Touch is our most important sense – it is the first sense to develop in the womb and the last to leave us when we die. It is so important that, as Ashley Montague state in his book ‘Touching’, we cannot survive without it: “touch is a basic behavioural need, much as breathing is a basic physical need’.
Positive touch is therefore a vital tool in the promotion of good health and wellbeing in our children and numerous studies have shown its benefits including the relaxation of mind and body, the promotion of ‘feel good’ hormones and, where studies have been carried out in schools, improvement in concentration levels and social behaviours.
Sharing massage with our children offers a simple, fun and interactive way of introducing all these benefits as well as an opportunity for families to share time together, connecting and deepening bonds. Furthermore it requires no specialist equipment or expensive resources just a willingness to have a go.
- Show respect – massage should never be forced on a child. Always ask permission and respect your child’s right to say no and encourage them to do the same if massaging you or another child.
- At the end of the massage, thank your child for letting you massage him/her as it is a privilege to be allowed to do so.
- Communicate throughout the massage – encourage your child to let you know what feels good and what needs to change e.g. pressure and speed of strokes, where on the body they like being massage.
- Massage can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere (it can be a good distraction when waiting in GP or dental surgery, airports etc) but some children benefit from having it as part of a regular routine. If you are at home, turn off phones and TV and try to create a calm atmosphere.
- Let your child choose a comfortable position for them and if they need to move around, let them. Massage can be done sitting, lying down or standing and the strokes can be used on the back, head, arms, shoulders, hands, legs and feet.
- 1:1 massage is lovely but it can also be nice to do it as a family, sitting in a massage ‘train’ or in a circle.
Ideas for Massage:
- Sing a song or nursery rhyme and match massage strokes to the words or make up your own massage story.
- Play touch games e.g. use your finger to draw on your child’s back and have them guess what you drew.
- Make soup – slice and chop vegetables, sprinkle herbs, stir and pour soup. Alternatively, make a pizza, cake or bread.
- Go on an adventure – be different methods of travel, travel to the rainforest, (or under the sea, to the moon) – be the different animals you might see walking or flying in the forest, act out the different weather you might encounter, write postcards home. Let your imagination go wild!
Ashley Montagu Touching: The Human Significance of Skin (3rd edition) Harper & Row 1986
Sylvie Hetu & Mia Elmsater Touch in Schools Ur Publications 2010
About Me: I am a Massage in Schools Programme Instructor and Story Massage Instructor and offer workshops to schools, community groups and parents on introducing massage, yoga and mindfulness to children.