Being a parent is a rewarding, magical and an exceptional time. And being the parent of a toddler… well, let’s add some frustrations and some delights into the mix, as new ideas and concepts come together with limitations on what your child can do. That hasn’t changed from when they were tiny, of course, but it’s now that they can ensure that you – and everyone else in the near vicinity – knows about it!
Parenting a toddler can be a time of high stress, as well as immense pleasure and, although in years to come you will look back on this time and wonder why you worried, whilst you are living it, everything just seems to be another layer of pressure until you feel as though you might collapse beneath the strain of it.
This is especially true in today’s high energy, high-stress world when the workday doesn’t end when you leave the office, and the world of social networking can add to feelings of guilt, or simply not being good enough. Family commitments, work, and general household tidying can also combine to make you feel as though you are neglecting your toddler.
But there is a way to reconnect. A literal way to get back in touch with your child and that’s through massage.
If you have got five minutes (or more) every day, you can ensure that you and your toddler become closer than ever. It’s all about touch – adding just five minutes of massage, for example, into your child’s daily routine can give both you and them peace, relaxation, and calm. It unwinds, it de-stresses, and it bonds.
Massage has been hailed for centuries as a way for everyone – no matter what age – to gain at least a little well being. Positive touch is understood to have huge health benefits, and positive touch with love behind it… there can be nothing better. If you want to boost your child’s immune system, make them feel loved, give them a better sleeping pattern, give them better cognitive function, aid social development, as well as keeping them calm, then a daily massage is an easy, enjoyable (for both of you!) way to get closer.
And the great thing is, there is no need for any specific, professional training. A gentle, caring massage will work whether you have years of experience or are trying it for the first time. It’s all about the love behind it.
The wonderful thing about massage – also called ‘touch therapy’ – isn’t just for those times when there is something emotionally wrong. It can even help with a physical pain, which is why it is an amazing tool for help with teething, constipation, headaches, or minor sinus problems.
The difference between a ‘traditional’ massage (where an adult will want to float away in relaxation, and just let the masseuse take control and do their thing) and a toddler massage is that the child needs to be involved in the touch therapy in some way. It keeps them motivated and interested, and it also helps to relax them. One way to do this is to use nursery rhymes or funny poems (Twinkle Twinkle or This Little Piggy work really well) to explain the movements of your hands. Your child will understand more, and will remember. The repetitive sounds will calm them as well.
Benefits of Toddler Massage
There are both emotional and physical health benefits that come from a soothing, bonding, enjoyable toddler massage.
Emotional benefits include:
- Bonding. As mentioned earlier, bonding between parent and child is essential for a well rounded, happy, healthy toddler and stress free parenting time.
- Relaxation. It’s not just relaxing for the child, it’s relaxing for the parent too. Heart rates slow, the mind is given some space, and ultimately everyone unwinds and feels freer and happier.
- Behaviour. Hyperactive or aggressive children can really benefit from a massage (or rather, an on-going change to a routine that includes massage).
Physical benefits include:
- Digestion. Massage can aid digestion, meaning that toilet function is improved – your toddler will need to go more regularly, which will also help with potty training, since they will understand the feelings associated with needing to go to the toilet much more quickly.
- Circulation. Massage also promotes blood circulation, which not only makes the child feed great, but makes their skin healthy too since oxygen and nutrients are also flowing around the body.
- Internal organs. Internal organs are stimulated through massage, and develop better this way.
- Immunity. Massage helps the lymphatic fluid on your toddler’s body to flow more easily, which in turn boosts your child’s immune system.
- Growth. Even the growth hormone within the pituitary gland increases production.
- Joints. Massage is relaxing, we all know that. But relaxation is a physical sensation as well as an emotional one, and massaging a toddler will encourage their muscles to relax, which will free up their joints. This is ideal for when they have been running around all day, and might be a little stiff now that they have finally stopped moving! It also means that as they get older, their joints are kept in tip top condition.
Introducing Positive Touch To Your Child
If you have been massaging your child since he or she was a newborn, then continuing the practice won’t be an issue, and your toddler will be familiar with how it all works, what to expect, and how happy they will feel during and afterwards. However, if your toddler has never had a massage before, then it can be a strange sensation, and it can be difficult to explain just what you are doing, and why. After all, a small child won’t understand what it means to be calm and stress-free until they feel it, and they won’t understand the correlation between massage and that euphoric state until they allow it to happen.
Persistence is the key. But it is persistence coupled with acceptance; acceptance from your child to have the massage done to him or her, and acceptance from you that, even at the best of times, they may not want to have it done. Forcing your toddler to have a massage will undo any good work you might have been aiming for and, what’s worse; your child will not feel happy voluntarily having any kind of massage after being made to have one that they did not want. Positive touch is a wonderful thing, but it must always be consensual.
When To Massage?
Adding massage to your toddler’s bedtime routine is a great idea. At this point in the day, massage has been shown to promote deeper, longer sleep, and it will also help your toddler to fall asleep in the first place – they will be totally relaxed and able to simply drift off happily. As a bonus, during massage the oxytocin (or ‘love hormone’) levels are elevated, which leads to a fantastic bonding experience.
Toddlers are great at accepting new ideas when it comes to their routines as long as familiarity of some sort is involved. Repetition helps too. So if you are thinking of adding a few minutes of massage before bedtime, it is best to pick one specific spot in your home and stick with it. This is the massage area, and soon enough your child will accept this new way of working. The best place for the calmest start has to be the child’s own bedroom. They already associate peace and calmness (usually!) with this room, so why not play on this association technique when it comes to massage too? If your toddler has issues with his or her room, then the relaxing sensations that come with the massage – the safe, secure, trusting ones – may well help to make the room better for them in general.
If you are using the floor, or choose to be by a door or window, make sure there are no drafts. The room should be warm for the best results, especially as the ideal massage will be carried out when your child is partly undressed.
It is essential to create the calmest atmosphere that you can; otherwise all of your good work will be undone. To create this ideal atmosphere, why not play some gentle music (instrumental is best since songs with words may distract your child, especially if he or she is familiar with it) or sounds of nature? Or perhaps keep the room as quiet as possible and allow the essential oils infusing the air to do the job. Make sure the light is as dim as possible (this could be difficult in summer time when the light lingers outside for longer, but with a good black out blind you shouldn’t have too many problems) without being entirely dark. Candles are an excellent way to light massage time, but of course, you must take extra care when it comes to naked flames and small children who are unpredictable at the best of times!
Turn off the television, leave your phone elsewhere, and don’t allow yourself to be interrupted. This is a special time between parent and child, and should not be disturbed.
Different Massage for Different Ages
When your baby is brand new, the massage you give to him or her will be a little different to the one you give your older toddler. That is because a toddler has more control over their body, and will move a lot more than a small baby – as any parent knows! It is more difficult to ‘control’ a toddler, and it doesn’t matter how restful the room is or how relaxing the massage is, there will come a time when your child has had enough and decides that it is over.
The best way to keep a toddler involved in the massage process is to talk to them about it. Find out where they would like you to massage, which also teaches them to name body parts. Make the massage into a game (an educational one if possible, as this will obviously help with their brain development). A good way to do this is to create a story with the massage. Work together to come up with a character, and incorporate that character into the massage ‘story’. Ask questions to continue the story, and soon enough your toddler will be interested enough to lie still and enjoy the massage. For story massage ideas, head over to Mumma Love Organics youtube channel or check out our blog.