A picture of a hand massage. Simple massage for kids can help your child relax when they are feeling pain or discomfort.

Massage is a well-known method to alleviate muscle soreness and decrease pain in adults, and it can also be effective in children. Massage for kids is often underutilized, despite its potential benefits. You don’t need to be a massage therapist to try some simple techniques. In this article, I’ll go over the awesome benefits of massage for kids and how you can use it to comfort your kids.

Potential Benefits of Massage

  • Increases dopamine, the feel-good pain relief hormone.
  • Decreases levels of cortisol, the fight or flight hormone, which increases during periods of stress or pain.
  • Assists in decreasing muscle tension.
  • Boosts the immune system.
  • Increases circulation.
  • Lowers heart rate and temperature.
  • Improves sleep quality.

With all these benefits, massage can be a great way to comfort a child experiencing discomfort or pain. If you’re not sure how to begin, here are three easy massage techniques you can try at home:

A mother massages her babies face.

Easy massage for kids

Face Tracing

Face tracing is easy to do and can help comfort your child and assist them in getting better rest.

Here’s how to do it:

Clean Your Hands: Before starting, make sure both you have clean hands. Since you will be touching their face you don’t want to be passing on gross germs!

Positioning: Have your child sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Make sure their head is supported by a soft pillow or cushion.

Tracing Movements: Using your fingertips, gently trace various patterns and movements on your child’s face. You can start with simple lines, circles, or spirals. Use light and gentle pressure, making sure not to apply any discomfort.

Trace Different Areas: Move from one area of the face to another, such as the forehead, cheeks, chin, and jawline. Encourage your child to close their eyes and relax. You can vary the speed and pressure of the tracing to find what feels most soothing for your child.

Customize with Your Child’s Input: As you trace their face, ask your child how it feels and if they have any preferences for specific areas or movements. This empowers them to have a say in their own relaxation experience.

Focus on Relaxation Points: Pay extra attention to areas that are known to be tension spots, such as the temples, eyebrows, and jawline. Gently trace these areas to release any built-up tension.

Face tracing can be a calming and enjoyable activity for both children and adults. Remember to be gentle, responsive to your child’s needs, and respect their boundaries throughout the session. Always prioritize their comfort and well-being.

Hand massage

A hand massage is another great way to help a child relax. You don’t need a lot of space and the process is simple.

Here’s how to do it:

Prepare: Begin by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. This ensures cleanliness and hygiene during the massage. Choose a lotion or oil that is mild, non-sticky, and has a pleasant scent that your child enjoys.

Clean your child’s hands: Kids often have sticky fingers and dirt under their fingernails! Use a warm towel to gently wipe off any dirt. This step helps relax the muscles and promotes a soothing experience. Pay attention to areas between the fingers and around the nails.

Position the Arm: Have your child sit comfortably and position their arm in a relaxed and supported position, such as resting it on a soft pillow or cushion. Make sure their hand is accessible for the massage.

Begin with the Palm: Apply a small amount of lotion or oil to your hands, and then start by gently kneading the palm of your child’s hand using your thumbs and fingers. Use slow circular motions, applying gentle pressure. This helps to relax the muscles and increase circulation.

Massage Each Finger: Move on to each finger individually. Hold the base of one finger with one hand and use the other hand to rub up and down the length of the finger, starting from the base to the tip. Apply a comfortable amount of pressure, and repeat this motion for each finger.

Rotate the Fingers: After massaging each finger individually, turn your child’s hand over so that the knuckles are facing up. Use your thumb and index finger to gently rotate each finger in a circular motion, first to the right and then to the left. This helps to release tension and increase flexibility in the joints.

Repeat on the Other Hand: Once you have completed the hand massage on one hand, move on to the other hand and repeat the same steps.Remember to adjust the pressure and speed of the massage based on your child’s comfort level. Pay attention to their verbal and non-verbal cues to ensure they are relaxed and enjoying the experience. Always prioritize their comfort and well-being during the massage.

Targeted massage

Targeted massage, also known as localized or spot massage, can be a beneficial technique to address specific areas of pain or discomfort in children. This approach involves focusing the massage on a particular body part or region where the child is experiencing pain or tension.

Here’s how to do it:

Identify the Specific Area of Pain: Before beginning the massage, communicate with your child to determine the exact location of their pain or discomfort. It could be a specific muscle group, such as the calves or shoulders, or a particular joint, like the wrists or ankles. Understanding the precise area will allow you to provide more effective and targeted relief.

Prepare the Environment: Create a calm and comfortable environment for the massage. Find a quiet space where you and your child can relax without distractions.

Apply Gentle Pressure: Start by applying gentle pressure with your hands or fingers to the targeted area. Begin with light touch and gradually increase the pressure based on your child’s comfort level. Use circular motions or long, sweeping strokes to massage the area.

Observe your Child’s Response: Pay attention to your child’s reactions and verbal cues during the massage. Ask them about the level of pressure and if it feels comfortable or too intense. Encourage open communication so they can express any discomfort or request modifications.

Adjust the Technique: Depending on your child’s feedback, you can modify the massage technique. For example, if they prefer lighter pressure, use softer strokes and focus on creating a soothing and relaxing experience. If they find deeper pressure more effective, apply slightly more pressure while being mindful not to cause any pain.

Duration and Frequency: The duration of the targeted massage will depend on your child’s needs and their tolerance. Start with shorter sessions, around 5-10 minutes, and gradually increase the duration if they find it helpful. The frequency of the massage can vary based on the severity and frequency of the pain, but it’s generally recommended to provide regular sessions as needed.

A nurse talking to a young child

The importance of consent

Before attempting a massage, it is crucial to ask for your child’s permission and clearly explain what you plan to do. By seeking their consent, you are respecting their autonomy and allowing them to have a say in their own body and personal space.

It’s also essential to regularly check in with your child during the massage to ensure they find it helpful and comfortable. Ask questions such as, “Is the pressure okay?” or “Do you want me to continue?” This ongoing communication allows your child to provide feedback and make adjustments according to their needs.

Respecting your child’s boundaries and preferences is key. If at any point during the massage, your child expresses discomfort, asks you to stop, or indicates that they no longer want to continue, it is vital to honor their wishes immediately.

Teaching your child about consent through the practice of seeking permission for massages can have broader implications for their understanding of personal boundaries and consent in various aspects of their lives. It helps foster a culture of respect, empathy, and communication, promoting healthy relationships and self-advocacy skills.

Key considerations:

When not to use massage for kids

While massage can be a beneficial therapeutic practice for children in many situations, there are certain circumstances where it is important to avoid or modify massage techniques. Here are some situations in which massage should be avoided:

Cuts, Open Wounds, or Bruising: Massage should not be performed directly on cuts, open wounds, or areas with severe bruising. Applying pressure or manipulation to these areas can cause further damage, interfere with the healing process, or increase the risk of infection. It is advisable to wait until the wounds have healed or consult a healthcare professional for guidance

Broken Bones, Burns: When a child has broken bones, or burns, it is important to avoid massaging the affected areas. These conditions require specific medical attention, and massaging them without proper knowledge and expertise can worsen the injury or interfere with the healing process.

Various Skin Conditions, Infections, and Cancers: Children with certain skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or severe acne may have sensitive or inflamed skin that could be aggravated by massage. Similarly, if a child has an active infection or a history of cancer, it is essential to exercise caution and consult with a healthcare professional before considering massage therapy. In some cases, modifications or alternative therapies may be recommended to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.

Remember: Consult with your doctor when you have questions as to if massage is a safe option for your child

Be sure to use less pressure than you would with an adult and stop immediately if the massage causes an increase in pain.

Incorporating massage as a comfort measure can provide a host of benefits for your child. Try these techniques at home to help your child feel more relaxed and comfortable.

  • Field, T. (2019). Pediatric Massage Therapy Research: A Narrative Review. Children6(6), 78. https://doi.org/10.3390/children6060078
  • Chen, S.-C., Yu, J., Yuen, S. C.-S., Lam, J. C.-S., Suen, L. K.-P., & Yeung, W.-F. (2021). Massage therapy in infants and children under 5 years of age: protocol for an overview of systematic reviews. Systematic Reviews10(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13643-021-01681-x
  • Massage Contraindications & Precautions Every Therapist Should Know. (2022, February 18). MBLEx Guide. https://mblexguide.com/massage-contraindications-therapists-should-know/

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