By Kimberly Lawson

Your mental health and wellbeing matters and I remember when I was striving to be a successful early years practitioner I would attend courses, read books and reflect on my teaching daily in setting. Yet none of this had the impact I desired when I didn’t have the tools I needed to look after my own mental being and wellbeing.

In the early days of my teaching career everything used to be at such a fast pace, rushing from one activity to the next, never getting to know the children, having a daily lunch date with the laminator and creating a learning environment that ticked a box but didn't actually meet the children's learning needs. I used to spend so much time on evenings doing paper work that had little impact on the children, and this was all fuelled with sugary snacks and coffee. It left me feeling drained, anxious and fed up. 

For me everything changed during a summer of travelling when I discovered the Danish concept to improved wellbeing and happiness - Hygge. 

During my time in Scandinavia, I loved how every day was celebrated and I began to see that life wasn't something you squeezed in time for around a busy day at work. Instead, the day involved living life well and tuning into the simple moments that would bring happiness - and then planning more of this. 

hygge

Embracing hygge brings an increased calmness and balance into the day. It was when I started to prioritise my mental health and well-being that I was able to believe in myself and be an outstanding practitioner. Using it as a reminder to fix our own oxygen mask first which then equips us to look after those around us better. 

What is hygge?

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is a Danish concept that cannot be translated to one single word but encompasses a feeling of happiness, cosy contentment and well-being by enjoying the simple things in life. It feels unique to everyone. For example, taking the time to watch the dancing flame of a candle while sat sipping a hot mug of tea.  

hygge

Meik Wiking author of The Little Book of Hygge believes that there are 10 principles that must be considered to live a hygge lifestyle. These are:

Atmosphere 

Presence 

Pleasure 

Equality 

Togetherness

Gratitude 

Harmony 

Truce 

Comfort 

Shelter

(Principles taken from Wiking, M (2016) The Little Book of Hygge)

How to bring Hygge into the Early Years?

Many of the hygge principles could be applied to the way we teach too. 

I realised that the way we organise our learning environments is important to creating a calm setting.  Cosy areas to sit and read in, the interiors were all clutter free and decorated in neutral décor and furnished with warm textures. Lighting involved swapping to lamps and fairy lights in jars to give off a warm and inviting glow. Rather than the harsh tones from the over head lighting. 

hygge

Hygge and the Outdoors

We can be guilty of putting up barriers that stop us accessing nature when we have certain weather conditions like the rain. Yet the Scandinavians appreciate the importance of nature and that it offers us something wonderful and unique that we cannot experience inside. There is a richness and a diversity to what we can experience in nature as we go through the flow of the seasonal year and working outside can allow every area of our early years curriculum to be met. 

We know from extensive research that being in nature is good for our mental health and wellbeing by raising serotonin levels in the brain, improving happiness levels as well as allowing children to take risks and build resilience which all contributes to a healthy way of living. 

We can make sure as early educators that throughout our week there is a balance of adult led sessions held between the inside and outdoor environment to show that learning can happen anywhere. 

Here are a few ways to get outside in the rain

● Learn about the amazing work of beavers constructing dams and make a temporary one in a stream. 

● Go for a walk outside and look out for rain clouds. Perhaps even take a blanket outside and lay on a field looking up. 

● Create a problem that Teddy needs a waterproof den to stay dry in the rain. Explore how you can make this happen outside using a variety of den-making materials. You might want to include a clear plastic sheet and sit underneath it as it rains and watch the drops trickle down. 

● Learn about the parts of the world where it hardly ever rains and how some do a rain dance. Can you make up your own weather dance?

● Add rainy day clothing to your dramatic play centre and observe how children use this in their play. 

● Create a small world town that’s been flooded after too much rain. Talk about the devastation and how the people that live there might feel. 

● Go outside and measure the amount of rain we have each day this week and compare it 

● Explore re-creating the sound of the rain with rainmakers and other instruments. Sing songs about the rain, such as “Singing in the rain” and “It’s raining it’s pouring.” 

● Make boats out of junk modelling and see if they will float in a puddle 

● Books to explore together: Rhythm of Rain by Grahame Baker-Smith, Once Upon a Raindrop: The Story of Water by James Carter, The Rain Stomper by Addie Boswell, A River by Marc Martin and Lila and the Secret of Rain by David Conway.

Taken from ‘Bringing Hygge into the Early Years’

If you would like to find more about Hygge check their social page @hyggeintheearlyyears 

Don't forget to share your activities with us on our social media channels.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cosydirect/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cosydirect
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cosydirect/

Share and Enjoy !