Baby It’s Cold Outside: How To Hygge With Kids in the House


While some say hygge, the Danish obsession with getting cosy, is passé, I say it is still very current and for the Danes, it’s not a trend, it’s a way of life. It is well and truly embedded in Danish culture. While there is no direct translation in English for hygge, it can be described as a feeling of unfussy cosiness, wellbeing and safety. It is loosely related to the English term ‘hug’, so in a way hygge is like a warm hug, but it’s not quite as straight forward as that.

Having just returned from three weeks in a hot (very very hot) climate, the winter is wreaking havoc in our house. I’m trying embrace the cosy, warm, snuggly things about life. Which, to me, says one thing. I need to get my hygge on. While hygge is not dependent on cold weather, the climate in Denmark means that warmth and cosiness are a big part of it.

As the parent of three small children I have looked longingly at interior magazines where the home has captured the essence of hygge. Simple Danish design, earthy tones, candles placed atmospherically around the room; simple, stylish and no clutter to be seen. Attaining hygge in my home seemed as likely as a family trip to the top of Mt Everest. Why would I even try?

Yet, having done a little bit more research into hygge, I now believe that hygge is an every-man’s concept and no matter what your circumstances, you can achieve elements of hygge in your life, even when you feel like you’re drowning in Tonka trucks and Barbie dolls.

Meik Wiking, Director of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and author of “The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well” explains in his book that hygge is about “atmosphere, and experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling we are safe…” On reading this I realised that not only was hygge possible with a busy and rowdy family life, it was necessary as an antidote to the busy chaotic lives we all lead.

Here are some of the key elements to hygge that Wiking outlines in his book and how, as busy parents, we can incorporate them into our everyday.

Togetherness

An essential element of hygge is human connection. Hygge is not about battening down the hatches once winter arrives and going in to hibernation. Inviting over a family, who have kids the same age as yours, for an afternoon or evening of sharing food and chatting is a way to create connection.

Part of hygge is the sharing of food so no need to take on cooking for the whole tribe, ask your guests to bring something to share. The kids play together and eat together, reinforcing their connection and the adults enjoy some conversation, wine and sharing of food while the kids play. Wiking notes in his chapter on togetherness that “the best predictor of whether we are happy or not is our social relationships.” So making the effort to create a connection will benefit your children, your guests and yourselves.

Food & Drink

Food and drink is another essential element to hygge, but it is simple low cost fare that wins the day. Slow cooked stews with meat and potatoes, cake, sweets with coffee or hot chocolate. The key that makes this hyggelige (meaning hygge-like, or hygge in nature) is the element of ritual attached to the food.

Spending a cold Sunday on a hike with your kids and coming back to a house smelling of a warming, slow cooked casserole. Getting your children to help bake a cake, it is the sitting down together for an afternoon tea of hot drinks and home made cake, that makes it hygge. A sense of smell is a wonderful trigger for nostalgia, and the smell of home made cakes or slow cooked stew can trigger wonderful memories for the gown ups, while making wonderful memories for their children.

Home

Wiking describes homes as the ‘hygge headquarters’, which makes sense given the element of warmth, cosiness and safety that contributes to hygge. The hyggekrog, which translates roughly as a nook, is a space in your home where you can snuggle down with a blanket, a hot drink and a book.

Our little nook

Australian houses are less likely to have a nook like this, partly due to the modern trend of open-plan living, but it can be as simple as a favourite chair or corner of the sofa that you can retreat to. Cuddle up to your kids in this space, read a book together under a blanket or share a treat (such as a piece of that cake you baked earlier).

Candles are also considered a not-negotiable for achieving hygge. Having small children doesn’t exclude you from burning candles in the home – just make sure you place them out of reach of little hands, and don’t forget to blow them out. All things wood are another essential ingredient; wooden toys, timber floors, a piece (or several pieces) of timber furniture. Wood is hardwearing and durable so is the perfect material for a family home. And of course, wood to burn, but many modern homes are no longer built with open fires. An outdoor fire pit or chiminea is a great alternative to to an indoor open fire place – and  no child would argue about toasting marshmallows outside.

Including elements of nature inside your home is another way to achieve hygge at home. Indoor plants, tree branches and leaves, twigs, pine cones and animal skins. Going on a nature walk with your kids is a great way to collect some of these elements, and spending an afternoon collating a nature display is a lovely way to do hygge (although probably leave the animals skins to the professionals!). Books and ceramics also make for a hyggelige feeling, and can be picked up cheaply in your local op shop.

Hygge isn’t expensive, in fact most hygge activities are frugal – encompassing connection, slow living and a feeling of wellbeing. Hygge is “humble and slow” according to Meik Wiking, which makes it a perfect lifestyle to incorporate into family life – after all, we know that our kids are happiest when life is simple, calm and full of love.

June Taking Stock

Whoa! It is June already. Most definitely time for a Taking Stock post. These posts are lovely to write and lovely to read, courtesy of the lovely Pip Lincoln from Meet Me at Mikes.

Taking stock is a great thing to do. This year has taken some interesting and unexpected turns, some good, some not so good. And in light of the awful events in Manchester and London over these past couple of weeks, checking in with yourself is a really good thing to do.

Obviously June is the start of Winter, and I would suggest it is the most unpopular season, but dare I say it, I totally loved Autumn this year and perhaps all that bad press that Winter gets is not totally justified. Don’t get me wrong, I do NOT like being cold; but there is something so lovely about being toasty and warm – winter food, open fires, hot chocolates, red wine… so many things.

Perhaps I’m engaging with the seasons more because my #100dayproject theme is #100daysofseasons – so I’m looking outwards to the seasons – not just the seasons of the climate, but other seasons. May/June are my season of sadness because my Mum died in early June, but the last time I saw her at home and was able to have a conversation with her, was on Mothers’ Day – so, it is a season of contemplation and reflection as well.

When I’m feeling a bit wobbly I look for comforting things, so the cooler months of late Autumn and early Winter are the perfect time to seek comfort. Staring in to a beautiful fire, cradling a glass of red wine and wearing some wooly booties will always life my spirits.

So on that, I’ll just launch straight in to another Taking Stock and make mention of a few other things that have been happening around here.

Making : Art! Lots of it, for #the100dayproject. This one is last night’s sketch, and you can see what else I’ve been up to here.

Cooking : Home baked bread. Thanks to Annette at I Give You the Verbs I got inspired to make a no-knead loaf of bread. It’s the best, the recipe is here if you’re keen to try.

Drinking: Tea. And red wine – but not together (obvs!)

Reading: “The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well” by Meik Wiking.

Looking: At lots of travel websites – an adventure is afoot!

Playing: Scrabble. For the first time in ages my husband and I had a game. I got rid of all my letters in one word, and even with the bonus 50 points he still beat me! I need to pick up my game!

Deciding: when to put the kettle on. My husband has just baked the most incredible sour dough with apricots, fennel seeds, walnuts and saltanas so I want a piece toasted, with lashings of butter. The tea is just an excuse for a slice of the fruit loaf!

Wishing: this lurgy would clear off – I’ve felt unwell for eight days now.

Enjoying: the change in seasons.

Waiting: for our Vietnam adventure to begin!

Liking: the anticipation of another family adventure.

Wondering: what the rest of the year holds – it’s already been one out of the box!

Loving: my book club. We have met twice now and have read two fabulous books (Nina is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi and The Cows by Dawn O’Porter – both fabulous and highly recommended by moi!) Next is a memoir, and I cant wait to get into this – I have ear marked this as my holiday read.

Pondering: a few things on ‘imposter syndrome’ – I plan to blog about this, but have a little more pondering to do.

Considering: what direction to take once back from holidays.

Buying: (maybe) a new pair of bathers for our holiday.

Watching: The Voice. Yes, we are The Voice tragics in our house. (Go George!!!)

Hoping: that the Netball team I coach has success in their Grand Final.

Marvelling: at how far they’ve come in such a short period of time – this time two years ago (their maiden season) we had scored just six goals for the entire season.

Cringing: at being a Voice tragic (but also owning it!).

Needing: my headache to lift – please – the long weekend is coming and I’ve got plans.

Questioning: what else I need to do to slow our lives down a little.

Smelling: not much – too blocked up.

Wearing: a winter puffer jacket inside – I know! It’s this damned lurgy.

Following: I try not to be a follower, I hate that term, but I am enjoying the Slow Your Home blog and podcast, and looking at lots of beautiful art on Instagram.

Noticing: little things in nature – like this butterfly trying to be born.

Knowing: that it will be a huge struggle for that little mite, but it will be worth it for those 24 hours of life.

Thinking: about lots of things… too much in my head actually, so really thinking I need to be more disciplined about getting a regular meditation practice happening.

Admiring: my husband, he’s got this meditation thing down pat and is the most zen guy I know.

Sorting: out finances for our trip.

Getting: excited! Only 24 days till we leave.

Bookmarking: the no-knead bread recipe – it’s such a keeper.

Coveting: everything, but nothing really. So actually, nothing really.

Disliking: how sore my nose is from blowing it and how scratchy my throat is.

Opening: more tissues.

Giggling: at my daughter’s face when she realised the parcel that arrived from England was for her.

Feeling: lethargic.

Snacking: on home made fruit sour dough (soon, very soon).

Helping: myself to a cuppa (and see above).

Hearing: my husband put the kettle on – phew, that was good timing.