Enabling Environments

Hygge in the early years

  • Hygge in the early years

Christina Law shares how Sandhills Day Nursery in Wolverhampton have created a hygge environment in their setting…

Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish concept that focuses on finding wellbeing by enjoying the comforts in everyday routines and all that’s around you.

It’s an art of creating feelings of cosiness, happiness, familiarity, simplicity, comfort and anything that brings that warm feeling of contentment. It could be the simple act of lighting a candle, snuggling under a blanket, or sipping tea by the fire when it’s cold outside. 

Adding hygge to early years settings

Applying the concept of hygge within early years settings allows for a home-from-home feeling to emanate. In turn, it helps to create a sense of security and wellbeing that enables the children to feel calm and relaxed, and to explore and investigate with confidence. 

Focusing on children’s wellbeing is fundamental for their development and continuing progress. Nurseries adopting a hygge approach have found a positive effect on children’s behaviour as the calming atmosphere allows for increased engagement and focus on their own interests in play, and promoting self-confidence and peaceful play helps to children to manage emotions.

The core elements

In order to create the hygge approach in an early years setting, consider the 10 core elements highlighted by Meik Wiking (author of The Little Book of Hygge). These are achieved through careful changes to the children’s environment and the way we approach learning: 

  • Atmosphere – creating a cosy and relaxing, homely atmosphere
  • Presence – focusing on their current interests in the present moment
  • Pleasure – promoting happiness and wellbeing
  • Equality – respect for others
  • Togetherness – spending time with friends and family
  • Gratitude – taking time to reflect and talk about what they are grateful for
  • Harmony – enjoying playing together and not focusing on competitiveness
  • Truce – learning to manage conflict and share experiences
  • Comfort – a relaxing and comfortable environment
  • Shelter – a space to relax

Hygge in practice

At many of our nurseries within The Old Station Nursery Group, we strive to create a hygge environment.

At our Sandhills, Wolverhampton nursery for example, the emphasis is placed on ensuring there is a calm, relaxing and warm environment and this is also reflected in the interactions that practitioners have with the children.

In teaching, hygge is about focusing on the process and not the end product. Practitioners focus on the children’s current interests and allow them time to explore, talk and investigate. 

There is calming music playing in the rooms along with calming scents. The indoor lighting is rarely used as there are twinkly lights on to soften the atmosphere. 

Each room has been carefully designed to incorporate a homely feel and cosy corners provide a space for reflection or reading time. There’s minimal clutter in the rooms to promote a relaxing learning play space. 

When we opened Sandhills, Wolverhampton we were able to design and incorporate the hygge approach from the beginning, from the careful planning of the nursery’s layout using natural furniture, to the warm, neutral colours of the walls.

Our rooms provide a cosy feeling with the use of cushions, rugs, soft blankets and lamps. Dens and teepee tents give the children opportunities to relax and snuggle down throughout the day.

Twinkly lights, LED candles and soft glow lamps provide an ambient atmosphere for the children to explore and investigate in. These are used alongside the natural light that shines through the large windows and doors.

We have calming zen/spa music playing throughout the day to enhance the relaxing atmosphere. Research has shown that music has a powerful and transformative effect – it can help to improve moods and reduce stress levels.

Music also contributes to better memory and cognitive skills and allows for children to build confidence and develop concentration skills.

We use essential oil diffusers that emit scents like orange, lavender and peppermint to create a calmer and relaxing atmosphere. Different smells can help to improve mood, stimulate olfactory memories and can have a holistic effect on the body. 

We change the essential oils to suit the season. For example, we have pumpkin spice around Halloween and cinnamon or clove for the Christmas period.

Enjoying the outdoors

Children’s interests are at the forefront of learning and they’re able to move activities around the room and to the outdoors. Hygge is all about enjoying the simple pleasures in life and the environment around us, so it’s important to enjoy the outdoors and to bring nature indoors. 

We take the children on nature walks and bring back natural resources such as fallen leaves, branches, feathers and flowers.

They also enjoy doing simple activities like baking, planting flowers and reading stories. We find that children progress and develop a lot better when they are given the time to practise their skills in their own time and as much as they want to. 

Incorporating hygge at home

Hygge can be incorporated at home, too. A lifestyle that helps celebrate and spread warmth and calm can be good not just for children but for everyone.

Create changes that help you feel happy and enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Start by enjoying your surroundings – do something as simple as going for a walk to enjoy what nature has to offer. Try to use more softer lighting at home and create cosy areas to relax in. 

Reading is beneficial in reducing stress and helps you bond with your child. It improves brain connectivity, vocabulary and comprehension, too. Remember to unwind and give yourself and your child time to reflect on the day and week. 

Hygge is a long-term investment in self-care and a commitment to providing warmth and happiness around you. Wellbeing has long been overlooked and should be the forefront of health and overall happiness; it’s a mindset to try to surround yourself with. Make the most of your precious moments and enjoy the simple things in life. 

Christina Law is the deputy nursery manager at Sandhills Wolverhampton, part of the Old Station Nursery Group.