Written By Lara Gillease

Children thrive when they are healthy, feel safe and are in learning mode (also known in the Anat Baniel Method NeuroMovement as having their Learning Switch on). You can learn to recognize whether a child’s Learning Switch is on by reading this article — https://integrativemovement.com/the-thriving-child/.

Once you know how to recognize when the child’s Learning Switch is on, you can take actions to turn on the Learning Switch or get it to be more effective by turning it on brighter.

The most effective way to do this is to attempt to see what the child is experiencing from their point of view:

  • What is the child looking at in their surroundings?
  • What are they listening to or might be hearing?
  • Where is their attention?
  • What are they interested in?
  • What sensations might they be feeling?
  • If they are lying on the ground, are they rolling around?

Anat Baniel calls this becoming a ‘Benevolent Observer’, entering the child’s world from their point of view.

Once you have done this, you may find yourself less likely to be instructing the child. We can become so used to telling the child what to do and guiding the child. We may find ourselves no longer saying things like: ‘Don’t do that’, ‘Do this’, ‘This is how this works’, and so on.

It is essential, of course, to keep the child safe. So if the child is about to do something that could compromise their safety, you would, of course, step in and do whatever is necessary to keep her safe.

After knowing that the child is safe, then look to enter her world. For instance, if the child is playing with a toy, explore the toy with her as if you are seeing it for the first time and don’t know how it works, rather than ‘showing’ her how it works.

In my office, I have seven plastic cups that stack one inside of the other. I got them out for a 4-year old girl with cerebral palsy to play with while I was working with her in sitting. They weren’t stacked together when I got them out. They were all separate from one another.

The girl picked one up and instead of placing it inside of one of the other cups, she inspected it for a while and then proudly put it on top of her head, turning the cup into a hat.

Since the cup is made of plastic, it didn’t stay on her head and began to slide off. She then laughed delightfully. She continued doing this with other sizes of the cups.

I had been working with her to feel where her head is in relation to her body and surroundings as she tends to constantly tilt her head far to her right.

I joined her in her play saying things like, ‘Is the cup going to stay on your head or fall? Will it fall to one side? Can you keep it on your head even though you feel it starting to fall?’

When she put the cup on top of her head, she could feel it sliding off to one side. She would then move her head the opposite way to keep it on.

This helped bring her attention to what she was sensing and feeling. She started putting her head more in the middle as a result of this game she had created.

I had been doing movements with her for several ABM NeuroMovement Lessons to help her feel that her head is to the right and how to bring it more to the middle. However, it wasn’t until she was playing this game she created that she had an ‘Aha’ moment of how to bring her head more to the middle. Her Learning Switch turned on. 

If I had shown her how the cups are for stacking or corrected her after she started putting them on her head and told her, ‘No, this is how you play with the cups’ and started stacking them, she would have missed this whole opportunity for learning.

I also didn’t know she was going to put them on her head. Nor did I initiate or encourage her to put them on her head. Instead, while doing an ABM NeuroMovement Lesson with her, I entered her world of sight, sounds, touch, and sensations and amplified what she was doing with the cups.

I was present with her in her experience of herself and her surroundings. By being a benevolent observer, I was able to join her in what she was already experiencing while playing and make it meaningful for her. 

By taking the time to connect with the child and becoming interested in what the child may be seeing, hearing, sensing, and experiencing, we can find opportunities to help a child explore their world, learn from it, and begin to thrive.

To learn more about the Learning Switch and how to engage with a child in the process necessary for learning, read Anat Baniel’s book, Kids Beyond Limits.


Lara Gillease, President & Founder of Lara’s Integrative Movement since 2000, teaches adults and children new ways of learning and how to move with greater ease and freedom while relieving tension and stress in one-on-one sessions. She also offers an online, self-study movement program, Move Free. Additionally she is one of Anat Baniel’s  Trainers for teaching and certifying new Anat Baniel Method NeuroMovement Teachers and works alongside Anat Baniel and team at her world headquarters- The ABM NeuroMovement Center.


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