to take our situation and figure out – if outside time is too important for kids, how can we work it in, in a way that works and in a way that is doable? Time itself is really you know, the biggest factor there. Some people have more than others and that’s just the truth, you know. People have different work situations and different custody situations and all of those different things.

Amy Bushatz 40:12

It’s not so much about the 1000 hours, although, as you said, it’s research backed. It’s about making spending time outside a priority, a part of your lifestyle, something that you donate your time to, in a way.

Ginny Yurich 40:30

Right. It’s a choice, and it’s about valuing that because the benefits are so great both for our kids and for us. And then also, you know, for relationships as a whole. We have these sort of foundational memories together and foundational experiences, so you can’t really get more bang for your buck than like the simplicity of nature time.

Amy Bushatz 40:55

Absolutely. Absolutely. Okay, so, give me a couple of bits of advice for people who want to get started on this. Is it as simple as going outside right now?

Ginny Yurich 41:05

Well, you know, that was my experience. I was just trying it one time, because I had no idea, it was so sort of out of the realm of normalcy and what we did. So, you know, my advice number one would be to try it. It would be to take one day where you could go outside for three or four hours and to pack the food and and to try it and to see what happens. I think friends are helpful. I always say the three things that you need are food, friends, and a first aid kit. You know, if you’re sort of nervous about trying a long day outside, invite a friend along and that always helps. I think hiking is a good first, like trial run, like if you can find a mile hike or a mile and a half hike. A loop you know, that has a beginning and an end and you just kind of follow the child’s lead and you bring snacks or a stroller or or whatever, you know. Our hikes are always fairly successful. The kids like the movement. They like to find the fallen trees that they can climb on and you know, they find interesting things. So, but really it’s about I think trying it once or twice and you know, it looks different for every family. It looks different for different locations, but the value is there, you know, no matter if you’re in the desert or you’re in you know, in the mountains.

Amy Bushatz 42:40

And always bring snacks.

Ginny Yurich 42:42

Always have food, food and water. The first aid kit is important, too. Friends, too. If we’re on a hike, you know, I think friends are important for a lot of reasons. It obviously is great for kids’ social skills, you know, but then it’s just good for safety as well. Right, now we’ve got another adult there. The kids do better when they have friends there.

Amy Bushatz 43:11

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the motivation level I’ve seen of children after meeting their friend on the trail.You know, one moment — I die! I perish! The next moment — Oh, what’s up?

Ginny Yurich 43:24

Yeah, sure. And really, that’s how we’ve always done it. It’s never, you know, for the most part, it’s never been just our family. We’ve always been with other people. So yeah, it’s great.

Amy Bushatz 43:35

Yeah, for sure. So we’ve come to a part of our show, although I really could talk to you for the rest of the day, ut you want to get outside and so do I, where we talk about just some of our favorite things that make our lives easier. So tell me what is your favorite outdoor gear?

Ginny Yurich 43:50

It’s such a good question. I feel like we’re very simple. So water bottles. You know, we have like the contigo water bottles. Is that like a silly answer? Or like a Klean Kanteen? You know, just like those – I don’t know if they’re aluminum, whatever they are – insulated water bottles, and because we always need water bottles and a good backpack.

Amy Bushatz 44:22

What kind of backpacks do you like for your kids?

Ginny Yurich 44:27

They’ve got Osprey backpacks. I mean, someone’s got an REI backpack, we’ve got five kids. We’ve done whatever we can find on sale. Yeah, you know one thing I like that a couple you know, a couple spots for little pockets they can see.

Amy Bushatz 44:41

But we’re talking about an outdoor backpack.

Ginny Yurich 44:43

Yeah, an outdoor thing, not a school backpack. More rugged

Amy Bushatz 44:45

Meaning it’s a little rugged. It’s got a nice water bottle spot instead of just like — where’s this water bottle supposed to go? Which is the conversation I had with myself over the school backpack my kid grabbed the other day to go on a hike.

Ginny Yurich 45:04

We don’t have a ton of outdoor gear. You know, we basically have this is like the silliest answer, we basically have stuff for food and water. So we did buy a Yeti cooler a couple years ago because my coolers are always getting ruined. So we have like, you know receptacles for food and water. And then food and water. And backpacks. And that’s it.

Amy Bushatz 45:30

So that’s your and your most essential at the same time!

Ginny Yurich 45:34

Because we really don’t need much. I mean, we don’t do anything really exceptional. I mean, it’d be cool if we were like rock climbers or, but we haven’t ventured into any of that.

Amy Bushatz 45:45

Yeah, it’s all it’s all good. It’s all good. I had somebody on the podcast once who told us their most essential gear was snacks, someone else who said it was a good attitude. All good things.

So final thing: if you close your eyes and picture your, you know, favorite outdoor moment, where are you and what are you doing?

Ginny Yurich 46:09

These are such tricky questions, I think because we have, you know, 1000 hours a year since we started. I’m definitely a water girl. I would definitely say, you know, those waterfall hikes, riding the waterfalls, and the kids sort of jumping off the big rocks into pools of water below. And I like to bring down rivers. So I’m a water girl, you know, any time we’re around water. Those are some of my favorites. But honestly, it’s like I’ve never had an outdoor experience even if it’s just in our yard, in the most simple place, that I have regretted doing. Because you always see something cool. There’s always sort of something. It’s so random. It’s like going to the thrift shop, you know, you don’t know what you’re going to find. But then you know, you’re going to find something.

Amy Bushatz 47:04

Ginny, thank you so much for being on the Humans Outside Podcast today. I appreciate your time.

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