Massage for kids: Some benefits research suggests include anxiety reduction, aggressive behavior improvement, better sleep patterns, and increased parent-child bonding.
After reading this article, you will:
- Have a better understanding of what massage therapy is and the benefits massage therapy for children may bring
- Learn fun ways to start practicing a calming massage at home with your kids
- Know some basic massage strokes
Let’s dive into it!
Massage history goes back to thousands of years ago, with archeological evidence dating it as far back as BC 2330 in Egypt.
Its therapeutic value was recognized in ancient cultures including the Chinese, Hindus, Japanese, or Romans
In Western cultures, the development of modern forms of massage therapy is credited to Per Henrik Ling and Dutch physician Johann Mezger.
Numerous studies across different fields (medicine, psychology) support the therapeutic value of massage therapy therapeutic value. And, it has gained popularity as a complementary and alternative medicine treatment.
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What is Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is the manual manipulation of soft tissue intended to promote health and well-being.
Massage therapy is not a single set of techniques. It is a broad range of approaches with the common element of using touch (pressing, rubbing) to manipulate soft tissue (skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments)
The pressure applied in massage may range from light to deep pressure.
Massage therapy will take into consideration the treatment objectives, and the approach and techniques may differ in:
- Parts of the body where the treatment is administered
- Types of strokes
- Length of treatment (number of applications)
- Apparatus used to facilitate treatment (massage tables, oils, and lotions, massage tools )
Common Types of Massage
- Swedish: The most widely recognized and commonly used type of massage (we’ll get into more detail later in this post)
- Deep tissue: It uses more pressure than the Swedish massage. It is recommended for muscle damage from an injury.
- Sports: used in an athletic context to prevent injuries, improve recovery time, and enhance performance.
- Chair: Massage of the upper body, while fully clothed and seated in a special portable chair.
- Trigger point massage: a combination of light strokes and deep pressure that focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.
With massage being a part of so many cultures, this is just a very small part of all the types of massage that you may have read about.
Popular types of massage also include reflexology, aromatherapy massage, lymphatic drainage, Ayurvedic massage, traditional Chinese massage, or Shiatsu, just to mention a few.
What is Massage Therapy for Children and its Benefits
Pediatric massage is the complementary and alternative treatment that uses massage therapy to promote health and well-being for children and adolescents.
So, some of the benefits of massage therapy for children that research suggests would include:
- Anxiety reduction
- Improvement in depression symptoms
- Reduction in aggressive behavior
- Pain reduction
- Improvement in sleep patterns
- Improvement in attention
- Reduction in constipation symptoms
- Improvement in diarrhea symptoms
- Improvement in motor tone in motor tone disorders
Source: A Meta-Analysis of Massage Therapy Research. C. A. Moyer, J. Rounds, J. W Hannum
There are also some benefits very specific to pediatric massage when massage is administered by parents (and I would dare to say, I don’t even need research to back these):
- Increased parent-child bonding
- Quality time and undivided attention
A word of caution. Despite the benefits research suggests, massage is not a replacement for regular medical care.
10 Fun Massage Ideas for Kids that you can Practice at Home
I have been using massage at home as a calming tool to help us deal with anxiety and aggressive behavior.
The activities I’m going to discuss here are fun massage ideas to practice at home with your kids.
I have to say upfront that I have no massage training. But there are still undeniable benefits brought to us by massage:
- Sensory Inputs: Touch & Smell (from the lotion)
It is a pleasant sensory input for a kid who is a sensory seeker and loves to be touched and hugged.
- Behavior Prize
It is a very valued “prize” in our behavior charts (chosen by our kid)
- Anxiety Relief
It has helped us in moments where we could feel anxiety developing
- Behavior- Distraction Strategies
It is also a good distraction when “boredom” or lack of interesting activities was likely to cause some disruptive behavior
- Parent-Child Bonding
It is always a nice bonding experience, with high-quality undivided attention
- Sleep Routine Improvement
It’s become part of our bedtime routine, as one more piece of the “winding-down” puzzle (we did it once, and it just took off!)
These are some fun massage ideas for kids (some for adults too!) that we have been enjoying
Massage for Kids: Calming While Bonding
- “Story Massage”
Story massage is a fun and interactive way of combining two great activities: storytime and massage for kids.
Mary Atkison has created a beautiful book (check it here) where she associates ten easy-to-follow massage strokes with words and sentences from popular tales or fun situations.
This activity has been a real hit at home (that’s us ⇓ doing massage story at home- I’ve got the online version so I read it on my laptop).
- Foot massage with lotion
This is a great massage for a bedtime routine. I use moisturizer, and my kid loves it so much that he keeps bringing his feet up to smell the lotion
- Head massage with oils
We sometimes use essential oils and administer a nice and relaxing head massage before the shower.
Tip ⭐️: apply the shampoo before you wet the hair! If not, you won’t be able to remove it properly)
- Another head massage activity
We love this device, it’s deliciously ticklish
- Back massage
A great massage alternative for a bedtime routine or as anxiety relief. I use a combination of light and deep strokes to produce a relaxing back massage. This is a must-read book if you want to learn different massage techniques and routines for children. It teaches:
- different types of massage strokes
- step-by-step instructions for some recommended massage routines
- some massage recommendations for common childhood ailments, like asthma, coughs and colds, sinus problems, hay fever, headaches, or sleep problems
- Using a Handheld Massager
Sometimes we use a handheld massager for our back massage.
It provides a vibrating input in the back (super affordable)
- Massage mat with heat and vibration. Just lay down and relax.
As you can see, we have no shortage of massage tools at home. We got one of these for Christmas. It was a nice addition to a massage kit but my honest opinion is that nothing beats the use of your own hands (and it’s cheaper!)Check: Best Back Massagers in Amazon
If your child responds well to massage as a soothing activity, you may even consider teaching them these simple massage techniques that they can practice on their own:
- Arm massage
Firmly squeeze your arm, start with your shoulder and move all the way down to your shoulder.
- Hand massage
Use your thumb to press firmly the palm of your other hand
- Ear massage
Gently pull and rub your ear lobes to stimulate nerve endings and release endorphins.
Story Massage for Kids
Story massage can be a very fun activity for younger kids.
In the video below, Mary Atkinson, co-founder of the Story Massage Programme, demonstrates how to do story massage with the popular nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle.
⇒You can check Mary Atkinson’s book here.
Bonus: Basic Massage Strokes that You May Wish to Learn
Just in case you are wondering where to start, these are the five basic strokes used in Classic or Swedish Massage:
- Sliding or gliding, strokes used to warm up the muscle before deep tissue work using kneading. This is a soothing stroke, that can be firm or light, used at the beginning or end of the massage, or as a link between other types of stroke.
- Kneading, massage movements that apply deeper pressure to the muscles
- Rhythmic tapping, a rhythmic percussion used to revitalize muscles.
There are four tapping techniques:
- Cupping, done with a cupped hand, the palm not touching the person being massaged.
- Hacking, tapping firmly with the side of the palm
- Beating, a firmed tapping movement with the fist
- Plucking, a rhythmic plucking of the skin using the thumb and fingers
- Friction (cross fiber or with the fibers)
But, I guess nothing like a video to figure out what I’m talking about (video below from Alexandra Helps, Board Certified Massage Therapist) …)
Massage for Kids: 7 Fun Ways to Calm your Child While Bonding