babinski reflexA reflex is an automatic, instinctual movement that assists in development. Childhood reflex movements develop the brain. Repetitive, automatic reflex movements are essential for balance, mobility, vision, hearing, speaking, and learning.

What is Babinski Reflex?

The Babinski reflex is named after neurologist Joseph Babinski, who first described the reflex in 1896. The Babinski reflex is also known as the plantar reflex, or extensor plantar reflex.

The Babinski reflex is activated when you stroke the outside of your child’s foot. Your child’s big toe will overextend upward while the other toes fan outward.

The Babinski reflex is present at birth and begins to integrate when the child turns one year old. It should be fully integrated by age two. The Babinski reflex is associated with the Plantar reflex. Both reflexes initiate exercising of the baby’s feet and create neural development in the brain. This reflex assists your baby in commando crawling (pushing the toes into the floor to push off for forward movement).

Why is the Babinski Reflex important?

The Babinski reflex helps with crawling and the ability to stand. It is important for balance and gross motor skills. It assists in developing lower body functions such as muscle tone and joint rotation in the feet, ankles, knees, and hips.

Here are few ways a retained Babinski reflex affects development:

  • Difficulties with grounding and stability
  • Poor balance
  • Problems with bilateral integration and coordination
  • Issues with vestibular development

Babinski ReflexPlay-Based Ways to Integrate the Babinski Reflex

  • Toega or Toe Yoga is yoga for your child’s toes. Toega creates happy, healthy movement in your child’s feet. This activity requires pom-poms and a plastic container. Scatter pom-poms on the ground and have your child pick them up using only his toes. Have him switch feet and mindfully notice if there is a difference in dexterity between his feet. Also, have him notice which size of pom- pom is easier to pick up. After the activity, discuss the experience with your child.
  • Army Crawl Tag.  This game will require the whole family.  Pick one person to be the tagger.  Each family member must army crawl.  The person who is the tagger tries to tag the other players while in the army crawl position. If a person is tagged they must be frozen in down dog pose until someone crawls under to release them.  To gain therapeutic benefits such as integrating the Babinski Reflex players must keep their bellies on the ground and push off with their toes as they move.

It Can be Indicative of a More Serious Condition

The Babinski reflex can be indicative of a neurological condition.  Conditions associated with a retained Babinski include autism, cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s Disease.  However, other temporary conditions may affect this reflex as well such as anesthesia or deep sleep.

In Summary…

If you suspect your child has a retained Babinski reflex it is best to seek out an occupational therapist or a therapist trained in reflex integration to have him evaluated as there could be a condition of the brain or spinal cord associated with this reflex.  Mindful Child occupational therapists are trained in multiple methods of reflex integration, each reflex is assessed during the initial assessment and a comprehensive report is reviewed with parents. Contact us to set up an assessment to learn ways to integrate reflexes.