Unarguably one of the world’s most generous — and successful — welfare states, Finland has a lower infant mortality rate, better school scores, and a far lower poverty rate than the United States, and it’s the second-happiest country on earth (the U.S. doesn’t break the top 10). According to the OECD, Finns on average give an 8.8 score to their overall life satisfaction (Americans are at 7.5.). Our service is built on the Finnish successful concept and heritage.
Here are five parenting lessons you can learn from Nordic moms and dads
1. There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes
If you’ve ever heard this old saying, thank the Scandinavians. This attitude is key to getting kids outside and playing every day, regardless of the weather, in a region where it is often cold, rainy, or both. It isn’t just parents who are found pushing strollers through the streets in freezing weather; both at preschool and school teachers make sure that the children dress for the elements and take them outside to play, often for hours every day. The benefits? The kids are less prone to infection, may have better vision, stay in shape, and are believed to develop resilience.
2. Embrace the wild in the child
While wild and dirty kids are often frowned upon in other cultures, digging in the dirt and stomping around in the mud are par for the course for children in Scandinavia. In fact, parents even encourage and cherish messy play, since it’s considered an essential part of a good childhood. It can be a boon to children’s health, too. Letting them dig in dirt exposes them to healthy bacteria, which in turn can help build a strong immune system, improve gut health, and reduce the risk of asthma and allergies. Some bacteria are even known to trigger the brain’s production of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter serotonin. With that in mind, running your washing machine a little more often seems like a small trade-off!
3. Forget the flashcards
Nordic parents mainly expect one thing from their children in the early years: that they spend as much time as possible playing. And they have plenty of time for it, since formal schooling doesn’t start until age six or seven. Most parents and preschool teachers agree that children will learn what they need to learn when they’re ready for it and there is no pressure to teach children how to read and write early. They may be on to something, since research has shown that by age 11, there is no significant difference between children who learn to read at age five and those who learn at age seven. The kicker? Those who learn later have better text comprehension and a more positive attitude toward reading.
4. Freedom fosters responsibility
Busy extra-curricular schedules and a fear of (in no particular order) lawsuits, strangers, nature, traffic, and a surprise visit from Child Protective Services are keeping many American kids under virtual house arrest. Not so much in the Nordics, where even young children are given the freedom to climb trees, use real tools, play with fire, and walk to the neighborhood playground on their own. By the time they’re nine or 10, they’re typically expected to get to their after-school activities on their own—by foot, bike, or by using public transit. This, Nordic parents believe, helps them learn how to judge risk, make sound decisions, and be responsible, and research suggests that they’re right.
5. It’s all about the ulkoilmaelämä
There’s no doubt Nordic kids love their TV shows and electronic devices. But young children don’t spend nearly as much time in front of screens as their American counterparts, and their parents have a powerful trick to get them to unplug: ulkoilmaelämä. Roughly translated to “open-air living,” ulkoilmaelämä can be described as a way of life that revolves around appreciating and spending time in nature. But you don’t have to live in pristine countryside to enjoy ulkoilmaelämä—it’s all about appreciating nature in everyday life, and walking around the neighborhood or grilling hot dogs in a local park counts, too. In addition to helping parents balance screen time with green time, ulkoilmaelämä is a powerful way for children to learn about their role in the natural world, and how to become good stewards of the land. And ultimately, that’s probably the most important lesson of them all.
Links for more information on Finland success in achieving happy childhood:
- The UN Happiness Index: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report
- Child Wellbeing: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc11_eng.pdf
- Child Poverty: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc11_eng.pdf
- Global Equity Index: https://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2016/rankings/
- Kela Finnish Baby Box: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maternity_package
TicklsBabyLaughs role as a promoter for Finnish Parenting
By embracing Finnish Parenting Styles, our mission at Tickls Baby Laughs is to support millennial parents worldwide through the First 1,000 Days to have the best possible experience of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.
Why Finland? For three years in a row, Finland is ranked No. 1 happiest country by World Happiness Report. The report points out that it is the country’s social safety net combined with personal freedom and a good work-life balance where women and men are equal – both at work and at home; that gives it the edge.
An equal start for everyone requires healthy and happy parents. To do so, Finland offers free prenatal care for mothers and 80% of dads go on paid paternity leave where fathers spend more time with school-aged children than mothers do. Finland’s schooling and child-raising focuses more on a child’s happiness and health rather than academic achievement.
Raising a child in happy childhood is a key element in making Finland the happiest country and this is the ethos that we aim for our future generations!
Tickls Baby Laughs and “Every Baby deserves a Happy Childhood!”