On Display Friday Feature: Dr. Sylvia Santos ND (Part 1)

Today I am excited to be re-introducing my On Display Friday Features, where I visit interesting places that my blog audience will hopefully find relevant and then report back in an interview style post.  The first collaboration I had was with my dear friend Dr. Sylvia Santos ND, who recently opened up a naturopathic clinic close-by to our studio.

To travel back in time (2012 to be exact) to see my initial On Display archive here.

Dr. Santos, I am so so proud of you for all you have accomplished! I haven’t actually done an interview style "On Display Friday Feature" post in many years and I am really pleased to have YOU as the first one of hopefully many more to come!  I will likely pace myself though to about one a month, or every couple months...

Sylvia and I met through our husbands (Ari was actually in their wedding party last year), and we quickly became friends!  I love her zest for life, warm personality, hard working nature, honest advice, and girl boss drive.  This lovely and intelligent lady never stops!  She is always studying, inspiring/leading her team, taking her clinic to the next level, researching new health and wellness methods, and yet is the most down to earth person you will ever meet!

My visit to her magical world!
We thought we would join forces and begin our collaboration by visiting each other's spaces.  She came over to the studio and I later spent some time at her clinic.  As I walked around I was blown away by how calm it felt.  All the natural wood elements and greenery, reminded me of my time in teaching in Asia.  I loved the brass details, real plants, inspiring quotes, and spa-like vibes!  Of course I already booked my appointment, but we will save that experience for another post!

Let's begin with some of my questions, shall we? 

Dr. Santos is very thorough with her responses, so our feature will extend to Saturday and Sunday in smaller parts.

Can you talk to us a little more about yourself and your NatCan Integrative clinic?

Thank you for the kind words Joanne. I have put a lot of love, passion and hard work into building my dream clinic and team. NatCan operates under the values and ethics where we put the relationship with our patients and their healthcare needs above all. Just as important as the care you receive, the NatCan space was designed to be equally warm, inviting and comforting. We strive to provide a place where people come to gain an empowered perspective on health, and a proactive approach to living your best life. NatCan was founded by me, a primary care Naturopathic Doctor, with a clear vision: to create a small town healthcare experience, but on a large scale, to embody the same attention to care, prevention and treatment that I experienced as a young patient in my hometown of Chatham, Ontario.

In my earlier days, I fast-tracked through university, graduating from The University of Guelph with a Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Science and a Masters Degree in Biomedical Science by the age of 22. After an additional 4 years of education, I graduated from naturopathic medical school with a Doctorate in Naturopathy at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and successfully passed my board and licensing exams.

In 2017, I established the NatCan Integrative Medical & Wellness Centre, a practice in which Canadians could go beyond the one-size-fits all healthcare model. At NatCan, patients are provided with a quality consultation with a practitioner and thorough investigation into appropriate and necessary diagnostic testing and treatment.

Since its inception, NatCan has grown to become a full service integrative health clinic, with practitioners including naturopathic doctors, chiropractic doctor, physiotherapist, registered massage therapists, holistic nutrition and spiritual coaches. NatCan practitioners strive to operate as a true integrative medical team. This model provides not only the convenience of centrally located practitioners, but more importantly, ensures that you receive true integrative care, drawing from the best of traditional and complementary medical philosophies.

In addition to my work at NatCan, you will see that I’m also actively involved in educating the public about health and naturopathic medicine through speaking engagements and media appearances. Furthermore, you might run into me out in nature, as I enjoy spending quality time outside, especially with her friends and family.

Can you share with us what you have learned through your extensive studies about children and their brain development, especially in the early years of their lives. What are your thoughts about the kinds of activities they should be participating in? What is your opinion on screen time (television, iPads, YouTube on a parent’s phone, etc.). What do you suggest children experience at this critical time when their brain is developing?

With video games and social media so readily available, it seems to be harder and harder to pull kids away from their devices. On average, kids spend over seven hours in front of a screen, but only four to seven minutes having unstructured play time outdoors. Everyone knows that playing outside has important health benefits, but researchers are now saying more green time instead of screen time can be good for a child’s growing mind.

Researchers studied more than 2,500 kids, ages 7 to 10, and found that kids who had more time outdoors improved their short-term memory by as much as 28 percent. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping all screens off around babies and toddlers younger than 18 months. They say a little screen time can be okay for older toddlers, and children 2 and older should get no more than an hour of screen time per day. According to the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, for kids between the ages of eight and 11, it should include at least 60 minutes of physical activity, two hours or less of recreational screen time, and nine to 11 hours of sleep.

So how can parents make sure their kids are getting enough time outside? Try activities that get kids involved with nature, such as camping, a walk in the park, or a treasure hunt in the backyard. Also, since kids spend a lot of time at school, parents can try pushing to turn an empty lot into a school garden, allowing kids to discover that learning doesn’t always have to be in a classroom.

Green spaces help to reduce air pollution and allergic reactions in children.  At TransformEd Creative Studio, nature and learning with all five senses is incorporated. This is extremely critical, but why? During the first 3 years of life, children experience the world in a more complete way than children of any other age. The brain takes in the external world through its system of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. This means that infant social, emotional, cognitive, physical and language development are stimulated during multi-sensory experiences. Infants and toddlers need the opportunity to participate in a world filled with stimulating sights, sounds and people.

So what do you do? Create a multi-sensory environment (like Joanne has at her TransformEd Creative Studio) where you:

  • Experiment with different smells in the classroom. Try scents like peppermint and cinnamon to keep children alert and lavender to calm them down
  • Remember that lighting affect alertness and responsiveness. Bright lights keep infants and toddlers alert; soft lights help infants and toddlers to calm down.
  • Expose infants and toddlers to colours that stimulate the brain. Use colours like pale yellow, beige, and off-white to create a calm learning environment; use bright colours such as red, orange, and yellow to encourage creativity and excitement.
  • Use quiet and soft music to calm infants and toddlers and rhythmic music to get them excited about moving.
  • Create a texture book or board that includes swatches of different fabrics for infants and toddlers to feel.
  • Describe the foods and drinks that you serve infants and toddlers and use words that are associated with flavour and texture ("oranges are sweet and juicy;" "lemon yogurt is a little sour and creamy").
  • But let’s not forget about emotional expression (i.e. “Thinking and Feeling”)

Before children are able to talk, emotional expressions are the language of relationships. Research shows that infants' positive and negative emotions, and caregivers' sensitive responsiveness to them, can help early brain development. For example, shared positive emotion between a caregiver and an infant, such as laughter and smiling, engages brain activity in good ways and promotes feelings of security. Also, when interactions are accompanied by lots of emotion, they are more readily remembered and recalled.

Programs like the TransformEd Creative Learning Studio stimulate brain development and incorporate critical activities that encourage collaboration/teamwork, creative innovation, communication, critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, adaptability, curiosity/questioning and confidence in your developing child.

I hope you find this blog post helpful and I encourage you to incorporate more wellness in your life and the lives of your family.

We welcome you at NatCan Integrative Medical & Wellness Centre.

In health,

Dr. Sylvia Santos MBS, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Clinic Director & Owner

NatCan Integrative Medical & Wellness Centre

416-400-NAT0 (6280)

Book an Appointment

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The advice provided in this blog is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.





Caldwell, Bettye. May 1998. "Early experiences shape social development." Child Care Information Exchange: 53-59.

Dombro, Amy Laura, Laura J. Colker and Diane Trister Dodge. 1997. The Creative Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers. Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies, Inc.

Gilkerson, Linda. May 1998. "Brain care: Supporting healthy emotional development." Child Care Information Exchange: 66-68.

Healthy Child Care America. January 1999. Early brain development and child care. American Academy of Pediatrics.

Healy, Jane M. 1994. Your child's growing mind: A practical guide to brain development and learning from birth to adolescence. New York: Doubleday.

Isabella, Russell A. 1993. "Origins of attachment: Maternal interactive behavior across the first year." Child Development, 64: 605-621.

Karr-Morse, Robin, and Meredith S. Wiley. 1997. Ghosts from the nursery: Tracing the roots of violence.New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.

Kotulak, Ronald. 1997. Inside the brain: Revolutionary discoveries of how the mind works. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Lally, J. Ronald. May 1998. "Brain Research, Infant Learning, and Child Care Curriculum." Child Care Information Exchange: 46-48.

Rogers, Adam, Pat Wingert, and Thomas Hayden. May 3, 1999. "Why the Young Kill." Newsweek: 32-35.

O'Donnell, Nina Sazer. March 1999. "Using early childhood brain development research." Child Care Information Exchange: 58-62.

Schiller, Pam. May 1998. "The thinking brain." Child Care Information Exchange: 49-52.

Shore, Rima. 1997. Rethinking the brain: New insights into early development. New York: Families and Work Institute.

University of Pittsburgh, Office of Child Development. Spring, 1998. "Brain development: The role experience plays in shaping the lives of children." Children, Youth, and Family Background, Report 12.Pittsburgh: University Center for Social and Urban Research.

Weikert, Phyllis S. May 1998. "Facing the challenge of motor development." Child Care Information Exchange: 60-62.

Willis, Clarissa. May 1998. "Language development: A key to lifelong learning." Child Care Information Exchange: 63-65.

When Dr. Sylvia Santos came to the TransformEd Creative Studio and Learning Centre.

As I mentioned above, Dr. Santos came to the studio and I visited her clinic. 

You can read her blog post from our collaboration here.

Below, you will also find a little peek into her office space, but we have saved the rest to encourage you to watch our virtual tour and to read the next posts!

The next questions that I ask Dr. Santos are related to staying healthy and keeping those winter viruses out, and Sunday's post will also focus on the importance of a healthy diet.  In the New Year we will be exploring stress and advice about migraines (I get them all the time!), and plan to collaborate a lot more!

Most beautiful medical space I have ever seen! 

And how lucky am I that it's in Woodbridge??

Our video tours have been shared on IGTV.  If you follow us both (@joannebabalis and @drsantosnd @natcanteam, you will also see some of our experiences within the stories as well!

Sylvia brought me these gorgeous flowers and we were so fortunate that they lasted over two weeks!

When women 

support each other


things happen!

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