This is my final written project for accreditation through Hygge in the Early Years. My program was accredited in January of 2020 after a year of work ❤️
It has always been a goal of mine to create a learning community that was welcoming, warm and cozy and I was heavily inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach in creating my setting. When I heard the term Hygge it spoke to me; it made me consider all the little ways I could make my environment as a whole more conducive to fostering a sense of wonder and well being for my little ones.
I had already begun to consider light levels in my classroom design but I began to make more changes as I worked through the steps of accreditation; I included things like soft fabrics and furs, blankets to snuggle, and little bits and pieces of nature and loose parts for the children to explore.
While working on my accreditation I spent more time observing the children and how they interact we the environment and the materials provided to them, then made changes to our learning space based on these observations.
Each of the webinars included in the accreditation program has been incredibly valuable in my assessment of our space and guided me in discovering how to incorporate more valuable learning opportunities for the children. I especially enjoyed the discussion on our vision of children and how that impacts our practice, it really made me pause and wonder, “If I feel children are competent and capable how can I reflect that vision in my learning environment?”
The vision I’ve created in my work
I have created a space where children feel empowered and free to be themselves. When children walk into our learning environment they feel enveloped in a sense of wonder and an invitation to explore freely and they see their culture and unique families represented in our space. The children feel included through a deeply valued sense of community and togetherness. Children are encouraged to share their feelings, thoughts, and ideas because our learning community is built on a solid foundation of care and friendship. Our learning community is a space that fosters autonomy, where we learn to problem solve independently and together, and we build resilience and executive functioning skills through play. The children’s creativity and expressive play skills blossom when they discover that they are trusted to work with all of the materials in our space and that mistakes aren’t looked down upon but rather viewed as essential steps in the learning process. In our learning environment, the children’s interests and passions are valued; the materials that are available and the displays in our program are reflective of the children and their ideas and things that spark their curiosity.
The changes I’ve made to my personal life and practice As I was working through the Hygge in the Early Years Accreditation I began to slow down in my practice and take the time to become more intentional in my observations and in the way I structured our classroom. I’ve been more conscious of allowing the children to move at their own pace as well; we don’t rush from activity to activity or adhere to a rigid daily schedule anymore instead, we follow the rhythm of the children’s needs. I have taken a step back and given the children in my program more space to guide their learning. This has required me to give the children a great deal of my trust and, to be honest, this has been a bit of a struggle for me but it has been so worth it to see the joy the children express when they know that I believe they are capable and competent.
“To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves…and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” – John Holt
I have become more focused on ways to include the families in our space so that they can see themselves reflected daily in our program. In our entryway I have created a “hopes and dreams” display where the families are invited to share their hopes and dreams for their child in our little school, so even when they can’t be with their little one they still feel connected to the learning community.
In my personal life, I have begun to create cozy spaces for my family and set aside time for quiet moments in those spaces. I have embraced hygge in my days by having lovely food that nourishes my body and makes me feel both healthy and happy, and I have also set aside time each day to connect with nature.
The impact this has had on me, the children and the setting
Watching the children blossom in the learning space has been amazing; when children feel comfortable in their environment and trusted by their adult peers they explore and learn in such rich and amazing ways. I have observed such deep play as the children construct, create and discover each day and those observations have fueled me to access the environment and strive to scaffold their learning in ways that spark their ongoing curiosity.
I have begun to understand the holistic nature of learning and that subjects and topics don’t necessarily need to be broken down and divided. In fact, children often learn best when fully immersed in their learning, making discoveries across the spectrum of development. Children learn so much when the world isn’t broken down and compartmentalized!
It has always been my vision for the children in our learning community to have space to learn and grow in their own ways and at their own pace, without inflexible expectations to meet, and working through the Hygge in the Early Years Accreditation has really given me new methods to achieve this goal.
The families have begun to demonstrate more comfort in our learning environment as they can see themselves reflected in our space. The family photos, quotes, prompts and invitations to participate in our program have created a welcoming environment in which the children’s guardians feel valued and included as well.
Your next steps for future development
One of my goals will be to discover more about play-based learning, and how this child-directed learning practice can be applied to the school-age children I work with. It’s easy to embrace play as a vehicle for learning when children are small, but how can I advocate for its indispensable value for older children as well?
I think one of my first steps will be educating myself on unschooling because unschooling at its heart is play. I am hoping to take some time to read Free to Learn by Peter Gray because I feel that the book will be incredibly enriching to my practice.
I will continue to make spending time observing the children an important part of my daily routine and strive to base my provocations and activities on the children’s interest.
I am excited to keep learning and growing as an educator. The best part of this profession is that it feels like a living thing that changes and grows as our understanding of child development evolves.