Friday, 23 February 2018

Hygge in preschool

In my social media feed there has been a noticeable increase in the number of posts about hygge in preschool... as in hygge is a thing that should be done to increase empathy and a feeling of well being.

Hygge is a Danish word... very similar to mysa in Swedish or gemütlichkeit in German

hygge -  a Danish word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.
mysa - is a Swedish word for cozy,  to enjoy a calm atmosphere, often with candles, usually in contact with others. Happy, satisfied, content.

gemütlichkeit a German-language word used to convey the idea of a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Other qualities encompassed by the term include coziness, peace of mind, and a sense of belonging and well-being springing from social acceptance

So to be honest I feel a little concerned when "hygge" is being sort of "marketed" as a pedagogical approach - especially if you ask adults about what hygge is in Denmark they will probably mention beer, spending time with friends in candle lit pubs having a good time and eating food.

Yes I think this feeling of contentment, of wellness, satisfaction and friendliness is something that should be found in all preschools... in all workplaces in fact... I wonder whether hygge is the answer - or whether listening to the children or creating democratic settings where the children are truly valued and value each other. is needed. first.. I mean to achieve "hygge" these things need to be put in place - so why not just talk about these things straight up and not put in that extra word of hygge that needs explaining... and from a Scandinavian point of view seems somewhat strange in an early years setting...
I asked a friend in Norway about the use of the word... and she reacted in the same way as me... that "being polite and friendly" should be an every day thing, creating places of well-being should be a priority for early years settings - no child can learn if they do not feel safe - and young children are learning all the time...

I see posts that write about how you can bring "hygge" into your setting - stating that "within a hygge setting there will be a calm relaxed feel to the play space" - some go on to describe the space in detail with little stimulus on the walls etc and cozy spaces... there should be uninterrupted play... soft lighting... in some posts it looks like a check list... and that concerns me... because if it starts to look like a checklist then there is the risk that it becomes a thing you do rather than a thing you reflect on... hygge as been turned into a product... you know, like something you could get from IKEA... talking of IKEA... you can check out this post - IKEA's lesson on how to create hygge - and, actually, if you follow their rules it would make for a great preschool too... - "express your creativity - share good food with good friends - choose a "me time" spot - make something with your hands - take a break for coffee - make simple things special - set up a pamper station".

of course you could take Vogue's advice and forget "hygge" and follow the Swedish "lagom" approach... another of those words that cannot really be translated... but basically means not too much not too little... and this is also a great approach for a preschool...

All these trends...

preschools/education should not be about trends... it should be about the children - plain and simple.
About creating safe spaces, about creating spaces to play, explore and learn, offering opportunities to interact with people, materials and the world around them (and that includes nature) about listening to understand, about creating spaces of equality where all are valued, about creating spaces that expand the current accepted norms... (this will mean constant dialogues about what the accepted norms are, why they are the norms, and how those not being included in this bracket can be included - not by inviting them in, but by expanding the definition - so the "them and us" feeling is reduced... and wouldn't it be nice if we could get rid of it and became "us"), if we support children to tune into their empathy, to understand their emotions and how to regulate them for their own benefit... so that there is more time for play and learning and less time spent on trying to calm down or deal with hard situations... because we all have a better understanding of each other...

The group of children I worked philosophically with for four years had all of this... they took care of each other, respected and valued each other... and I was a part of that group... we valued each other equally and also valued what we brought to the group as individuals. This is that hygge, mysa or gemütlichkeit... although I would have said that we were never aiming for mysig - except sometimes there was a conscious effort to make a meeting mysig, or a play area mysig - but not for the whole day or the whole preschool environment... I like to provide a setting for a hundred or more learning and play languages... not just the language of hygge...
(not that I am saying that any of these blogs are suggesting that we only speak hygge - my concern is that maybe some practitioners start speaking too much hygge as a thing rather than the "state of being" that it is.)

Hygge - the word has become a bit of a thing since Meik Wiking wrote "Little book of hygge" first published in 2016.

Why are Danes the happiest people in the world? The answer, says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, is Hygge. Loosely translated, Hygge—pronounced Hoo-ga—is a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. "Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience," Wiking explains. "It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe."
Hygge is the sensation you get when you’re cuddled up on a sofa, in cozy socks under a soft throw, during a storm. It’s that feeling when you’re sharing comfort food and easy conversation with loved ones at a candlelit table. It is the warmth of morning light shining just right on a crisp blue-sky day.
The above is taken from a description of the book, and this description pretty much sums up mysig also... and I guess every Swede would agree with me on that. But despite that Swedes would agree with me on the meaning of mysa and its similarity with hygge... I think there would be a huge dialogue about whether we wanted "mysiga förskolor" (preschools) - maybe moment of mys, but not a thing that needs to be brought in as a way to teach empathy.

I do think that a discussion about whether mys could teach empathy would be an interesting one... and could possibly result in a new interpretation of what mysig/hygge is...  but I still feel that mysig/hygge comes as a result of the empathy rather than teaching the empathy... of course it will also reinforce the empathy that already exists... its a time of bonding... with family, with friends and why not then with preschool peers? Except maybe you just don't want to be mysig/hygge with all of your peers at preschool? I mean we do not want to cuddle up to everyone... and there is lots of research about how we should not force/make children hug others when they do not want to - and snuggle /cuddle seems a much more intimate version of hug.

Also when talking about Denmark being the happiest people in the world... they kind of forget to mention the fact that it is one of the countires in the world that have the highest consumption of anti-depressants - Mette Davidsen-Nielsen said to the SVT (Sweden's equivalent of the BBC) "we take medicine, drink a lot of alcohol, eat fat and sugar to survive. While we do that we have hygge" ... so she is asked in the interview... "so your drug yourselves into first place of happiness.?".. she answers... "Drugged ourselves to hygge, yes. You could say that. Maybe as a way to survive, not just a way to solve something"

link to the interview with SVT about hygge being an export success - in Swedish but also talks about why UK and USA in their time of insecurity with Trump and Brexit might need the concept of hygge
information on anti-depressants

This Swedish article about hygge being good on long dark winter nights talks about drinking wine, cozy blankets and millions of candles... it also mentions that it is not about achievements, performance or keeping to a tight agenda... which I think schools often have their focus on - getting grades, performing well and keeping to the curriculum - and this academic approach is being pushed down to an ever younger age. Educators in the UK are really having to fight against the lack of play, the lack of appreciation of children's own learning as the focus on academic learning being the learning norm - so maybe, in this sense, the word hygge can be useful to challenge the status quo. But I still think that can be done (challenging the status quo... making change) with all the very many research papers out there showing the importance of play and the problems related to learning and well-being by limiting play in favour for an academic approach.
This is something that is also relevant here in Sweden as the new preschool curriculum will include the word "undervisning" for the first time... a word that translates as teaching/instruction. How can we, here in Sweden, ensure that this "teaching" honours the child's individual learning styles, that play is the main method of exploring the hundred languages of learning... that there is no set agenda about what should be achieved in a specific time, or a focus on academic learning... but on a whole child learning. Where relationships are important - creating safe and respectful settings where all are valued... yes, I am writing that again. It keeps coming back to that...

So, basically, a democratic classroom/preschool is going to be hygge.

Posts that will connect with this idea...
Process not product -  reflecting on the difference between learning and teaching
Learning is fun - a post reflecting that we should not be making lessons fun... but that we should be awakening the joy of learning in each child AND the group as a whole.
Purposeful Play - another post about looking at how a word is becoming a "thing" - are pedagogical trends a good thing?
The Reggio Emilia Approach... short version description - so you get an idea of what sort of preschool I would like, and not a mention of hygge, but I am sure that the state of being in hygge would be achieved in this kind of setting.
Original Learning - how I see learning and play woven toegther
Together-play - how I see together-led play as an essential part of a democratic learning approach... not child led, or adult directed... but where adult and child voices are equally respected.

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