Adding massage into your everyday routine can help kids develop a good relationship to their bodies, feel more grounded, and offers a nice time for bonding. Here are some suggestions, based on age, on how to make massage a part of your everyday family life.
“Being touched and caressed, being massaged, is food for the infant. Food as necessary as minerals, vitamins, and proteins.” – Dr. Frederick Leboyer
Infants 2 Months- Pre Crawling
Great for babies who display quiet alert time but are still not mobile. Ask your baby permission to give them a massage by using a sign (like showing them your hands) or sound (like swishing some oil between your palms). Look for happy smiles, or grabbing of your hands to indicate a “yes,” and rolling away or crying to indicate a “no.” (if you get a “no” try tending to other needs first and then trying again). This teaches them consent and encourages communication.
Infant massage can be very simple. Start with little circles on the bottoms of the feet and around the ankles. Make a clockwise circle on the tummy to help with gas pain. As they get used to it explore massaging arms and legs with “C” shaped hands. Using pressure is fine, touch that’s too light will tickle. Massaging down the limbs can promote a calm mood, massaging towards the heart can stimulate a sleepy baby. Start with a few minutes a day and build up to a daily routine.
Crawlers and Toddlers
Mobile little ones are unlikely to spend much time in one place, try incorporating some massage into diaper routine, after bath time, or with a song or game. For example, you can play the game “Guess what I’m drawing on your back?” No oil needed, just pretend draw on their back and then spend a little time “clearing the slate” massaging in a circle. The game will keep them entertained and the touch can be very grounding for all those big feelings.
Massage can be a great way to teach anatomy: “Where is your arm? Good!” Then a few massage strokes on that arm. “Where’s your head? Good!” Continue this game as long as it holds your child’s attention. If your child is in the “I can do it by myself” phase, try taking turns- “Where’s my foot?”, your child can massage your foot, then you can say, “Ok now it’s my turn. Where is YOUR foot?” And you can gently massage your child’s foot. Let your child challenge you, too, and ask you to find a body part from time to time.
Make a rhythmic or musical game of your massage: try tapping different rhythms on your child, vocalizing the rhythms as you tap. Have your child repeat after you and sing along. Change the rhythms as you work on different parts of the body.
Rainstorm massage: use different types of massage techniques to create a gentle rainstorm on your child’s back. Fingers pitter patter slowly, then faster, loose gentle fists for big raindrops, wide palms rubbing slowly side to side can be the wind blowing back and forth, make a lightning crashing sound as you spread palms apart from the spine out to the sides of the body as if smoothing out fabric. Get creative. Vocal sound effects are very helpful.
School Age Kids
Massage and bodywork techniques are a great way to help kids calm down and be ready to focus on school work or go to bed. Living in a busy city there is much sensory stimulation constantly. Some kids who tend to get over-stimulated can benefit from pressure with the hands over the eyes. Have the child lie down and place your hands over the orbital bones of the eyes–not the eyes directly- and place moderate pressure for about 30 seconds or until the child says they are done.
Joint compression works really well with children who are hyperactive. Have the child lie down in a comfortable position and apply brief but firm pressure to each of the major joints. Start with ankles, wrists, then move to knees and elbows, and lastly shoulders and hips. You will want to hold the bones above each joint with one hand, while exerting pressure from the bone below. For example, for the knee, stabilize the leg with one hand on the thigh, and exert an upward pressure with the other hand from the lower leg. For the hips, it is best to have the child lying on their side and exert a firm downward pressure with two hands on the bony part of the hip.
Let the child give themselves a massage. Guide your child on a massage of their body as you demonstrate on yourself. “First let’s gently squeeze our hands (pinching the meaty part at the base of your thumb). Now let’s squeeze our arms (squeezing big your way from wrist to elbow to shoulder). Let’s give ourselves big hugs (hug yourself).” Continue on face (circles on temples, rub circles or tap fingers on forehead and skull) and legs and feet.)
Preteens and Teens
If your teen is not the touchy feely sort, maybe starting with hands or feet is a good way to ease into the idea of massage. A massage to hands or feet can have a calming relaxing effect throughout the whole body without having to massage the entire body.
If your teen plays sports, massage can be an important part of their self care and relaxation routine. If they are comfortable with you working on them, try to determine which muscles get the most wear and tear in the sport your child plays and focus your efforts there. If they prefer to work on themselves, you can demonstrate on yourself how to rub out achy muscles focusing on the muscles that need the most care. Stretching, rolling on a foam roller and epsom salt baths can also be great self care techniques for teens.
Treat your young adult to a 30 minute massage at Earth + Sky to introduce them to the world of therapeutic massage. Other modalities they might like are cupping and cranial sacral therapy. Get one for yourself at the same time, you can model good self-care while you make a special day of it.