2, 4 , 6, 8 is testosterone what we really hate?

Behavioural challenges in toddlers and young children can have multiple causes. There is a large amount of conflicting research around what affects little boys behaviours, with no real evidence to suggest that it is just a burst of testosterone. I believe that a number of factors including hormones such as testosterone, and environmental and social experiences affect children’s abilities to self regulate, communicate and adhere to socially accepted and expected norms.

  • Are the adult’s expectations of a child’s behaviour right for that child’s developmental stage? – preschoolers just don’t think like adults!
  • Are boundaries and expectations taught in positive ways that the child understands? – convince the child it’s the behaviour you want to improve and that you love them always.
  • Are there any socio-emotional issues that are affecting a child’s actions/reactions? Family violence/abuse? post natal depression? poverty? or attachment disorders?

There is very little reading available around 2 year olds (terrible two’s) other than their struggle and frustrations to communicate, learn social rules and concepts while dealing with their families fast paced worlds.  There is little to suggest testosterone is the culprit.

Early language development can be attributed to lower testosterone with at least one study suggesting that this is why girls talk earlier than boys, can communicate better and get less frustrated equaling less challenging behaviour.  Higher levels lead to less early language and a toddlers preference for larger groups and later aggressive play. (Alexander,2014; Friederici, et al. 2008). This must not be read in a vacuum and will only play one part in how a child learns and copes with different situations. Having positive role models and present supportive adults should be seen as key to positive learning out comes.

Children grow and learn so rapidly and there are a multitude of reasons why they might have challenging behaviours. Check your own behaviours, expectations and strategies for helping wee ones through this awesome time in a child’s life.

Snippets and articles for further reading.

“Increased testosterone may be linked to increased levels of aggression 1. But there is certainly no link between testosterone and inattention or over activity 2. So, if Mr. four years old suddenly started to fight or behave in an aggressive manner it could be linked to an increase in testosterone – however, a four year old who does not listen or is generally acting up is not likely to be caused by any hormonal changes”. (Evidencebasedparent, 2014).

“What’s Really up With a Four Year Old Boy’s Behaviour Then?

In short – Us, me, you, parents, adults, society…….. We don’t really “get” normal little boy behaviour, which is strange given that around half of all adults have been one. Little boys (and that is what a four year old is) need to play, play, play, play, play and play some more. They need open space, nature, air. They need trees to climb, balls to kick, mud to squelch, frisbees to throw. They need to be allowed to use their amazing imaginations and explore the world with their whole bodies” (Ockwell-Smith, 2014).


Alexander, G. M. (2014). Postnatal testosterone concentrations and male social development.

Evidencebasedparent , (2014) http://evidencebasedparent.blogspot.co.nz/2014/07/the-myth-of-toddler-testosterone-surge.html

Friederici, A. D., Pannekamp, A., Partsch, C. J., Ulmen, U., Oehler, K., Schmutzler, R., & Hesse, V. (2008). Sex hormone testosterone affects language organization in the infant brain. Neuroreport19(3), 283-286.

Ockwell-Smith, (2014). https://sarahockwell-smith.com/2014/06/09/why-the-huge-testosterone-surge-in-young-boys-is-a-myth-and-what-really-causes-their-behaviour-to-change/


The Runners High


You may have heard of it the “runners high”, the chemical reaction in the brain that tells you that you love running. Of course you don’t, it’s the endorphin’s acting as painkillers that make us feel exhilarated and euphoric. If you are lucky enough to experience this you will want to get that hit again.

Now recently Rod Dixon who won the NY marathon 33 years ago was inducted into the hall of fame, and said “It’s not the race, it’s not the finish line, it’s the journey and how it changes lives,”  And he is right, people start running for all kinds of reasons, but it is what  can be gained along the way that keeps you going Do you run to prove a point such as in the 2007 Simon peg movie “Run fat boy run” and your mates told you that you wouldn’t or even couldn’t – damn cheek! Or like when the surgeons told me I wouldn’t run again after a severe ankle injury? A certain stubbornness makes us step up and take the challenge. Maybe it’s to gain a sense of belonging and meet new people? to see new places? to lose a few pounds? or just to de-stress, running has many rewards including that chemical driven elation gained from just getting out there and doing it.


The idea of running to compete or challenge yourself  seems like an obvious reason to run, and sure all those long lonely training hours pounding the pavement need to have a reason or a goal – Can you improve your time? Beat your mates in the local half marathon? Or win your age group?  Some just run to finish, collect the t-shirt or medal and get the kudos of having “knocked the b*****d off”, when the high wears off it’s still good to bask in the smug glory of knowing that you have done what so many have not (and for so good reason do not want to). Of course some love the excitement of the start line, the cheering crowds along the way and even more so the finish line some 20 or 40 (or even 100) kilometres away. But as Rod said it’s not really about the running at all.

Camaraderie also known as a spirit of good friendship is contradictorily part of the lonely long distance runner’s mix. While many run for fun (a mildly sadistic, self flagellating fun) and others run to compete most want to enjoy their high with other people. Some join clubs to participate in events and meet new people, to gain a sense of belonging with like minded souls. Having stories and experiences to share while building relationships encourages you to keep going and improving, “Any achievement is so much more special when shared with others”. While the road to long distance running can be lonely, regular events and travel to special destinations with a group can really add to the anticipation of that high. There are many tour companies specialising in taking groups to international events like the New York or great wall marathons where shared memories of that experience of a lifetime are made.

Now another good reason to pull on the running shoes is your own health – mental, physical and spiritual. Health studies show that outdoor exercise can improve moods and reduce levels of anxiety. The feel good chemicals released into the body can help fight depression, while increased fitness and metabolism help to produce better body self images. Great you’ve lost a few pounds, you’re sleeping better and you are de-stressing but wait there’s more! What about spiritual health? Yes, there is something amazing about communing with nature as you run alongside the Kaiapoi river on a spring training run with water sparkling and the shady willows whispering urging you on – just another few k’s or over a majestic mountain pass like in the Motatapu challenge from Wanaka to Arrowtown as you go cross country over the Alpine ridge and gain a sense of nirvana as your body goes into shock from the cold and intense exertion, the time spent with your own thoughts gives opportunity to solve problems and contemplate your world as if being without the deafening noise of modern communication gives your brain a time out to think and recharge . Time to meditate and be as one with the road or trail can be great for problem solving or come to up with new ideas. Think about running even in a group, or alone as real quality “Me” time.

While we may not all want to become ultra marathoners like our own Lisa Tamati on the 200+ Kilometres Badwater race through death valley, some of us just may want to keep running until we are like the octogenarian couple who recently finished an Irish marathon – holding hands no less! Or 85 year old Ed Whitlock who in October, ran the Toronto Marathon in 3:56:38. It is amazing to see that the quest for the runners high knows no age limit.

It’s not about the finish line or even the running itself, we all could get addicted to the runner’s high and learn to revel in the supporters chants of “run Forrest run”. There are many reasons people start to run; Health, companionship, challenge or just a sense of achievement but it’s the thirst for more that keeps people going.


Be Present, so much learning can be seen as kids have fun

Takahia, stomp! E peke, Jump!

5 4 3 2 1 Houston we have no problem

Learning to launch a rocket required a lot of focus, practice and determination for nga tamariki as they used their bodies, knowledge and social skills to support each other.

Using a toy rocket that requires a jump or stomp to force air through a tube which pushes the rocket many metres into the air required the acquisition and practice of many skills in the playground. Using ideas about their own bodies and the amount of force required or even body parts (2 feet versus 1) was great learning as some children were observed to have challenges around jumping and landing 2 footed on a small air bag. Other children were heard to encourage their peers and quickly took up the use of “E peke” jump to pass on the idea that more force would be better from 2 feet rather than a stomp from 1.

There was good perseverance in gaining the right technique and also in being able to conform to the social expectation that lining up was the rule for this impromptu experience. While the more able 4 year old’s became competitive in how high they could get the rocket, some younger ones looked for support in joining play,. Using older children and teachers to encourage and invite others into the exercise worked well and gave confidence to those trying something new in the gross motor area.

Something so simple met the different needs of so many in the space of about 30 minutes, just by being alongside a group fluctuating from 10 to 15 and allowing them to self regulate we all gained some valuable learning.


Let’s fight!

Just read an article written about a book called Raising Boys. I was particularly interested in the why’s of wrestling with young boys. I must say I was a bit perplexed also to read that a 14 year old’s testosterone is 800% more than a toddlers – that explains a lot of my teenage years!

Dads, and other adult male carers engage in play fighting or wrestling for fun, but it has serious learning implications; Fun and noisy can also lead to anger followed by the learning of boundaries, rule setting and ultimately self regulation.

Play wrestling teaches little boys when to stop. I love the idea that through fun rough housing as a 3 or 4 year a boy can learn to self control his anger in adult life and know when to back off.

All the more reason to promote active play with a present adult, if these are the benefits then Let’s fight!



Confucius say’s

Image result for education breeds confidence quotes

So true, now how to undo inter-generational under achievement, distrust of main stream education and promote higher aspirations of educational and cognitive abilities for our children. How do you we give peace to those who lack confidence from not having gained a useful, broad, fact based, culturally sensitive and emotionally stable education? Perhaps the education system could be targeting those who show signs of needing peace for the benefit of wider society?.

More money, yes more money! targeted with measurable and accountable goals, for individuals and providers to meet the needs of mental health and social circumstances that have prevented quality early childhood and on going education. Can we (the government and community) provide more concentrated and sustained care to children and whanau to break the cycle and provide an equitable opportunity for peace?

Providing more to those who have less (money* – safety, support, education) gives  an equal chance for all to have peace. when the societies less well equipped are confident as children and parents we will all contribute and prosper.

Learning Environments

Asthetics and the physical environment affect children’s learning and behaviour, but the social environment and the interactions with adults in combination with children’s surroundings is what really affects dispositions.

Although the environment informs what kind of learning is happening without a significant other to facilitate and support fascination and imagination the physical environment can become somewhat irrelevant. Kathryn Delaney in Waking the ‘Third Teacher’: the whys and hows (2011) made a good point that the environment and teachers often limit themselves to compliance with rules and regulations.

Providing more open ended resources always with a present adult, even if just to be there as an available role model while nga tamariki are making there own choices of play can observing  these adults actions. I believe that it’s true having space is part of creating a welcoming environment but it is the people that make a the space warm and encouraging.

It is people who put in place routines that can be stifling to imagination and perseverance building. It is people who need to plan and provide opportunities for all learners.

I like this teaching practice goal from the same article above – (provide) “an environment where a learning behaviour is actively stretched and strengthened” nice! As teachers we are helping children to be open to learning. In the same article Guy Claxton (2010) is quoted as saying that teaching has 2 purposes – one is to grow knowledge the other is build childrens ability to grow more skills and understandings.

I love the idea of creating learning invitations and being always mindful of teaching intentions as well as following and assessing childrens own self directed learning.

The environment is important in childrens learning in that it should reflect them as belonging and being valued, but these things can only occur when responsive adults provide an inclusive and inviting learning space.

“Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine… should be!” Arthur C Clarke


Why Teach?

*1. Is it okay if the Ministry of Education drops the current wage/salary attestation requirement for ECE services?

What are your thoughts on this? All teachers should have some qualification, with 80% to degree level, Centre attesting to this should be rewarded accordingly

*2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement:  “There is a need for early childhood teachers who are not kindergarten teachers and are not covered by a collective agreement to have some form of minimum wage protection that is above the adult minimum wage of $15.25 an hour”.

Pre school age children are the countries greatest asset therefore their professional carers should be supported in staying with and furthering their abilities and careers, minimum higher rates with these rates increasing as qualifications increase ie more for dip, degree, masters etc….


Is it okay for teachers counted within the minimum legal adult to child ratios at services to not be required to be working with the children and be able to leave ‘the floor’ to do admin or other work? (this would make it possible to count those attending meetings, in the office, doing washing, etc. as being part of the minimum adult-child ratio for supervision)   

Don’t have an opinion on this
Face to face, eyes on, giving positive role modeled attention to children is what matters most.  A teacher not on the floor is not observing, scaffolding, guiding, facilitating or supporting children’s learning – not to mention it’s just not safe!

*4. Are you

an employee working at an early childhood service (employees include paid managers, supervisors, kindergarten teachers, teachers, visiting teachers/ coordinators, relievers, etc)
an employer or provider of an early childhood service
a student 
an in-home educator who is a private contractor and not an employee
Other (please specify)

*5. Are you with an early childhood service or group of services that are

community-owned or publicly-owned
privately-owned (e.g. by a person or people,  by a company,  or private family charity)
or not associated directly with any particular early childhood service or ECE group

Thank you for your answers and your time in responding

Time for change

Giddy up I say, it’s time to play. For more than 5 years in the same role I studied for my degree in teaching, I have finally begun to mold my own beliefs. I am grateful for my beginnings and every person I have observed and worked alongside, for each one has helped me decided how I want to be part of children’s learning.

Last Friday the awesome Kristy brought us tickets to to see Nathan Wallis talk about the development of 3 – 7 year old’s WOW one of the best talks I have seen. I am reinvigorated and re inspired to push the message that under seven year old’s grow and learn best by having a responsive adult support and acknowledge their emotions, strength’s, interests and encourage their developing working theories in the context of their community and culture – Whew that was a mouth full!! but this is what I believe.

Now armed with Nathans research backed ideas, a philosophy of engaging children’s minds through activity based wonderment and a understanding and nurturing disposition I’m ready to take on a new challenge. Had a great first day at my new centre in Kaiapoi and am looking forward to making a difference with new families and colleagues.




Rubbish!, children learn from all that surrounds them.

Read the following article, then like me laugh your head off. Children (and adults) use all their senses to learn and the assertion that children learn better by being asked to sit still and concentrate on what material is being fed to them by an adult is complete rubbish. Bare walls do not instill a sense of belonging, curiosity, wonder or for that matter give children the ability to take in things that interest them at their own pace and ability.

Modern theorists suggest that children learn best through being active. Having the expectation that 4, 5 ,6 year old’s learn better from sitting in stark conditions is rubbish, this idea does not reflect Aotearoa/ New Zealand early child curriculum  where children are to be treated as individuals and as such have their assessed learning  style respected and provided for in daily teaching.

It is imperative that children at preschool/kindergarten are surrounded by and stimulated through verbal and nonverbal imagery that reflects their own culture, community, and their own contribution to the class room/ centre. In the following article what were they testing for? was it can children regurgitate rote or teacher led facts because their own learning styles have been disregarded? Perhaps instead they should have assessed children for a growing sense of confidence and wonderment received from the colourful walls around them. No doubt they were learning to create their own working theories from supported use of their imaginations.

Under 7 year olds get distracted just like 40 something year olds, providing bare walls will not improve children’s ability to actually learn it only treats them as drones.

“A recent study, reported by NBC News, has found that for young children, adopting a more subdued approach to classroom decoration has merit. The study was one of the first to examine how decorations impact learning. It found that when kindergartners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted and scored lower on tests than when they were taught in a room with bare walls.

“Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University followed a group of 24 kindergartners taught in two simulated classrooms: one with bare walls, the other decorated with commercial materials like presidential photos, science posters and maps, as well as the children’s artwork.  During the lessons, children sat on carpet squares in a semicircle facing the teacher, who read aloud from a picture book. They participated in six lessons of five- to seven-minutes each in which the teacher read aloud on topics such as plate tectonics, the Solar System and bugs. After each lesson, the children took multiple-choice picture tests. Lessons were observed and videotaped to monitor how often the children were focused on the teacher or ‘off task,’ distracted by themselves, other students or the visual environment.

“In the sparse classroom, the kindergartners got distracted by other students or even themselves. But in the decorated one, children were more likely to be distracted by the visual environment and spent far more time ‘off task.’  Anna V. Fisher, the study’s lead author and an associate psychology professor, said the findings showed that the classroom environment can be distracting and negatively impact learning.”