Primitive reflexes – Why parents need to know about them

Primitive reflexes – Why parents need to know about them

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Dr Jane Williams and Bindy Cummings

Primitive reflexes have been in the news lately as it becomes more widely understood that if babies and young children do not have the movement opportunities and practice to learn to fully control the reflexes, the ‘retained reflexes’ can interfere with later learning and development.

“What is later seen in the classroom as bad behaviour, lack of impulse control, poor social skills and difficulty in learning, despite good intelligence, may, in some cases, be symptoms [of retained reflexes and hence] an underdeveloped central nervous system.”1

Babies are all born with a specific set of primitive reflexes. These reflexes are vital to the survival of newborn babies but also, and significantly, primitive reflexes are responsible for getting babies moving and are of major importance to your babies’ brain development and the development of their balance, muscle tone, head control, vision and even the development of how well they use their hands and feet.

Babyroo Gymbaroo article Primitive Reflexes – Why parents need to know about them.
ATNR – primitive reflex

These early movement reflexes are designed to have a limited life span – they help babies learn how to move, however, to be able to move freely and easily babies need to learn to gain control of these reflexes. Once controlled, your baby can then move smoothly to the next level of movement and brain development.

If not fully controlled, children could end up being partially stuck in a lower stage of brain development and this will affect, to some degree, all their future learning.

A large portion of healthy, intelligent children who end up with learning difficulties at school have retained reflexes. These children have not yet managed to bring the primitive reflexes under full control.

Fortunately, the way babies learn to control these primitive reflexes, occurs as a result of going through the normal, natural sequence of developmental movements – that is, through tummy time, head control, learning how to roll, crawl on their tummies, creep on hands and knees, climb and then walk.

It is both fascinating and marvellous how it all happens. Each movement helps babies learn to control one or more of the primitive reflexes.

Our Primitive reflexes video explains everything you need to know about these important reflexes; how they play a part in your baby’s development and what you can do to ensure your baby has the opportunities to fully control these reflexes.

Access our Baby Reflexes video here.


Dr Jane Williams (PhD, BMgt, RN(Paeds)) is the Research and Education General Manager for GymbaROO and KindyROO. Dr Williams is one of Australia’s leading experts on baby and child development. More on Dr Williams here.

Bindy Cummings (B.Ed(Human Movement) Hons) has worked as a teacher, child development consultant, early childhood development lecturer, teacher trainer and INPP & iLS consultant. She is the co-creator of GymbaROO’s Active Babies Smart Kids online series, has authored many published articles on child development. She is working on the content and development GymbaROO’s portal and online training programs, and the creation of new online programs for parents and children. More on Bindy Cummings here.

Active Babies Smart Kids – Online Baby Classes

GymbaROO-KindyROO’s online series of baby classes is taking the parenting world by storm! It is highly recommended by doctors, paediatricians, early childhood experts and the Maternal Child and Family Health Nurses Association. This series is being called: “The essential guide for parents”. Join the thousands of parents already playing with their babies from birth, in the best way for brain and body development and laying crucial foundations for future learning. What happens in the first year, not only matters, it matters a lot! See Introductory video below.

Active Babies Smart Kids online series – Click here.

Try the first class FREE! Click here to watch our Active Babies Smart Kids Episode 1 – Tummy Time 


Thousands of parents, babies and children are presently involved in our programs and creating rising stars. GymbaROO-KindyROO kids are excelling academically, emotionally, in leadership roles and on the sporting field. Come join all the fun and learning! “GymbaROO – The best decision I ever made for my child.” Classes from 6 weeks old – 7 years GymbaROO KindyROO 

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