We are huge advocates for massaging your kids at home.
Massaging your kids is about using loving touch to tap into our innate neurobiology to 1) promote bonding and attachment and 2) promote rest, relaxation and wellbeing.
Studies regularly indicate that massage helps individuals sleep better, and for kids and babies, massage as part of the nightly bedtime routine helps the kids sleep better. But more importantly, the massaging parent in these studies slept better.
(And while there is no research on this as far as we can tell, we believe that when you massage your kid, eventually they massage you back. Seriously. Maybe that's goal #1.)
Below are some of our basic tips on getting started massaging your kid at home -- from babes to tweens, every kid needs loving touch.
Create a relaxing and welcoming ambiance.
Dim the lights, and consider surrounding yourself with light, pastel colors (black and white work well but avoid energizing yellow, orange, and red).
Use aromatherapy to your advantage. Focus on specific essential oils that help with sleep (lavender, bergamot, marjoram, frankincense, or rose)
Listen to the music of your choice (you can use relaxation music channel or Insight Timer application on your phone and choose either music or meditation)
Find a comfortable place (bed, mat, sofa) with your favorite cozy blankie and stuffed animal of your choice
Permission. Of course you’d never massage your kid against their will. But really go out of your way to make sure you really get their consent for massage time. The younger kids aren’t going to give it verbally, but it's still important to ask.
More than any other tool, you need soft and fluffy hands. We often think massage therapists have strong hands, but in reality, we have relaxed hands and strong shoulders. When you are massaging somebody else, you need to make sure you are not using your finger and hand muscles too much -- these can feel pokey, invasive and controlling. Ya, a little shoulder squeeze can be nice once and awhile. But for the most part, think “soft hands.”
How much pressure do you use with kids? Too little can feel ticklish and too much will end the massage immediately! Communicate with your kid as you go.
Drop your agenda and expectations!
Massage with kids doesn’t always look like we think it will. In the moment, don’t worry about the benefits of massage. Don’t be goal-oriented. If your kid doesn’t relax with this massage, no worries, they will another time. Young kids roll over in the middle of your fancy back massage stroke. They crawl away from you even if they like it. They talk, squeal and wiggle. Roll with it! This doesn’t mean they are not getting any of the physiological, calming or relaxation benefits.
Be honest with yourself! (Again, check your agenda)
Make sure YOU are relaxed. Take a moment to check in with yourself. A few full breaths.
Make sure your hands are relaxed! If needed, give yourself a quick hand massage. You have to be relaxed and having fun. If you’re not...then it’s not a good time for massage.
Again, check your agenda. An agenda of "sharing loving touch" is going to work far better than "chill out and go to sleep." An agenda to “relax” somebody often fails!
Oil? Lotion? Nothing?
Choose an oil or lotion option that works for you. Which may be no oil at all. These are our recommendations.
Oil is much messier and can stain clothing, towels and sheets. But it is also much more warming than lotion and doesn't absorb in too quickly. If you opt for oil, choose something clean, simple and edible from coconut oil, to almond oil, apricot kernel to even olive oil.
Lotion is a great choice, too. It absorbs much more quickly into the skin and will not be a staining hazard for clothing and sheets. It does tend to feel more "cool" on the skin, so be sure to keep your kiddo covered up and warm.
No oil or lotion? Massage your kiddo over their clothes. It works.
Ask your kid what they would like to be massaged.
For kids who are old enough, ask them what they would like massaged (for example: scalp, feet, back). We recommend starting at the head and moving toward the feet. Ending with their toes will help bring the energy down to the feet for a better grounding in the upcoming dreams.
Want more tips?
Come in for a family-centered kids massage. We'll teach you how to massage your kids. Check out our Massage for Kids.
By Carole & Nicole