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Hygge Case Study: Making Hygge Work With Nursery and Reception Classes

Nov 18, 2020

Before starting on our Hygge journey I must confess I didn’t even know the meaning of the word. I had recently become EYFS manager, in charge of an onsite school nursery and two reception classes. I had taught in the nursery for 4 years and this was my first year teaching in Reception. I have always had the belief that children learn through play and should be co-educators to their learning. During my time in nursery I had begun to move away from plastic toys and make resources more natural and open ended, however this had been a slight battle with the previous manager and also budget! Before beginning the accreditation we trained in and began implementing In The Moment Planning, initially in the nursery then moving it into the reception classes too. We found in nursery it was fantastic and the learning that was happening was amazing. It was harder to implement in Reception due to there being two classes of 30 who could move between two classes, a shared activity area and outside. I was brought into Reception to help try and get this working better. It was noted that there was a low level of engagement by some children. This led to me researching and discovering Hygge.

Myself and our other reception teacher have been working our way through the accreditation and I have led many sessions based on the training to our TAs. All of the staff have loved it! Since lockdown many of my staff have also been working their way through the accreditation at home. Before the accreditation I would have said I found work stressful and was exhausted most of the time, I work full time, commute an hour each way and have a family at home. The accreditation has taught me to slow down and change my way of life. I now fill in my Hygge journal each day thinking of things I am grateful for, I have even got my 7 year old a happiness journal which she loves filling in. We make sure we spend time as a family and I have days without thinking about work. My staff have also commented on how their well-being and mental health have improved since the training.

We have worked hard to change and adapt our setting throughout the year to give it a more homely calming feel. Nearly all of our resources are now natural and we have fairy lights everywhere! I have made sure the children feel like the space is their own, we have family photos up on the wall and the children love looking and talking about these. We have plans to add mirrors to areas to empower the children even more. We spend circle times (sometimes with cake!) discussing our week, things that have made us smile, how we have been kind that week etc. Throughout the day we have calming music playing, sometimes with a fire on the board or fish swimming in the sea. When it is a cold day the children will come in asking me to put the fire on the board! Once when we had calming music with fish swimming the children just sat and watched, observing and commenting on the different fish they could see. This led to some brilliant learning, researching fish and creating a fact book.

We have reflected a lot on our practise throughout the year and one thing we found to be the most stressful for adults and children was tidy up time. We now call this organising time. Throughout the morning and afternoon during free flow I now assign an adult to be our ‘environment guide’ they are not expected to be writing up observations or completing any tasks, simply interacting with the children, modelling how to play in different areas and most importantly organising areas when finished playing. We found this instantly led to children being more engaged and respecting the environment. When it is time to organise the classroom we play calming music and adults watch and guide children to put resources away, reminding them to count how many should be there etc.

Often after lunch we will spend 10 minutes doing yoga or mindfulness activities to calm the children (and adults!) down and focus them for the afternoon. We still follow In The Moment Planning and this does seem to be working better now that the environment has changed.

I have also explained to parents what Hygge is and we sent out Hygge ideas to do at home. Parents have been really positive with this and will often share on Tapestry the family times they have spent together at home.

As a team we have done a lot of reflecting on our practise and looking at the progression between Nursery and Reception. The accreditation has helped us to really think about the differences between the year groups. We have audited our environment and added extra challenges to the reception provision which we would not have thought to do otherwise.

We have made a fantastic start to our Hygge journey but understand this will continue to evolve and change. I have been inspired by the Reggio style of teaching which was briefly touched on in the accreditation. My vision now is to change our shared activity area in Reception into an artelier. Allowing children to work on projects based on their own interests. This will also then mean children will spend more time in their own classroom or outdoors, allowing adults to really get to know them and their interests. Another area I wish to continue working on is our outdoor provision. We are currently in the process of moving playground between nursery and reception. This will allow us the chance to really reflect and think about what is needed for outdoor learning. We have already added many more open ended resources which allow for challenge e.g. a frames, crates, planks, tyres etc. We are also hoping to do more outdoor learning next year following your Wanderlust Course.

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