Relaxation, massage for children

Notes from Laura and Jonah’s class at The Spiritual Spa

1) Principles for relaxation

  • Warmth. Cold = tension (shivering). Hot = loose.
  • Dim light. Blue sky = daytime, awake. Campfire-orange = nighttime, sleepy.
  • Slow music. Under 60 BPM (see download link, below).
  • Touch is slow, repetitive, predictable, unbroken.
  • Keep to a schedule. Get up same time each morning, no matter when bedtime was.

2) Whole-body relaxation routine

    Mnemonic: Stretch Stroke Squish Scoop

    a) Routine start:

      Face up

      Stretch: Lghtly rock and pull leg (holding above knee and at ankle).
      Rock and gently shake arm (holding above elbow and at wrist).
      Slow pull up on base of skull, straightening back of neck, chin pointing down.

      Face down

      “Are you warm?”
      “Are you comfy?”

    b) Upper body, sitting near your child’s arm. Keep movements slow, even depth, steady speed, and maintain contact:

      Rest hand on sacrum (base of spine), rock hand gently
      “Breathe into your belly”

      Stroke down back
      Stroke down arms
      Spread hands, fingers
      Gently pull fingers

      Squish muscles: shoulders, back, arms (knead, push down into muscle)
      Scoop muscles: shoulders, arms (squeeze, pick up muscle)
      “Tapotement”: tapping, drumming along middle and upper back while child says “aahhhh”

    c) Lower body, sitting near child’s thigh:

      Knead middle and sides of bum, keeping one hand on shoulder
      Stroke down leg, avoid inner thigh
      Knead thigh
      Scoop thigh

3) Massage for relieving leg cramps

    Sitting at your child’s feet, rest her ankle on your thigh, leaving room to move her foot

      Gently shake foot
      Stretch ankle 4 directions
      Squish, Scoop calf, not too deep
      Firmly Stroke up leg, with whole palm, to return blood to the heart

    How to relieve calf cramps using “reciprocal inhibition”:

      “Pull your foot up into my hand”
      Stretch back of calf by gently bending foot up, toward your thigh
      Massage calf (Scoop, Squish, or Stroke)

4) Simple foot massage routine

    Tips to settle your child

    • For younger children, holding a stuffed animal or their favorite blanket
    • For older children, have them roll a ball in the palms of the hands
    • Warm foot bath with sea salt or Epsom salt (use a small tub, available from any dollar store; also great when they’re coming down with a cold)


    • (For babies – rub hand and foot together, starting on the right and then doing the left)
    • Gentle rub – cupping the foot in your hand, gently rub from beginning to end, keeping the connection. Gently pull or stretch the area you’re working on
    • Palm rub – open palms and rub each side of the foot at the same time from heel to toes
    • Pelvic rock – place one hand under the calf, and with the opposite hand holding the heel rock the heel side to side
    • Chest stretch – placing fingers on the top of the foot, stretch the bottom of the foot with thumbs
    • Thumb or finger walk – move the thumb or fingers from one end of the foot to the other

    Begin by putting the lotion in your hands to warm it before applying it on your child. Start with the right foot:

    1. Working the lotion into the leg, start at the knee (back of leg) and apply lotion all the way to the tips of the toes and back
    2. Then go from the tips of the toes to the knee (front of the leg), gently working the lotion into the skin
    3. Palm-rub the foot gently from heel to toes (medial and lateral at the same time)
    4. Pelvic rock – side to side
    5. Move the foot back and forth: gently holding the toes move the foot back and forth and with your free hand rub the back of the leg
    6. Ankle-twist in each direction, right and left
    7. Thumb-walk from heel to toes (longitudinal), one half of the foot and then the other half of the foot
    8. Thumb-walk zone 1 (big toe) to stimulate all glands
    9. Gentle rub top of foot from ankle to toes
    10. Lovingly rub the whole leg and foot
    11. Thumb-walk up the spinal reflex (medial)
    12. Digestive sweep (right foot – lateral side of foot from heel to medial side of foot, like a windshield wiper) and (left starting from underneath pad, medial side to above heel, finishing at the medial side. On both feet, move your thumb in a clockwise semi-circle)
    13. Diaphragm – under the pad, plantar aspect of foot lateral to medial right foot. Stop in the middle to press the solar plexus. Ask child to inhale when you press and exhale when you let go
    14. Chest stretch – place fingers on the top of the foot and stretch the sole of the foot with thumbs
    15. Neck – plantar aspect at the base of the toes thumb or finger-walk from lateral to medial
    16. Massage medial part of foot, twisting hand slightly to stimulate and activate immune system
    17. Twist each of the toes, slightly pinching the tops of each toe; great for draining sinuses
    18. Complete the foot by stimulating the solar plexus once again (encourage the child to inhale when you press and exhale when you let go)

    Repeat the steps for the left foot. Always do the routine on both feet, to balance the body energetically.

5) Links

  • Music: Liquid Mind, . Download from (wait 2 minutes, then click “CLICK HERE to get your Download Link”)
  • “Children and Massage”:
  • “Release a Muscle Cramp Instantly by Contracting the Opposite Muscle”:
  • “Stressors and stress-relief in children,” from Pediatric Massage Therapy pp. 9-22, (PDF, 7MB)