Massage For Your Growing Child: How to Massage Your Toddler

By: Nicole Nifo, RMT Toddler Massage 250

The power of nurturing touch and massage has been shown to help children with social development, motor and cognitive development as well as emotional regulation and selfsoothing. Studies show that children who received regular massage had a shorter latency to naptime sleep, lower anxiety and stress hormones in their bodies, and an improved cognitive performance when examined. Parents need to consider massage for babies and children as a way to emotionally and physically connect and take an active role in the health and well being of their child.

I realize that parents have a hard time applying the relaxing techniques of baby massage to their active toddler. Some parents are learning massage techniques for their baby as early as two weeks old. It is common for parents to think that they need to have an imagination to keep massage beneficial for their child during different growth stages. Actually, massage is a parenting tool that grows with your child. Let the massage fit your child and not your child fit the massage.

Toddlers need to be involved in receiving a massage rather than having a massage done to them. It can be as easy as picking their favourite animal, asking where they would like to have a massage, and use action words with every technique you introduce to their body. For example: If I were to tell a story about a dog and the child gave me her arm, I would start by saying, “What does a doggy do?” Questions get them interested. I answer my own question if they don’t and say, “A doggy goes for a walk.” I then walk my fingers up the child’s arm. I repeat this with different action words such as, “The doggy takes a bath, goes to sleep, and eats his food.” I use a different hand motion with each new action word.

Let your child decide where they want to be massaged — this empowers them in their own body and gives them positive physical boundaries.

Toddlers are walking and moving and need a little more to keep them interested. Massage or nurturing touch for toddlers can still be used to relax them, help them grow strong and provide physical comfort and bonding as well as help them sleep at night. During your massage time, you can also teach your toddler words about their body parts while you massage the area.

Massage isn’t always a structured way to physically connect to your child. Make it a parenting tool that you use to help with hyperactivity, stress, aggressiveness and anxiety. Even a soothing long stroke down your child’s neck and back or a relaxing hand and foot massage to positively reinforce your child when they are showing signs of ‘misbehaving’. Sometimes children aren’t being ‘bad’, they may just need us to show them attention or show we care.

• Sitting and playing with toys
• Standing or being held
• Laying down to sleep or after bath
• On their stomach playing

To massage your child use an edible oil or product that has a base of sweet almond oil such as the Baby Massage Oil from Weleda, olive oil or coconut oil. Stay away from petroleum based products. It is best to find a time in the day when your child is not as active and your treatments may be short and spread out (five to 10 minutes, two to three times a day). Incorporating hand or finger puppets with the massage is a great way to introduce nurturing touch.

Try incorporating massage stories and songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider, This Little Piggy, or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with your massage strokes while you draw out the actions with your hands.

Nicole Nifo has been practicing as a Registered Massage Therapist for eight years. She teaches baby and toddler classes all over the GTA and sees patients at her clinic Fully Alive Wellness Centre in Oakville. Nicole has extensive massage therapy training in working with obstetric and pediatric patients. Nicole is also trained as an Infant Massage Teacher, Certified Pediatric Massage Therapist, Birth Doula and Reiki Practitioner. – Twitter: @fullyalivewc

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