Enabling Environments

Hygge in the early years – What it is and how to do it

  • Hygge in the early years – What it is and how to do it

Christina Law shares how Sandhills Day Nursery in Wolverhampton has created a hygge environment in its setting…

Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish concept that focuses on finding wellbeing by enjoying the comforts of everyday routines.

It’s an art of creating feelings of cosiness, happiness, familiarity, simplicity, comfort and anything else 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 you to create a home-from-home feeling. In turn, this helps to create a sense of security and wellbeing that enables 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 discovered a positive effect on children’s behaviour. The calming atmosphere allows for increased engagement and focus on their own interests in play. It also promotes self-confidence. Peaceful play helps children to manage their emotions.

The core elements

In order to create the hygge approach in an early years setting, consider the ten core elements highlighted by Meik Wiking (author of The Little Book of Hygge). You can achieve these through careful changes to the children’s environment and the way you 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, we place the emphasis on ensuring there is a calm, relaxing and warm environment. This is also reflected in the interactions that practitioners have with 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. We rarely use the indoor lighting as there are twinkly lights on to soften the atmosphere.

We’ve carefully designed each room to incorporate a homely feel. Cosy corners provide a space for reflection or reading time. There’s minimal clutter in the rooms to promote a relaxing learning play space.

Careful planning

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. We use these 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. Our young learners are 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.

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

Incorporating hygge at home

As an Early Years practitioner or parent, you can incorporate hygge 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 softer lighting at home and create cosy areas to relax in.

Reading to children is beneficial in reducing stress. It improves children’s 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. We’ve long overlooked wellbeing. It 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.