It is a rainy-snowy weekend for us in New York and I have just learned a new word:  Hygee

It’s Danish, but I’d like to start working it into my English.  Pronounced “hoo-ga” – it is more a feeling than a word and is purportedly impossible to translate.  But let’s say it roughly means: “a feeling of coziness and the absence of annoying things”.  Hygee could be wool socks, candlelight, home-baked pastries, cuddling up with a great book, dinner with dear friends – things that give off light and warmth during long winters.

Denmark ranks as the happiest country in the world, according to The Happiness Research Institute (an independent think-tank exploring why some societies are happier than others).  The severity of their winters put ours to shame, and yet they’re still are a joyous people.  So, it is worthwhile taking a look at this hygee business and seeing if we can incorporate a little of it into our lives this season.

But how do we slow down and find the “cozy” when the sleet outside has our kids bouncing off the walls?

1) Get Out the Energy…Then Get Calm

In my experience, it is challenging for kids who are worked up to calm their bodies down when asked.  In Child’s Play NY classes we always start with a vigorous physical warm-up, then our students are relaxed (i.e. tired) enough to read a story and play an improv game that requires concentration. I love obstacle courses, red light/green light and Magic Elevator.  But a real physical favorite is this week’s Game Day: Follow the Leader.

I love this game because….

  • kids get the physical release of gross-motor moves. When you are the leader, include actions they may need to work on (two-foot jumps, balancing, etc.) when it is your turn to lead.

  • they practice leading which can really validate their self-esteem

  • they practice following which is great for non-verbal listening and turn-taking

  • It lets you get things done: You can play “Follow the Leader” to leave a playdate or get out of the house!

  • the simple act of copying, strengthens their “kindness-muscles”! Harvard recently published a study: “Imitation, Empathy and Mirror Neurons”.   Neuroscientists show that mirroring supports cognitive function. For more on this check out Dr. Belinda Bellet’s comments on my Mirror Gamevideo.

2) Involve Kids in the Cozy Routines You Love

Make them a central part of the rituals, not an impediment.

  • Bake with your kids:  I love this as an activity, since it helps with focus, fine motor skills, concentration, and patience.  It’s great bonding time and (if you measured things correctly), you have a yummy treat at the end.

  • Light a candle with them (safely).  At a Waldorf playgroup my son and I used to go to, 2-year-olds were surrounded by real tea sets and actual candles. It always surprised me how respectful the kids were of the fire.

  • Create a Story Corner – set up a pillow-nest, have your kids pick out a bunch of books that they quietly read while  you read your own book next to them.  Modeling reading is key for literacy development.  Have them choose one that you read aloud to them. In this way you can each get your own reading done!  Check out the article on the blog for the best holiday books that I recommend for cozy seasonal reading.

3) Invest in Toys that Can Turn into Dramatic Play

Playing games with my son on my living room floor is “hygee-inducing” for me.  Check out my recommendations for Best Toys that Inspire Creativity. I review 6 toys that I love for ages 3 and up.  They boost literacy, empathy, silliness.   I also offer ideas of ways to extend each of these toys into imaginative games.  If you need a few last minute gift ideas!

Tell me what ways you use to find hygee with your family this winter and I’ll see you next week!



P.S. Since I wrote you last week, I was interviewed by journalist, Sally Hubbard, on her excellent podcast:  Women Killing It.  I talk about ‘finding pockets of playfulness’ and building my business ‘one cobblestone at a time’.  Give it a listen here or pass on to folks you think would be interested.