German kids have to go outside for an hour every day.
One hour. Every day.
I may have misunderstood biology class but I think it has something to do with photosynthesis, like Germans have more chlorophyll than everyone else. Also I’m pretty sure it’s part of the Grundgesetz (German constitution). Germans don’t even question this. It’s a total normal part of raising kids in Germany, like feeding them, clothing them and regretting having them.
Back when my kids were little, if it started getting late in the day and they hadn’t been outside, my German wife would start getting panicky as if she were Cinderella and it was 11: 59 p.m. (that’s 23:59 to Germans).
“Hase, meinst du, du kannst mit den nur eine Stunde um den Block gehen?” she would ask (“Honey, do you think you can walk around the block with them for an hour?”). And I would, because I’m always worried she’ll see her mistake in marrying me so I try to keep her happy.
Also: I didn’t want to see my kids turn into pumpkins.
My kids and I would always end up on one of two playgrounds, swinging and sliding in blackness with a few other dads.
“Married a German?” we’d ask each other.
Parenting like a German
I sound like I’m deriding it here but I’m not: Kids do need to be outside for an hour every day, regardless of the weather. It seems to air out their tiny brains. It’s like rebooting them after you opened too many windows in their browser inside. It’s such an obvious truth that they’re trying to institute it in America now too, via our equivalent to the German constitution: Professional football.
The must-go-outside thing doesn’t stop when kids go to daycare either. German daycare teachers are expected to make sure the kids get their hour of sunlight per day too. And daycare teachers are happy to oblige because they know a secret: Kids are way easier to deal with when they’re outside. Especially when they’re outside and on the far side of the playground.
This often leads to two or three hours of outside time for daycare kids every day, which ingratiates the teachers even more to the parents and allows the teachers even more time to Snapchat.
Through this requirement I discovered that I do better with some outside time every day too. Maybe I got some chlorophyll with my German DNA.