Mellow Mummy: Toddler Massage Tips and Techniques : Taking life as it comes...

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Toddler Massage Tips and Techniques

Bedtimes for Holly have been a struggle ever since the clocks went forward and so I have had to find some innovative ways of soothing her, especially when it gets to bedtime. Over the past two years I have, on and off, dipped back into the baby massage and I have found that it definitely helps Holly to settle down to sleep.

Sometimes Holly fights bedtime so much that I have to try quite hard to start massaging her feet. She wiggles a lot. But, once the magic has worked, she lies more still and lets me continue massaging. These days she is very bossy about "this foot" or "no, this foot" and will even say "my head" if she wants me to massage there too. If you are struggling with bedtimes for your toddler then I recommend giving some of these techniques a try. Don't worry if they don't work miracles to start off with, keep trying and see if they begin to recognise a pattern after a few nights. It isn't a foolproof bedtime ritual but it occasionally helps me and Holly. No massage oil needed!

1. Foot Massage
I always start with the feet - it is my message to Holly that it is time to chill out. I stroke the tops of her feet, down from the top of the ankle to the toes about 3 or 4 times. Then I hold each toe in turn and give it a tiny squeeze. If she is in the mood then I will use my forefinger to make tiny circles on the base of her feet while holding her foot with my other hand. You can make tiny circles on the base of the heel too. To finish, clasp the foot in both hands to keep it warm. Then move on to the other foot.

2. Hand Massage
One of Holly's favourite pasttimes is to play "round and round the garden" with me, Daddy or her toys. At bedtimes, if she lets me, I make little circles on the palm of her hand with my forefinger, and then circles on the back of her hand with my thumb. I gently pull one finger at a time and give it a little wiggle to try and loosen things up. Rub gently in circles using your thumb and forefinger around the wrist, then gently rock the wrist forwards and backwards. When it is just about time to move on to the next hand, hold the hand firmly between your palms and give it a squeeze before gently lying the arm down to rest.

3. Temple Massage
Holly and her older sister both love having their temples massaged at bedtime and it is a guaranteed way to turn my grumpy toddler (above!) into a mellow toddler! I press my forefingers quite firmly on each eyebrow, working out from the centre of the nose to the temples. When you get to the temples, press with two fingers and then give your fingers a little wiggle. I like to stroke upwards from the nose to the forehead ever so gently to help soothe them. Sometimes Holly falls asleep at this point!

4. Stroking Legs
If your toddler is feeling particularly boisterous at bedtime then try to encourage them to settle by quite firmly running the palms of your hands down the backs of their legs as they squirm around. I have no idea why this works but it often encourages Holly to pay attention. Maybe she knows that it normally means she will get a foot massage too?

5. Stroking Back
As with the stroking legs, this technique seems to work best when Holly has been particularly wide awake beforehand. My older daughter still quite regularly requests that I stroke her back if she is struggling to sleep. I encourage them to lie with their back facing me and I run both hands down either side of the spine from the top to the bottom. Nothing more innovative than that, but it soon builds up a rhythm if you do it several times and I think it is this which helps at bedtime.

6. Tummy Circles
If bedtime is full of smiles then I will occasionally still perform some more traditional baby massage moves on Holly. Holding one hand to the left of her belly button (under or over pyjamas is fine) I take my right hand and run a circle clockwise around her belly button until my hands meet. Do this several times if they are enjoying it.

I hope these tips help to make bedtimes with a toddler a little bit more mellow for you as they have done for me.
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