How I Got Through Some of My Lowest Days in Lockdown (Repost)

Early Childhood, Health & Lifestyle, Self-Regulation

With the stress of the holiday season mostly behind us, I figured what better time than now to repost this article that I wrote during the height of the 2020 global pandemic, when the whole world was under a great deal of stress. With the new year approaching, my hope is that this article might be helpful to readers with understanding how to navigate through times of stress.

Originally published July 2020

I never for a second thought I’d be writing about the days I struggled through during lockdown, with all that I know about the human brain, body, its response to stress and stress management. But, here I am and here you are reading this.

A little over a year ago, I came across The MEHRIT Centre, an organization focused on grounding learning and living in self-regulation. I completed two courses with them and I share many of their resources throughout the self-regulation sections of this website. One of their many useful resources is the Thayer-Matrix. I discovered the Thayer-Matrix last year (2019), but it wasn’t until recently when I revisited its connection to motivation.

Being in Lockdown

Around mid-May 2020, as I was nearing the end of the school year, there were days when my motivation was so low that I found myself mentally checking out from online teaching. I had missed being in the classroom and with my students. Prior to school closures in March 2020, I was spending many hours at school each day, so working from home was quite the adjustment for me. As the school year progressed through online learning, I struggled with transitioning into a new routine and there were days when I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed.

Now let me explain what the Thayer-Matrix is.

The Thayer-Matrix

The Thayer-Matrix was created by Robert E. Thayer, an American psychologist known for his work on the connection between mood, energy, tension and stress which is reflected in his energy/tension (Thayer-Matrix) model (see image below).

(The information and examples provided below are entirely my interpretation of how I’ve applied this model to my own experience, what I’ve learned, and how I understand it.)

High-Energy/Low-Tension (HE/LT)

When our energy is high and tension (i.e., stress) is low, we are in a High-Energy/Low-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Well-rested and energized
  • Calm and relaxed
  • Ready to start the day ahead

An example of this state might be waking up on a day-off, or while on vacation, feeling well-rested (high-energy) and ready to ease into an open-ended kind of day (low-tension).

High-Energy/High-Tension (HE/HT)

When our energy and tension are both high, we are in a High-Energy/High-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Motivated with complete concentration and focus
  • Able to remain at a task for longer and with the most effort
  • Positive and productive

An example of this state might be waking up feeling well-rested (high-energy) and motivated to tackle a busy day ahead (high-tension).

Low-Energy/Low-Tension (LE/LT)

When our energy and tension are both low, we are in a Low-Energy/Low-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Tired, especially towards the end of a long and busy day
  • Ready to wind down and relax
  • Prepared to sleep and replenish our energy

An example of this state might be arriving home, tired from a busy and productive day (low-energy), and ready to ease into the night with a hot cup of tea (low-tension).

Low-Energy/High-Tension (LE/HT)  

When our energy is low and tension is high, we are in a Low-Energy/High-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Drained and exhausted
  • The least motivated (i.e., listless)
  • Stressed, possibly with lots still to do or on your mind

This was how I was feeling on my lowest day. Super drained with little to no motivation (low-energy), but with a lot on my plate (high-tension). These were the days where I struggled with getting out of bed, starting my workday or working towards getting things done.

Moving Through the Thayer-Matrix

Naturally, we should be moving through each of these states and not get stuck in any one of them for long periods of time. If stuck in a HE/HT state, this is likely being sustained through stimulators such as caffeine or energy boosters, and the natural production of adrenaline that works to keep you at a high-energy state to deal with high-tension. However, high-tension naturally drains our energy reserves. When we aren’t restoring enough through natural and essential sources of energy, such as through a restful sleep, eating healthy foods, and engaging in sustainable routines and practices, we may tend to seek alternative (and often maladaptive) ways to do so, especially at times when we really need to, or simply to cope. From what I learned in my course, being chronically stuck in a LE/HT state can lead to mood disorders. Having a support system and stress awareness and management practices are essential. While staying in a HE/LT state might seem nice to some, that is just not how life flows. Stressors from all around and inside us is what keeps us going, and when effectively managed, thriving. Lastly, we also don’t want to get stuck in a LE/LT state, becoming passive and listless. Humans (as well as animals) have a seeking system that exists in the brain and drives us to meet a need, craving, goal, desire and ultimately, to survive1.

Now, here’s how I was able to get through some of my lowest days in lockdown.

Moving from a LE/HT to a HE/HT State

Leading an online learning session with my students

First to begin, I needed to be aware of when I was in a low-energy/high-tension (LE/HT) state and what that felt like for me. I knew I had low energy because I felt physically, emotionally and mentally drained, listless, and a lack of motivation or desire to do anything. At the beginning of lockdown, a telltale sign of this was when I started losing track of the days. I woke up one morning thinking it was Sunday, when in fact, it was Thursday. I eventually realized this was happening because I wasn’t getting outside and in the sun. The sun sends signals/cues to regulate our circadian rhythm which is our internal sleep-wake 24-hour body clock. It also gives us energy, makes us feel good, and increases serotonin, a neurotransmitter in our body that is responsible for mood, well-being and feelings of happiness. BINGO! So, I knew I needed to get outside more, or as much as I possibly could, considering the circumstances. In addition, the sun is our ultimate source of energy and if we could eat it, we probably would! Instead, we must settle for eating the foods that absorb the sun’s energy for us (to learn more, google: “high vibration foods”). As I think back to it now, that seemed so obvious, right? But at that point in time, it actually wasn’t as clear cut, and I guess that came with adjusting and transitioning to being at home, rather than at school, teaching and preoccupied for most of the day. While I was getting enough sleep, I wasn’t waking up feeling energized and refreshed. (I highly recommend this podcast episode: How to Sleep Well). Having been physically active my whole life, my body wasn’t used to not moving around as much. Because I wasn’t moving around as much as I had been (I was working with toddlers), I wasn’t exerting as much energy, nor was I able to reach a high-energy state. As a result, I knew I needed to resume more physical activity which had always been an energy booster for me. I recognized I was in a high-tension state because of the stressors that were affecting me. Not being able to leave the house as much, see my friends or go out. The list can go on. I was looking at a screen way more and for longer periods at a time for online learning, meetings, program planning, corresponding with colleagues, attending webinars, social media, etc. Because my eyes were feeling strained near the end of the day, I knew I needed to be as mindful as possible of my screen time. I couldn’t change the fact that I still needed to work, be online and in front of a screen, but what I could change was my energy state to match it. Therefore, once I started getting outside (while taking the necessary precautions), working out at home and managing my screen time better, I was able to move myself from a low-energy to a high-energy state in order to meet the demands of my high-tension work week.

Moving from a HE/HT to a LE/LT State

As soon as I was able to balance my energy and tension to a HE/HT state, I began feeling motivated, greater concentration, was able to remain working for longer and with more effort, and overall, I felt good, productive and accomplished. By the end of my workday, my meetings and online learning were done for the day. This is where I transitioned from the high-tension state I was in throughout the day into a low-tension state. By the end of a busy day, our body naturally transitions into a low-energy state, depending on the amount of energy that was exerted, and the tension experienced throughout the day. When the things that are a source of high-tension (i.e., stressors) in your life are recognized, managed and reduced, you can begin to move into a low-tension state. Although this may not always be the case, ideally, LE/LT is where you want to be at the end of the day and it’s all a matter of finding what works for you to maneuver your way in, out and through these states, while knowing your stress load capacity. Some people can cope with and under more stress than others. It’s important to note that children experience and transition through these states as well, but their capacity to deal with stress is much lower than adults. Therefore, supporting them with navigating through these states is very important.

Strategies for Moving through Energy & Tension States

  • Become aware of what your mind and body feel like in each state of energy and tension. For example:
    • High-Energy:
      • Energized (e.g., during or after a workout)
      • Feeling well-rested and healthy
      • Having positive feelings (e.g., when laughing or talking with others)
      • Feeling motivated
      • Having complete concentration and focus
    • High-Tension:
      • Having lots to do
      • A busy day ahead (e.g., a heavy workload, working on tasks)
      • Feeling stressed or overwhelmed (see: Stress & Stressors to identify the source of your tension)
    • Low-Energy:
      • Feeling tired and exhausted
      • Lack of motivation
      • Feeling sick (when we are sick, our body naturally produces chemicals that make us sleepy)
      • Drained from high-tension
    • Low-Tension:
      • Feeling calm, relaxed, at ease
      • Having stress management strategies in place (e.g., meditation, yoga, deep breathing, prayer, listening to music)
      • Relying on a positive support system, such as family, friends, community and/or professionals
      • Maintaining effective routines and practices
  • Know what personal strategies work to move you to the state you want or need to be in:
    • Getting into a High-Energy state:
      • Getting good sleep: amount, quality, timing, state of mind (these are mentioned in the podcast)
      • Eating healthy and nutritious (high vibration) foods and drinking lots of water
      • Movement (e.g., working out, going for a walk)
      • Re-fuel by practicing self-care (see: Self-Care Begins With You)
    • Entering a High-Tension state:
      • We usually don’t choose to enter this state. Our body naturally enters high-tension states because of the stressors that exist within (e.g., hunger) and around us (e.g., morning traffic). Stressors affect each of us differently, so it’s important to know which ones have the most impact on you. For example, feeling too hot, feeling sick, excessive screen time, watching the news, changes in routine (see: Stress & Stressors).
    • Entering a Low-Energy state:
      • Again, we don’t choose to enter this state. Our body naturally enters low-energy states as we exert energy and experience stress, which is what drains our energy reserve throughout our day. However, we can settle into this state at the end of a long day with an evening routine that might consist of low-tension practices such as reading a book, drinking a cup of tea, praying/spiritual practices, expressing gratitude in writing, meditating, taking a bath, or doing bedtime yoga.
    • Getting into a Low-Tension state:
      • This requires recognizing your stressors, reducing and/or managing them. Engaging in self-care and low-tension practices is also important here. This isn’t always easy, but with time and support, you can develop these practices and habits. For example, I know that too much time in front of a screen strains my eyes so I balance and manage my screen time by taking breaks from it, adjusting display settings, and shutting my devices down at the end of the day and long before bed.
  • Build and maintain a routine:
    • Humans like routine; however, the pandemic disrupted what our normal routines used to be. People lost jobs or had to shift to working from home. When our schedules are different than we are used to, we may be doing less (or more) than we had been before. Develop a morning and an evening routine to move yourself through the energy and tension states you want or need to be in to be productive, make the most, and meet the demands of your day.
  • Engage in movement and physical activity:
    • Our bodies are designed to recover from energy exertion through our parasympathetic system. When we don’t move, our body doesn’t know what to do with the extra energy and this can impact sleep. Go walking, running, bike riding, to the gym, do gardening, spend some time out in nature, sweat and burn energy whenever and however you can.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself:
    • We are human and we do the best we can in each moment. Remember that the human body consists of a nervous system that responds to stress. What’s most important is understanding this and how to manage it. A great place to start is by learning about self-regulation (see: What is Self-Regulation?) and reframe your understanding about how your body naturally responds when under different types of stress. You can then start to identify what are sources of high-tension (stressors) for you and develop personal stress management strategies that help you navigate through energy and tension states. Realize when things are beyond your control and when needed, seek professional support and connect with people you can talk to and that you trust.

I hope that this article was helpful or useful to you in some way or another. Please feel free to share it with others. Wishing you the very best for 2023. 💞

Reference: 1Shanker, Stuart. Reframed: Self-Reg for a Just Society. University of Toronto Press, 2020.

More Articles & Resources:

What’s Self-Regulation?

Stress & Stressors

Self-Care is Never Selfish

Self-Reg Toolkit

A Guide to COVID-19 and Early Childhood Development

Ontario Mental Health Supports

School Mental Health Ontario

Mental Health Commission of Canada Blog

Mental Fitness – Wondermind

25 Motivational Journal Prompts – Wondermind

Got questions? Contact Me

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This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

5 Ways to Support Early Literacy Skills

Early Childhood

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” – Emilie Buchwald

Earlier this year, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a Right to Read document on issues affecting students with reading disabilities. While thinking about how schools are opening back next week for children in Ontario, I wanted to share 5 ways that parents/caregivers can begin supporting early literacy skills at home and from an early age.

1. Develop an early love for books: Books can be introduced to little ones, even while they are in the womb! Did you know that in the final trimester of pregnancy, babies become better able at hearing a range of tones, and might even react to the sounds and voices that they hear outside of the womb? If a fetus hears the same melody over and over again, they will likely recognize this sound as a newborn later on. Check out Annie Murphy Paul’s TedTalk on What we learn before we’re born. Instilling a reading routine from a young age and continuing as your child gets older will contribute to strengthening and building their imagination, curiosity and interest in books.

woman reading book to toddler

2. Have books available in the home: Have books that you love to read and a selection of children’s books available. Did you know that children love to imitate the actions of adults? If they witness your love and interest for reading, they too will start to build that interest themselves. The library is also a wonderful place to explore a wide selection of books on shapes, letters, colours, emotions, and so much more. Sometimes I like to put eBooks and eAudiobooks on hold from the Toronto Public Library. Whether you live in Toronto or not, their amazing Ready for Reading program is worth checking out, as it’s filled with lots of great information about children’s early literacy. If you do live in or near Toronto, make sure to check out one of their KidsStop early literacy centres near to you, and get a free library card if you don’t already have one!

books on rack

3. Teach the alphabet: What better way of learning the letters A-Z than through the alphabet song. Talk with your child about the different shape or symbol formation of the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet. Fun ways to explore this can also be from an alphabet puzzle, poster, and especially books. There are many books about the alphabet and lots that are written in more than one language. One of my favourite alphabet books is ABC Mindful Me by Christiane Engel.

white red green and yellow letter letter letter letter letter letter letter letter letter letter

4. Talk often and teach new vocabulary: Long gone are the days when “goo-goo, ga-ga” was used to communicate back to a baby. Young children develop their expressive language, what they say and communicate, both verbally or non-verbally, from their receptive language, what they hear, see and understand from the people around them. Expose your child to a range of new vocabulary and explain to them what complex words in books mean. This will support them when they begin to talk, read and write.

photo of woman and girl talking while lying on bed

5. Play together: Children learn and understand so much about themselves and the world around them through play. With and alongside you, and even through their own independent exploration. Sing rhyming songs, listen to music, play games and activities with letters and words, create your own stories, or simply play pretend. Play materials such as blocks, toys and manipulatives help to develop the muscles in their hands that they will soon need for holding writing tools.

a mother playing ukulele while singing to her daughter

Ever wonder what goes on in a child’s brain while you’re reading together? Check out this video 👇

Additional Resources:

About the Right to Read Inquiry

Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development – Language Development and Literacy

Zero to Three – Reading Resources

Toronto Public Library – Ready for Reading

Toronto Public Library – Resources for Teachers & Parents

Toronto Public Library – Children’s Books List

Sunnyseed – Book Club

Reading with Littles: Free Tips, Milestones, and Foundational Early Literacy Skills for Babies & Beyond (Thank you for allowing us to share your resources, Sunnyseed!)

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Resources for Children with Hearing and/or Vision Needs:

Literacy for Children with Combined Vision and Hearing Loss

Paths to Literacy – Overview of Literacy for Children and Youth Who Are Deafblind

The Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness – Language and Literacy Resources

National Center on Deaf-Blindness – Literacy


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

The Day I Met Dr. Bruce Perry

Early Childhood

There is no way that I can share my passion and interest around studying, learning about, and understanding child and brain development without mentioning Dr. Bruce Perry, how I met him, and how this journey all began for me. This article is all about the events that led up to the day that I met Dr. Bruce Perry, exactly 6 years ago today.

Read About Me, and one important moment you will learn about my story is that I spent 2 years studying in a program that I eventually came to discover was not for me. Coming from a high school that focused on technology, computer science and business, a significant selection of the courses I was enrolled in at the time were computer/business related, such as accounting, marketing and business leadership. With all of those courses already under my belt, I naturally assumed I would be best suited towards (and most likely to be accepted to) an academic career within the field of business. As a result, it was towards a Bachelors in Human Resources Management (BHRM) that I ventured. By the end of my second year, my marks had taken a further dip. I found myself at the Academic Advising Office with an appointment to discuss my academic pathway options. I shuffled through some old emails and managed to find the original email that was send to me:

Dear Samantha Yarde,

This is a friendly reminder that your appointment to meet with an Academic Advisor
is scheduled for May 25, 2012, 9:00am
Location: Central Square, 103

After my appointment with an advisor, the only option I was left with was that I would be withdrawn from the BHRM program, but could enroll into a different business program and re-take a few of the core courses I needed in order to re-enter and continue in the BHRM program. The email that followed 5 days later stated:

Dear student;

Your grade report for the Fall/Winter 2011 academic session indicates that you are ineligible to proceed in your program. As a result, you have been exited from your (BAS, BDEM, BHRM, BPA or BSW) degree program.

And just like that, I was no longer enrolled in the BHRM program and faced with 2 decisions to make:

  1. Continue in another program, bring up my marks, and re-enter the BHRM program at some point. I had already started the program anyways. Or,
  2. Withdraw from the program altogether and reflect on the direction of my future.

I’m sure you know by now the choice I decided to make.

Initially, my plan was to take a year off, do some volunteering, and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. However, it didn’t take long for me to come to terms with exactly what it was I needed to do; which was to follow the passion I had as a child of becoming a teacher. By September 2012, the same year I had withdrawn from the BHRM program, I was already beginning the next chapter of my life. I applied and was accepted into a four-year Bachelor of Early Childhood Leadership program; but, within a couple of days, quickly decided that I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice to end up exactly where I had started. By the second week, I was transferred into a two-year Early Childhood Education program. While those were two really great years of my academic career, I knew that I wanted to continue my studies. In January of 2014, I was nearing graduation. I started thinking about what I wanted to do next and where I wanted to go. The easiest option for me was to stay at George Brown College, and take the bridging courses I needed to transition back into the Early Childhood Leadership program, which I had initially applied to. By this point in my life, I was confident that I wanted to continue pursuing a career within the field of early childhood. So, I thought to myself, why not just continue on, at this school, and with this program? And I probably would have, if it wasn’t for the Career & Education Fair:

“The Career & Education Fair provides opportunities to meet potential employers, explore educational pathways, learn about professional organizations and attend workshops supporting professional development.” (GBC Newsletter, 2014)

The day of the fair, I learned of 2 new paths I could take: I could go on to obtain a Bachelor in Early Childhood Education, or I could apply to the Honours Bachelor of Child Development (BCD) program; which, of course, was the direction I ended up going. Thinking back now, there was something about my course on Infant and Child Development (PSYC1075), and learning all about developmental health, the architecture of the brain, early brain development, neural and sensory pathways, self-regulation, genes and environment, developmental milestones, and so much more that struck my interest. By September of 2014, not only was I enrolled and ready to begin the BCD program, but I had also discovered Dr. Bruce Perry and of his work, while he was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, many years ago. I recall him mentioning a book he had published in 2006 titled, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing. Captivated to continue learning more, I decided to order a copy of this book.

Meeting Dr. Bruce Perry on May 11, 2015 at the Roots of Empathy Research Symposium

Over the following two and a half years in the BCD program, not only would I be required to read this same book for one of my courses, but I’d also be invited by one of my professors to an event that Dr. Perry would be speaking at. Fast forward to May 11, 2015, where I’d be sitting alongside my peers at the Roots of Empathy Research Symposium in Toronto, Canada. That day, exactly 6 years ago today, I had the chance to meet one of my greatest inspirations in the field. Back in 2014 when I finally had a clearer idea of what I wanted to do with my life and what I was most passionate about, Dr. Perry further opened the doors to my interest in child and brain development, neuroscience, trauma and the importance of early childhood experiences. This brings me to the 2 reasons why I wanted to write and share this article with you:

  1. The Roots of Empathy will be hosting their 2021 Research Symposium on May 11th (today! what a coincidence) & 12th from 1:00-3:00 PM ET. It is virtual, free and open to the public. This event will bring together neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and experts on empathy like Dr. Richard Davidson, Dr. Dan Siegel, and of course, Dr. Bruce Perry.
  2. Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey are co-authors of a new book titled, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, which was released on April 27th and is a #1 New York Times Bestseller.

While I won’t be able to attend the Roots of Empathy Research Symposium this year, I share it with the hopes that you might be able to attend and learn from it, as well as share it with others. I did, however, attend one of Perry and Winfrey’s virtual book tours and look forward to continuing reading What Happened to You? I can already see that it is making a significant impact on the world, and the ways that we view and understand early childhood experiences, brain science, trauma and healing. Have you gotten your copy yet? 📖

Interested in learning more about Roots of Empathy?

Interested in learning more about the What Happened to You?


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Just Playing

Early Childhood
little black girl in medical robe playing with toy stethoscope
Photo by Amina Filkins

By Anita Wadley

When I’m building in the block room, please don’t say I’m “Just Playing.”
For you see, I’m learning as I play about balances and shapes.
Who knows, I may be an architect some day.

When I’m getting all dressed up; setting the table, caring for the babies,
Don’t get the idea I’m “Just Playing.”
For, you see, I’m learning as I play;
I may be a mother or father some day.

When you see me sitting in a chair, reading to an imaginary audience.
Please don’t laugh and think I’m “Just Playing.”
For, you see, I’m learning as I play;
I may be a teacher someday.

When you see me combing the bushes for bugs,
Or packing my pockets with choice things I find; don’t pass it off as “Just Play.”
For, you see, I’m learning as I play;
I may be a scientist someday.

When you see me engrossed in a puzzle or some “plaything” at my school,
Please don’t feel the time is wasted.
For, you see, I’m learning as I play. I’m learning to solve problems and concentrate.
I may be in business some day.

girl in red dress playing a wooden blocks
Photo by cottonbro studio

When you see me cooking or tasting foods,
Please don’t think that because I enjoy it, it is “Just Play.”
I’m learning to follow directions and see differences.
I may be a cook someday.

When you see me learning to skip, hop, run and move my body;
Please don’t say I’m “Just Playing.”
For, you see, I’m learning as I play; I’m learning how my body works.
I may be a doctor, nurse or athlete someday.

When you asked me, what I’ve done at school today,
And I say “I just played”; please don’t misunderstand me.
For, you see, I’m learning as I play.
I’m learning to enjoy and be successful in my work;
I’m preparing for tomorrow.
Today, I am a child and my work is play.

Happy Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day!

Becoming an ECE

Early Childhood

A lot of people think that we’re just here to play [and change diapers] they forget that we’re actually here to teach.”

– Preschool Teacher

One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was withdrawing from an undergraduate in Human Resources Management and going on to study Early Childhood Education (ECE). It was 8 years ago, September 2012, when my journey to become an ECE began and I walked into my first class at George Brown College. While it was an average class size of about 30 students, one of the first things I realized was that most of the class consisted of female students. This was something that had stuck with me throughout my academic career.

To give you an idea of what the Early Childhood Education program was like for me at the time…

Year 1, Semester 1: The first 7 weeks of the program began in class, where I was enrolled in about 7 courses. The following 7 weeks were spent out at a field placement where I would gain valuable, hands-on experience working and learning alongside my host-teacher. A host-teacher works at the placement site, guides you throughout your placement experience and is responsible for your evaluations. My first placement experience was working at a childcare centre with school-age children enrolled in an after-school program. Since placements generally consist of full 8-hour days, I worked in the preschool classrooms until my group of children arrived at the after-school program at the end of their school day.

An ice rink I created for the children at my preschool placement as an extension to the learning that was taking place.

Year 1, Semester 2: Once that placement was completed, it was back to class for another 7 weeks. My first year of the program would end with another placement which was working entirely with preschoolers. In between my 7 weeks of classes and 7 weeks at placement was one week off, commonly known as Reading Week. I’m grateful and lucky to have had that time to travel.

Year 2, Semester 3: My second year began the same way my first did. Seven weeks in class followed by 7 weeks in the field. By this point, I was at my third placement at a Lab school with infants. A Lab school has high expectations as it is operated in association with a college or university. I had never worked with infants prior to this placement but in the end, it was by far my most challenging and rewarding one.

Students at my kindergarten placement re-created real life structures using wooden blocks.

Year 2, Semester 4: After my reading week, I returned to class for another 7 weeks and my final placement was working in a full-day kindergarten classroom within the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Once the program was completed, I registered with the College of Early Childhood Educators to be able to practice formally as a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE). Not too long after I graduated in April of 2014, I began working at a childcare centre with toddlers and preschoolers.

My academic career wouldn’t end there as I went on to complete 2.5 years of the Honours Bachelor of Child Development (BCD) degree program at Seneca College.

Having completed my ECE, I entered the fourth semester of the BCD degree program which is why I only had to complete 2.5 years of the 4-year program. The learning I gained in this program opened my eyes to a whole new depth of childhood and child development; from studying about children’s emotional well-being, to brain research and cognitive development, to screening and assessment tools and so much more. My whole understanding, approach and attitude towards the field was shaped drastically by everything I had learned in this program. I ended the BCD program having completed a research study titled, “Job Satisfaction Amongst Male ECE’s and Primary School Teachers”. Having realized how few males there were in both of the two programs I had been in and within the field itself, I had set out to uncover and learn the reasons why by interviewing men who were working as an early childhood educator or a primary school teacher about their level of job satisfaction in their role. Hats off to all the male educators who are working and making a difference in this profession!

My journey to becoming an Early Childhood Educator, followed by a Bachelors in Child Development was such a rewarding and enlightening experience for me, and I’m so grateful for all that I’ve learned from the children, families and educators at placements and from working in the field. For me, this is a journey that will never be over because I believe there is always room for growth and new experiences. This year, I obtained a certificate of completion for the Self-Reg in Early Childhood Development Program and I’m currently working towards completing a Self-Reg Facilitators course. I currently teach and inform educators about the importance of early childhood experiences, brain development, understanding self-regulation, stress and so much more. There really is no end to the learning of an educator as this is a field that is always changing. I’m so glad to have been able to make the choices in my life that allowed me to find the profession that I’m passionate about and proud to be apart of. Much love and appreciation goes out to my family who has always and continues to support me along my path.

Best of luck to all those studying to become Early Childhood Educators. May your passion for children and the profession grow stronger each day.


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

“There is only now.”

Early Childhood, Self-Regulation

As part of my Self-Reg Facilitator’s Program course with The MEHRIT Centre, we are always tasked with responding to a series of discussion questions. For last week’s module, we were asked to reflect and respond to one of two quotes. I decided to share the quote and my short reflection on it.

Reading this quote by Susan Hopkins brings to mind what Dr. Stuart Shanker said about the womb not being a stress-free environment, but rather, a stress-reduced environment. Self-regulation is how we manage stress. Even before we are born into this world full of different stressors, we have already encountered and been exposed to a certain degree of stress (low to high) from and through our mother, while in the womb. This can be due to her adjusting to the changes that come with pregnancy (hormonal, emotional, mood, daily routines), possible existing health challenges, environmental stressors, just to list a few. The fetal brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) is the first to develop during fetal development at about week 3 until full term (see: Sensitive Periods of a Baby’s Development). Our nervous system is what’s responsible for our stress response. So even before we are born, that system has already been actively developing and engaged in the womb, and if there are no complications, should be fully developed by the time we are born. Babies are ready for self-regulation from the time their central nervous system is beginning to develop. A fetus in the womb depends on its mother’s ability to self-regulate (manage the stress and changes that come with life and pregnancy) before they are born. As Stuart says in Reframed: Self-Reg for a Just Society, they are “transitioning from one type of womb to another, an ‘external womb'”. Since babies can’t yet self-regulate on their own, once they enter the “external womb” (the world), they depend on the adults in their lives to help them to do so.

An article I came across titled, When Does the Fetus’s Brain Begin to Work? by Zero to Three states: 

“In the last trimester, fetuses are capable of simple forms of learning, like habituating (decreasing their startle response) to a repeated auditory stimulus, such as a loud clap just outside the mother’s abdomen. Late-term fetuses also seem to learn about the sensory qualities of the womb, since several studies have shown that newborn babies respond to familiar odors (such as their own amniotic fluid) and sounds (such as a maternal heartbeat or their own mother’s voice). In spite of these rather sophisticated abilities, babies enter the world with a still-primitive cerebral cortex, and it is the gradual maturation of this complex part of the brain that explains much of their emotional and cognitive maturation in the first few years of life.”

Children are always ready for self-regulation. There is only and always now.


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Simple Ways to Help Kids Cope with & Manage Stress

Early Childhood, Self-Regulation

Kids have stress too!? Yes! Just like us, kids do have stress.

Here are simple ways to understand and help your kids cope with and manage stress.

Stress in the Womb
Even in utero, a fetus can experience the stress of its mother. Whether that be emotional, physical or physiological, the fetus can feel and be impacted by what the mother is experiencing. Especially when her stress levels are high and/or she has poor health.

The Stress Response System
Regardless of age, the stress response system, formally known as our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) operates in the exact same way. What I mean by that is, children can experience the same physiological fight, flight or freeze reaction in a threat-like situation. Stress is caused by an adrenaline surge and elevated cortisol levels to create a quick action response. Alternatively, acetylcholine and serotonin are released to slow things down for recovery.

Feelings of Distress
Babies cry to express when they are stressed/in distress such as when they’re tired, hungry, need to be changed or comforted. Babies are not born with coping strategies to deal with stress; therefore, they can solely rely on the love and care from the adults in their life. Matter of fact, coping strategies to deal with stress can continue to develop well into adulthood.  

Photo by Alexander Dummer

Types of Stressors
Children can experience a range of stressors such as biological – feeling hungry, tired, having allergies, emotional – feeling lonely, guilty, embarrassed, cognitive – feeling confused, overstimulated, learning new things, just to list a few. You’d be surprised some of the things that can be considered stressful for a child. The stress that humans experience can also range from positive stress – a normal and healthy part development, tolerable stress – more severe stressors with a limited duration, or toxic stress – adversity with a frequent and/or prolonged duration. Supportive relationships are what help to buffer and reverse the effects of stress. (See: Stress & Stressors)

Stress Behaviours
The manifestation of stress can be interpreted as challenging behaviours such as the following: temper tantrums, a change in eating (undereating or overeating) and/or sleep habits, physical aggression (biting, hitting, kicking), complaining of physical symptoms such as a tummy ache, headache, frequent illnesses due to a low immune system, just to list a few. 

Understanding the science behind stress can be quite complex.

In fact, not all stress is bad for us. It’s a normal key part of development and daily life. Stress is what gets us up in the morning, pushes us to do our best and helps us to Keep Going.

The most important thing to consider when understanding stress would first be to realize that you too experience stress. This will help you to think about how your child may be experiencing and displaying in an age-appropriate way that they’re stressed, and how best you can support them through all the ups and downs that life will inevitably bring their way. Such as the first day of school, trying out for a sports club or going for a job interview.

Photo by cottonbro
  • Ensure they are eating healthy and balanced meals and are getting enough sleep
  • Develop their emotional literacy by helping them to recognize, acknowledge, identify, express and talk about their feelings
  • Engage them in relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, mindfulness/meditation or yoga, as well as in physical activities. These create endorphins in the brain which help to reduce stress
  • Try to create stress-free environments such as device-free dinners/family time and limiting screen time
  • Read age-appropriate books with characters who overcome challenging situations
  • Kids like predictability. Maintain consistency in their daily routines and explain to them in advance when changes may be happening
  • Explain to them that stress is normal part of life and growing up and set positive examples of how you deal with it 


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Flow is Happiness & Children’s Play

Early Childhood

Photo by cottonbro

Flow is a concept that was identified by a psychologist by the name of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In researching happiness and creativity, he found that people were happiest in this state. Flow is defined as:

The mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Wikipedia

Flow can also be described as “being in the zone” and can occur in activities such as playing a sport or music, writing, dancing, baking, and even while working, learning or creating.

Photo by Jansel Ferma

The characteristics of Flow include:

Positive Psychology

  1. Complete concentration
  2. Having a clear goal and reward in mind
  3. Experiencing a transformation of time as either going fast or slow
  4. Feeling that the task is intrinsically rewarding
  5. A balance between the level of challenge of a task and your skill level
  6. A feeling of control over the task
  7. Losing sense of self or self-consciousness
  8. A desire to repeat/continue the task

In reference to #5, Flow can’t happen if a task is too easy or too difficult. There needs to be a balance between how challenging a task is and your skill level. For example:

Photo by Wikipedia
  • If the challenge of a task is low (too easy) and your skill level is high in relation to the task, it can lead to boredom
  • If the challenge of a task is high (too difficult) and your skill level is low in relation to the task, it can lead to anxiety

Children can experience Flow at a young age, particularly during their play which is something they naturally love to do. Think back to a time from your childhood when you were so absorbed in playing that you didn’t even realize how much time had passed. What exactly was it you were doing?

If you experienced Flow as a child, it’s likely that:

  1. You concentrated on what you were doing, undisturbed by what was happening around you  
  2. You were intentional in your play, often with a desire to see things through to completion 
  3. You lost awareness of how much time had passed
  4. You felt proud and a sense of accomplishment in what you did or discovered
  5. You were persistent in your play because you were curious, interested, it was challenging enough and it matched your skill level
  6. You were actively in control of what you were doing/accomplishing
  7. You lost awareness of internal cues (e.g., not realizing that you were hungry or tired)
  8. You desired to repeat the experience again

Can you recall specific moments from your childhood when you experienced/felt any of these?

Maybe there are moments now. What moments are those?

Here are a few benefits to children experiencing Flow:

Photo by cottonbro
  • Children learn best when they are curious (which they naturally are), interested in learning something, and have choices and options
  • Children are continuously learning to understand themselves. Skill level, what is deemed as challenging, and states of Flow will differ for each child. When children are in a state of Flow, they are in control of what they are doing (behaviour and actions) which nurtures their ability to self-regulate and persist through experiences that are challenging, age-appropriate and matches their skills and abilities
  • Play is viewed as children’s work. What this means is that through play, children are naturally engaging in learning experiences that improve their skills, strengthen their capabilities and grow their self-development
  • In uninterrupted states of Flow, children can stretch themselves to great possibilities
  • When nurtured, Flow can turn into a child’s lifelong passion, profession and interest

I hope there were moments from your childhood when you experienced Flow.

If quarantine didn’t lead you to discover it again, I hope that you might find or experience something that does.


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Attachment Styles

Early Childhood

A lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” – John Bowlby

Humans are social beings. From the moment we are born, we enter a world filled with people. Babies make sense of their world through the relationships and interactions they have with their primary caregivers. This is how an attachment is formed and generally this takes place within the first year of life. An attachment is an emotional bond with another person. It can be formed with a child, parent, friend, teacher or student.

Attachment Theory.

At the heart of evolutionary theory of attachment is a psychiatrist by the name of John Bowlby. His work at a clinic in the 1930s with children who were emotionally disturbed led him to explore the importance of the mother-child relationship in children’s earliest stages of development. Bowlby noticed that children showed great distress when separated from their mothers and that they represented a source of security for the child to explore and engage with the world. He suggested that this mother-child relationship sets the template for which children will view future social relationships they encounter later in life. He believed the window for attachment to develop is from birth to 5 years of age and if an attachment is not established within this time, there are consequences to a child’s development (McLeod, 2017).

Attachment Styles.

At the heart of attachment styles is a psychologist by the name of Mary Ainsworth. She was interested in investigating the varying styles of attachment among children. Ainsworth devised an experimental study in the 1970s called the Strange Situation which observed the interaction between a mother and child in a room, the behaviour and reaction of the child when a stranger entered the room, when the mother left the child with the stranger and then when she returned. The results from the study yielded three main attachment styles among 1 to 2-year-old babies:

Secure – The attachment figure is a safe base (a source of safety, security and comfort) for the child to freely explore and in times of distress. When a child feels a sense of safety and security they will feel comfortable with exploring and interacting with their environment. The child is easily soothed when the mother leaves the room and returns. The attachment figure is overall available, caring, attuned, consistent and responsive to the child’s needs (McLeod, 2018).

Insecure-Avoidant – The child is physically and emotionally independent of the attachment figure. The attachment figure is not sought out by the child during distress when the mother leaves the room and returns. The attachment figure is likely unavailable, insensitive and rejecting of the child’s needs (McLeod, 2018).

Insecure Ambivalent/Resistant – The child displays clingy, dependent behaviour towards their attachment figure. The child does not feel a sense of security from their attachment figure and is hard to soothe and feel comforted when in distress. The attachment figure is considered inconsistency in their responsiveness to the child’s needs (McLeod, 2018).  

The level of sensitivity and responsiveness that a caregiver displays plays a role in the type of attachment style a child will develop and the way in which the child will view themselves and their worth as they grow older and into an adult. Children who have a secure attachment may likely develop a positive outlook, seeing themselves as worthy of care and respect, and may view others as trusting and helpful. A secure attachment tends to lead to healthy self-regulation and coping skills and the development of future relationships that have a balance of intimacy, independence, reliability and trust (McLeod, 2018).

Children with an avoidant attachment style may likely to view themselves as devalued, unworthy and unacceptable due to the rejecting nature of their caregiver. As an adult, they may be emotionally distance from others, fear closeness, intimacy and being vulnerable, as a means of protecting themselves from getting hurt. They may view the world as unreliable, leading them to be self-reliant, self-dependent and protective (McLeod, 2018).

Children with an ambivalent/resistant attachment style may likely have a negative self-image, be angry and confused and seek out ways to gain attention. They may be disinterested and anxious towards others and struggle with forming strong and positive emotional connections. They may also have feelings of insecurity, be overdependent and always seek approval from others (McLeod, 2018).

While a caregiver’s level of sensitivity is one factor, there are many other factors that can influence a child’s attachment style such as their temperament and experiences. Ultimately, early attachment sets the template for the future development of relationships later in life. This is why it’s important that families, parents/caregivers and provided and offered with supports to ensure the healthy development of their child’s social-emotional and overall development.

A video created by Health Nexus on attachment and relationships.


If you are interested in exploring attachment theories further, I have referenced a couple of links below where you can find more information:

Attachment (City of Toronto)

John Bowlby – Attachment Theory; Stages of Attachment:

McLeod, S. A. (2017, Feb 05). Attachment theory. Retrieved from

Mary Ainsworth – Strange Situation:

McLeod, S. A. (2018, Aug 05). Mary Ainsworth. Retrieved from


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Brain Development in the Early Years

Early Childhood

Early experiences affect the development of brain architecture, which provides the foundation for all future learning.” – Center on the Developing Child

man in gray shirt holding baby in white onesie
Photo by nappy

If you haven’t already read What is ECD? it’s a great place to start as topics mentioned there will relate to what I’ll discuss here. As I mentioned in that article, the first 3 years of a child’s life is the most important. Relationships and experiences play a significant part in the earliest years as it is ultimately where it all begins. Experiences are created through relationships and it is how a young child learns. Nurturing and supportive experiences (through serve and return) repeated overtime with the caregivers in a child’s life eventually forms a healthy, secure attachment which is bounded by a feeling of trust and security. These repeated experiences and type of relationships all get build into the architecture of the developing brain (see: “More on Brain Development” below). A secure attachment is formed when a child has learned that they can trust that their needs will be consistently met, and they feel a sense of safety and protection with their caregivers. There are also 2 other types of attachment styles. The type of relationship a child has established from the beginning sets the template for how they will view future relationships. This template is known as their internal working model. When a child learns that both they and their needs are important and will be met, this contributes to the later development of many future competencies, including how they feel about themselves, their attitude towards learning and others, the types of relationships they will continue to form, and even how they understand and interpret their own emotions and that of others.

It’s important that future relationships, especially those that are formed outside the context of the family and home, are also sources of trust and safety; such as when a child enters school and is exposed to opportunities to develop relationships with their peers and teachers. Children learn best through relationships in all contexts. A child will continue to learn things such as people have needs, feelings and thoughts that are different than their own, such as in situations that may require them to share or wait their turn. In school, when a child has established a positive relationship with their teachers and peers, they are more likely to be eager to learn, attend, and be successful in school. The positive relationships and experiences early in their life lay the foundation for hopefully new positive relationships, experiences and learning to form. If a child is going to school not feeling happy and excited to learn, there is possibly a reason why and it’s important to pay attention to that.  

I understand that brain development in the early years is a very board topic which is why I’ve kept this article short. As I continue to publish more posts, you will learn from a range of topics that contribute to an understanding of how children grow and develop into adulthood. The two things I want you to take away from this article is the importance of early relationships and experiences. These both play a large part in present and future development but do not operate in isolation. It’s important to acknowledge that there are a range of other factors that contribute to development. These will also appear in future posts. So, stay tuned, as I hope to continue sharing with you.

More on Brain Development

The Brain Architects Podcast: Brain Architecture: Laying the Foundation


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.