Here in Austin, Texas, the weather doesn’t usually drop below 30 degrees. That might sound mild compared to what our friends in the northeast experience, but I’d like to note that our house was built in the 1940s and is poorly insulated. Once November hits, I fully embrace hibernation mode. Cozy sweaters, boots, and cranberry tea are some of my top picks. Oh yes, and candles—I burn through Texas pecan and pine candles like nobody’s business. Maybe it’s because I grew up in St. Joseph, Michigan, but the happy feelings that winter brings are in my bones.
A few years ago, I saw a meme circulating that spoke of the Danish tradition of “hygge” (pronounced “hoo-guh”) and explained why so many of us cling to the cozy during the winter season. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines “hygge” as “the quality of being warm and comfortable that gives a feeling of happiness.” Sounds about right to me. My family has some tried-and-true traditions that foster togetherness and hygge in the cold months of winter. If you love the idea of bringing hygge to your home, check out these tips:
- Make and enjoy warm beverages. Hot cider, cocoa, and delicious spiced teas come to mind when I think of the winter season. On cold winter evenings and mornings, cuddling up as a family with a cup of hot chocolate can create a sense of happiness and calm throughout the house. Light a few candles and make the moment last by reading a few books together or separately as you sip on your yummy beverage. Here are a few recipes to try:
- Make Homemade Pumpkin Hot Chocolate. Let the aromas of pumpkin pie, melted chocolate, and warming milk in this pumpkin hot chocolate keep you feeling cozy inside and out during the winter months.
- Try Raspberry Hot Chocolate. Whole raspberries give this raspberry hot chocolate a rosy hue. Faintly pink and incredibly delicious, it is perfect on those cold winter nights..
- Create a cozy environment. One of my favorite frameworks to teaching and learning is the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Created by Loris Malaguzzi in Reggio Emilia, Italy, this approach emphasizes the impact the environment has on the child. Malaguzzi defined the environment as the third teacher. If we relate this to our homes, we recognize the importance of creating an environment that sets the mood for togetherness, comfort, and safety. Here are some simple ways you can create a cozy environment for your family:
- Use soft lighting. LED warm light bulbs use less power and create a calming ambiance in the house. Find fun and eclectic lamps at your local thrift store and place them around the house. Use the lamps in the evening instead of overhead lighting to set a cozy mood. We also love to use string lights indoors. Check out Etsy for some inspiration.
- Get some indoor plants. Having plants indoors improves air quality and peoples’ moods. We have a variety of cactus, aloe vera, herbs, and other easy maintenance plants like the philodendron in our home. Your child can help you care for the plants and observe the magic of growth.
- Make your own baby food jar candles. Have your child decorate the outside of a baby food jar with glue and tissue paper or paint with glass paints. Come up with creative ideas together, and find safe and special places to put them around your home.
- Learn about hibernation. The winter months are a perfect time to teach kids about what some of our fellow mammals do to survive the cold. Here are some resources to start your inquiry:
- Create a Hibernating Bear Den. Many bears hibernate during winter by cozying up in a den to sleep the cold months away. Your child can learn more about bears and hibernating by making their own creative and comfy den. Encourage your child to use their finished den to snuggle up with a favorite book and warm light or lantern.
- Read books about hibernation. Fictional books such as Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman or Old Bear by Kevin Henkes provide children with whimsical and engaging tales of what many bears do in the winter. After reading these books, encourage your child to create their very own fictional tale with a wintery setting and a bear as the main character. Next, teach your kids facts about hibernation by reading nonfiction books like Hibernation by Robin Nelson or National Geographic Kids: Sleep, Bear by Shelby Alinsky. Encourage them to write down three facts they learned and share them with a family member or friend.
- Start baking traditions. Eating and enjoying delicious food is a crucial part of getting through the winter months. Here are some yummy recipes that are sure to please your kids and your stomach:
- Throw a Winter Tea Party. Transform your kitchen table into a winter wonderland with a cookie and cocoa party that looks like it has been dusted with fresh snow. Set the table in a snowy style by choosing a cream or silver tablecloth and sprinkle the top with snowflake confetti. Bake some delicious treats, and you’re ready to enjoy!
- Bake Apple Bread. Excite your kids by baking delicious apple bread. This moist, sweet treat will have your family or guests asking for seconds–and the recipe!
- Make Baked Apples. If you’re looking for a healthy dessert, look no further! Your child can use fresh apples and other basic ingredients to make baked apples the whole family will love. It’s as simple as getting out some apples, doing some measuring and mixing, and then waiting patiently to enjoy the results!
Bringing simple elements of hygge to your home will help you get through those long days in February and March when cold just won’t let up. What are some of your favorite winter traditions?
More Resources on Hygge
By April Brown (M.Ed), writer and education consultant based in Austin, TX.