Courtesy of Crystal Henry

I Used The Danish Lifestyle Trend Hygge To Parent My Kids, & Here's What Happened

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The Danish lifestyle trend "hygge," which is pronounced "Hy-OO-Geh," is essentially the art of being cozy. Hygge aims to foster a sense of warmth and togetherness by encouraging people to slow down and appreciate the little things in life, such as cozy blankets, soft candlelight, rich comfort foods, and quality time with people. When I first heard about hygge, I thought, "Oh, this sounds like my jam." I am the OG of Netflix and Chill, and I don't feel human without leggings, coffee, and Uggs in my life. I didn't need hygge in my life, but my kids desperately did. So I figured I'd try hygge on my kids and see what happened. It should be known that my children are spoiled to the max. They have tablets and LeapPads and more tech gadgets than I do, as well as a playroom that is bursting at the seams with all of the children's toys ever manufactured since the 1980s. I figured hygge could do us all some good.

Hygge emphasizes using the power of human connection to warm the soul. So I decided to gift my children with something they couldn't find in that cluttered playroom. I was going to have them practice hygge.

The Experiment

Courtesy of Crystal Henry

The rules were simple: Incorporate hygge into our daily lives whenever, wherever, and however I could. At the start of this experiment, I realized the weather would be chilly the week I'd picked to start, which was a perfect time to kick off my day of living hygge. Using Pinterest as a guide, I came up with a kid-friendly wish list with family activities, ambiance boosters, and recipes, and we got started.

Hygge Activity #1: Board Games

Courtesy of Crystal Henry

My research told me that hygge was about family time and no tech. So cell phones had to be put away (except for mine because I was taking pictures), the TV had to go off, and the board games came out. We'd gotten my oldest daughter Clue for Christmas, so we murdered Mr. Boddy and got ready to crack the case.

The girls snuggled up in the fort, giggling. It was sweet, until I realized they were mainly giggling because they kept farting under the cozy blankets.

It was actually pretty fun, although it was a little frustrating teaching a kid to play Clue for the first time. I thought that because she kept asking for Ms. Scarlett, the lead pipe, and the ballroom it meant she had none of those cards. But when I opened the envelope to solve the mystery I discovered she had all of those, and I was out of the game. I'm not competitive in most areas of life, but I'm competitive AF when it comes to board games. Still, I refrained from flipping the table and moved on down my Pinterest list to the pillow fort.

Hygge Activity #2: Building A Pillow Fort

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I topped off my wine and dragged the chairs into the living room to set up our fort. I had tons of cozy blankets, pillows, and fuzzy socks for everyone. But in the time that it took for me to get the fort set up, my husband forgot the hygge rule about no TV. He compromised by watching the football game on mute.

The girls snuggled up in the fort, giggling. It was sweet, until I realized they were mainly giggling because they kept farting under the cozy blankets.

Hygge Activity #3: Candles

Courtesy of Crystal Henry

Candles are another big part of the hygge life, because the gentle flame is supposed to emit a warm, calming glow. The girls got all excited we had candles out ready to light, but I couldn’t keep any of them lit because as soon as I had one flame going, the girls started a brawl to see who got to blow it out. I put a few white candles out of reach, but I think we missed the mark on ambiance. In my house, apparently, a lit candle doesn't signify warmth and calm. Instead, it just screams, "Let's get ready to rumble."

Hygge Activity #4: Wine And A Good Book

Courtesy of Crystal Henry

With the girls in the fort and a few candles lit, I curled up on the couch with my own blanket, grabbed my glass of wine, and cracked open my Jane Lynch autobiography. A glass of wine under a warm blanket is definitely part of the hygge life, but I probably only got 10 pages in before the kids needed a snack.

I wanted to try a hygge bread in a bag recipe I'd found on Pinterest, but when I walked into the kitchen I remembered what a slob I am. We couldn't bake any bread until I cleared off some counter space.

More cleaning might not be hygge, but more wine is.

I made the kids some popcorn to hold them over, and they took it into the fort. It took so long to clean the kitchen, however, that the kids had already stopped building their homemade fort and headed across the street to play with our neighbor. A blanket fort on Pinterest might seem like a good idea, until you add popcorn and kids into the mix. Then it’s just a greasy mess of laundry to do and chairs to put away. More cleaning might not be hygge, but more wine is. I topped off my glass and went back to my book.

Hygge Activity #5: A Cup Of Warm Cocoa

The kids didn’t come back until dark, but their little noses were frozen, so I decided to serve them a cup of hot chocolate, which is definitely hyggeligt (the adjective form of hygge). I didn’t want to mess up the semi-clean kitchen by making real hot cocoa on the stove, so I threw a few mugs of hot water in the microwave and opened up two packets of Swiss Miss. They were delighted. Hygge cheat FTW.

Hygge Activity #6: Making Meatballs

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After the kids had their cocoa, I looked on my Pinterest list, and asked the girls to help me prepare some meatballs for dinner. It was already 6 p.m., and we needed to eat real food, and meatballs seemed simple enough for kids prepare. My girls loved squishing their hands through the raw eggs and meat. They can be pretty picky with food, but I’d read that children are more likely to eat a food they’ve helped to prepare. I put the potatoes on to boil, and the girls formed the balls for me while I browned them in batches on the stove.

Cooking with my kids did give me a chance to experience that warm, fuzzy feeling parents get from sharing small, intimate moments with their kids. While we made the meatballs, I envisioned them gobbling them up like happy little piglets, and that we'd make this our new annual tradition.

After we got the last batch in the pan, and they excitedly asked me if they could make bread in a bag, another hygge recipe I found on Pinterest. The balls had gone well, so I thought, Why not?

Hygge Activity #7: Making Bread In A Bag

I got the meat area clean, then I got out the ingredients for the bread: a Ziploc with flour, salt, yeast, sugar, and oil. Should be simple, I thought. But when I looked at the bags of goo, I realized something had gone horribly wrong and they looked pretty limp and watery. They weren’t rising or expanding or bubbling. Then I realized I’d given my girls a half a cup of flour, while the recipe called for three cups of flour. Then I started to smell a burning aroma.

I look over to see my beautiful roux going up in smoke. The kids started dramatically coughing and gagging, and I rushed the pan to the back porch, wishing I knew how to curse in Danish.

Cooking comfort food might be hygge life. But cooking it with kids is FML.

Hygge Activity #8: Wine, Just All the Wine

I topped off my glass of wine and got back to the meatball gravy. I once again added the flour and oil to the pan, but this time I stayed to stir it and add the garlic. Since the bread needed time to rise, my husband got the girls in the shower and I felt like I had a bit of control again. Then I looked over and realized I’d been boiling my potatoes for about an hour.

I ran over to the sink to dump the potato water, and one of the potatoes fell out of the pot onto the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. I could smell the roux starting to burn a little again, and I was fresh out of f*cks to give.

Courtesy of Crystal Henry

By the time the bread was ready to go in the oven, dinner was cold on the stove, my husband had quietly made a sandwich, and there wasn’t much hope for the little loaves sitting there in the pans. The kids were covered in flour and they nearly threw up when they tasted the meatballs. It was time to call it a day, so they changed their pajamas, brushed their teeth, and climbed into bed. Cooking comfort food might be hygge life. But cooking it with kids is FML.

Courtesy of Crystal Henry

I went back to the kitchen, surveyed the damage and decided the most hyggeligt thing I could do was go lay down and let the mess marinate. I halfheartedly sprayed the counter with some cleaner, opened a new bottle of wine and my husband and I snuggled on the couch to binge-watch Netflix. Screw the technology ban: we needed to plug back in for a moment in order to unplug from the hygge mess we'd made.

Hygge Activity #9: Snuggling

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A few episodes of Good Girls Revolt later, I crept into the kids' bedroom with two slices of bread, which had, by some hygge miracle, survived the kitchen debacle from a few hours before. I snuggled in bed next to them as they gobbled them up. Lying there with my little ones, I realized where my hygge experiment had gone awry. I had ignored the central aspect of hygge life: simplicity.

Had Hygge Helped My Kids?

In our culture, we already over-schedule and try to do too much. Hygge is supposed to teach us to slow down and appreciate the little things, so that life feels more like a journey than a destination.

While my hygge experiment was overall something of a failure, I've continued to sprinkle a few of my hygge successes into my family's regular routine, and I truly think the tiny adjustments we've made have strengthened us. Instead of zoning out in front of the TV before bed, we carve out 30 minutes every night for a family board game. And I finally finished my book, not to mention that last bottle of wine. We're really diggin' this new hygge life.