collage of images including line sketches of mountains and tall pine trees, a stop watch, and pictures of children exploring nature
1000 Hours Outside typography

with Ginny Yurich

I’m Ginny Yurich, the founder of a global movement called 1000 Hours Outside. This movement aims to bring back balance between virtual life and real life in childhood and beyond. But mostly I am a mother. We have five kids, from ages seven to fifteen, and we live in the Great Lakes state, also known as “the land of the hand,” or simply, Michigan.
a heavily pregnant woman wearing a sweater and black shirt and lays on a couch holding her hand to her head as a young girl sits beside and looking at the woman while holding a small plastic case

My Story


was convinced that I was going to be a fantastic mother. That was my plan. And right before we had our first child, I remember having this brief thought about how we were going to fill our days.

Most of my friends already had kids, and many of them scheduled their days. You know… eat, activity, sleep in two-hour time chunk increments. So I thought, “Oh, I can do this!” I had it all planned out.

a heavily pregnant woman wearing a sweater and black shirt and lays on a couch holding her hand to her head as a young girl sits beside and looking at the woman while holding a small plastic case
8:00 a.m.
Eat, read books, sleep. (While the baby sleeps I’ll prep an organic, home-cooked dinner.)
10:00 a.m.

Eat, go for a walk, sleep. (While the baby sleeps, I’ll do the laundry.)

… you get the picture.

I was all set. I was going to be so good at this… And then my son came.

After my husband left for work a few days after he was born, I thought, “I’m ready for my eight o’clock time block.” But then he got up four hours earlier and basically never went back to bed, ever. He just ate the whole time.

Even the lactation consultant at the hospital called my son “a ferocious eater.” I thought, “How could she even know that? He’s two hours old.” But she did know. He ended up being taller than me from the time he was ten.

Despite my dream of being a fantastic mother, I was a mess from the beginning. Before I knew it we had three under three, and I felt like I was drowning.

three little boys stand at the side of a stream, leaning close to look at the contents just below the surface
a little boy leans back looking at a smiling young girl sitting on grass behind him, an adult hand holds his off camera

I wanted to love being a mom.
But I didn’t. I just struggled.

I ended up signing up for all these programs because that’s what everybody else did. So we’d go to the library or the swim class and it was just so much work. With a bag full of diapers and extra clothes, I’d find myself trying to hold the library bag and get everybody buckled in the car. And when we would get there, they’d cry. They didn’t even do the craft, and they didn’t want to listen to the story. They’d be fighting over the toys. And then we would go home. Exhausted.

And it was only 11:00 a.m. When was my husband coming home?

Every week I went to MOPS (now MOM CO). It was a place where I made some enduring friendships. I loved it. I loved that there was childcare. Of course, my kids were always crying, and they’d bring them back to me. Anyone else relate?

So I’m sitting at my table with my crying kids and my friend shares how she had been doing some educational research. She told me, “Hey, Charlotte Mason says kids should be outside for four to six hours a day whenever the weather is tolerable.”

Everything we’d done was more like forty minutes TOPS—homemade playdough that ended up all over the floor, the sensory bin that took longer to set it up than the amount of time they actually played with it.

I didn’t know who Charlotte Mason was. My friend didn’t tell me she was from the 1800s. (A detail she should’ve inserted, right?) My friend asked, “Will you try it?”

“The average American child spends around four to seven minutes a day in free play but four to seven hours on a screen.”

At first I thought, we are not trying that. But you know, you want to have friends, so when she invited me to the park I accepted. I had a three-year-old, a one-year-old, and a baby in my arms… and we made plans to go to a park for four hours.

This was not a playground—it had actual grass. My friend told me to not bring anything but a picnic and a blanket. What? What about the toys? Crafts? Books? What are they going to do for four hours?

So I showed up that morning and then something crazy happened. The kids just played. And I now tell people it was the best day of my life. It was the first good day I had as a mom. The first one. Because they played, and I was able to truly exhale and let it all go. My blood pressure dropped. Mother Nature mothered me. I got to have an actual conversation with a friend where we even finished most of our sentences. The kids came and went to get snacks or lunch and we had our babies that nursed and slept and looked at the trees—and we all felt good.

At the end of those four hours, we went home. The kids fell asleep in the car, and I just drove around for a while. And then all of a sudden, it was almost time for my husband to be home. I’d survived and thrived.

So we immediately changed how we were living our life. It was really just for me at the beginning because I thought, “Oh my gosh, we finally had a good day! And if I’m more present, I’m more peaceful. This is going to be better for our family.”

What I noticed very quickly was that our kids were thriving, eating and sleeping better, happier, and getting along better.

This took me down a path of learning. I discovered that when we take our kids outside, it helps them in every facet of their development—cognitive, physical, emotional, and social. And it helps us too. What a simple, yet incredible thing.

a little boy holds an object to another little boys face while both are out exploring a leafy area
The Power of Time Outside

The average American child spends around four to seven minutes a day in free play but four to seven hours on a screen. And this is affecting development as well as quality of life. There are so many benefits of getting children outside and more become evident as we continue to study children and outdoor time. You can gain more and do less with nature time.

1. Time outside helps our children’s brains.

Complex movement enhances and protects brain function. Carla Hannaford has been on our top-ranked podcast, The 1000 Hours Outside Podcast, twice. She is a Ph.D. in her eighties but didn’t learn to read until she was ten years old—she shares it didn’t really matter back when she was a kid. Isn’t that awesome? She wrote a book called Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head.

Carla explains that when we move in complex ways, it increases the function of our brain—all that neural wiring. One statistic says elderly people who dance regularly decrease their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by 76%. And those who play a musical instrument decrease the risk by 69%. That’s huge! They are doing complex movements… and what do kids naturally do? If you just let them be, they do all sorts of complex movements all on their own! (Have you ever heard your children yell, “Watch me, Mom! Watch me, Mom!”?)

As they get older, those movements just change: shooting hoops or trying to do trick shots, riding their bikes or skateboards. They continue along with these complex movements, and it is enhancing and protecting their brain function.

2. Time outside helps with social skills.
In Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne explains that the primary predictor of success and happiness in life is how well we get along with others.

So what happens when we go outside? Kids are intrinsically motivated to play. They want to keep playing, and so they learn how to get along with others, how to negotiate, and how to compromise. They’re making something out of nothing. It is phenomenal.

two young girls and a young boy look closely at a large snail on a tree branch
two young boys look up at a strong tall tree vine with large leaves

We had a little baseball field near us when I was growing up. We would show up and there’d be sometimes six kids or ten kids or three kids around. We would have to figure out who would be the pitcher. How would we do the outfield thing? Would someone switch on and off if the teams were uneven? We would come up with an elaborate set of rules. And if someone went home because they’d gotten hurt, all that hard work was gone. Poof! Vanished!

So if the eight-year-old slams into the five-year-old running into second base and he cries and goes home, all that work put into figuring out the rules is done. There’s research that shows that kids hardly ever get injured playing pickup games of sports.

Why? Because kids are intrinsically motivated to keep playing.

In environments of play, and especially mixed-age play, kids are learning so much. Can you see how that would translate to a boardroom? You can’t be overbearing, but you also can’t stand back too much. You have to be able to learn where you use your voice and how much effort to put forth, how to negotiate and compromise and keep everyone engaged. It’s a huge set of skills that kids are learning.

3. Time outside helps with emotional and physical well-being.
When talking about our emotional development we need to know that even just looking at nature is calming for people. We need a little calming, don’t we? Life is hard, full of rough edges for all of us. Nature gives us time to unwind, to refresh.

Take your kids outside in the morning for a twenty-minute walk. Even if it’s cloudy, even if it’s gray outside, that exposure to natural light from the sun will trigger a release of serotonin. Serotonin is what makes you feel good and we all need that in the morning, right? Later that evening, the serotonin turns into melatonin which helps kids fall asleep. That makes happy kids in the morning and sleepy kids at night. Yay nature!!

illustration of mountains

Physically, being outside moving improves eyesight, regulates internal body rhythms, and helps move “junk” through the lymphatic system. It also helps stretch ligaments, increases bone density, and so much more!

For example, Katy Bowman, a biomechanist, says osteoporosis is a childhood disease that shows up in adulthood. Why? Because kids are supposed to jump and land and jump and land. They start out small, like jumping off the curb. They jump and land and jump and land. Then they climb up on the stump, and they jump and land. They keep climbing up on things that are higher. And every time there’s impact with the ground they’re building their bone structure.

Dr. Jacob Liberman puts it this way: 75% of the sunlight goes straight to the “chairman of the board” of your brain. That part of your brain, the hypothalamus, controls all your life-sustaining functions including the nervous system. It controls your immune system. It’s the major collecting station for information throughout the body. It collects your emotions. It is the initiator of our stress response.

And that’s where sunlight goes. And then every cell in the body, at the same period of time, receives that message and then orchestrates its internal function so that it is synchronized with Mother Nature.

smartphone with the Homeschooling Boldly Podcast interface open to a Ginny Yurich interview
How much time?

According to Balanced and Barefoot by Angela Hanscom, toddlers and preschoolers need five to eight hours outside each day. School age kids? Four to five hours. Teens? Get them outside. This parenting strategy works all the way through.

In all these things, alongside all these benefits, cognitive, physical, emotional, and social—we also weave together this foundation of memories that we all share. Any time you have a novel experience, it expands your sense of time. And that’s what nature is. It’s one novel experience after another.

And I tell you what, we are celebrating real life. We’re teaching our kids that hands-on moments are a worthy use of time. We have the obligation to pass on what analog experiences feel like. There is a lot that can distract us from the amazing life that’s around us so let’s teach our kids and remind ourselves that extraordinary moments often happen on ordinary paths.

See you outside!

paw print
Ginny script
smartphone with the Homeschooling Boldly Podcast interface open to a Ginny Yurich interview
headshot of Ginny Yurich

inny Yurich is a Michigan homeschooling mother of five and the founder and CEO of 1000 Hours Outside; a global movement, media company and lifestyle brand with a mission centered around reclaiming childhood, reconnecting families and helping people live a fuller life.

She is the host and producer of the extremely popular The 1000 Hours Outside Podcast, a keynote public speaker, zinnia enthusiast and published author. Her latest best-selling book, Until The Streetlights Come On (Baker Books), was released in November 2023.

Holding a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Michigan, Ginny and her husband, Josh, have been married for over 20 years and are lifelong Michiganders. They love raising their five children in “The Great Lakes State.”