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Story Massage - What is it and why do we love it?

At Tots Play we love to share the benefits that baby massage can bring, both for your baby and you, and through our Baby Development course, teach a lovely relaxing full body massage routine for you to enjoy together. If you are just getting started with massaging your baby, find out more about the benefits HERE.

Massage doesn’t need to stop as your baby grows though, but you may need to adapt it to suit your more mobile and inquisitive little one. This is where Story Massage comes in.

What is Story Massage?

Essentially story massage provides the structure for you to massage your little one alongside the soothing and familiar tool of your voice. The massage strokes are simple so that you can comfortably combine the two to create a highly engaging and interactive sensory experience for both you and your child.

Whether you are telling a story, saying a rhyme or singing a song, story massage strokes can be used to convey or reinforce the meaning or essence of the tale or song, bringing it to life for your little one, as you connect through this special form of touch.

Why do we love it at Tots Play?

Baby massage is a beautiful way to bond with your infant but as your baby starts to explore the world around them they find it increasingly difficult to stay still long enough to receive the same benefits. Story massage can be a great way to re-engage older babies and young children with the joys of massage and sharing special touch.

How is it different to baby massage?

The strokes concentrate on the upper body, arms and head, and can be done on the front or back of the body. Story massage is done with your child fully clothed, and no oil is used. This makes the process simpler and the activity more flexible. Anyone who has ever tried to undress a baby who is capable of crawling will know that doing this activity clothed has definite benefits!

Each of the strokes and movements are designed to be adaptable so that the individual child’s development and needs can be taken into account. There is a particular focus on the nurturing and positive touch between the child and care giver.

What are the benefits of story massage?

Just like with infant massage, there are many benefits to sharing story massage with your growing little one, here are just a few:

  • Relaxation for both the adult and the baby by loosening up tension and stress that builds up in the body over time.

  • Oxytocin is released which is the feel good hormone and boosts well-being.

  • Establishes a routine that is calming and soothing for child

  • Increases alertness and concentration

  • Helps to develop speech and language skills.

  • Improves vocabulary.

  • Focused 1-2-1 time improves self-confidence

  • Story massage is fun!

How is story massage used?

Once you get to know the strokes, and there are just ten in total, you can use these with any story, song or rhyme throughout the day, or as a relaxing bed time activity.

Circle Stroke performed on child's back.

At our classes we use Story Massage as a way to wind down, relax and connect towards the end of the session. The way we do this is adapted to be appropriate for the ages of the children in the class, so our younger babies may be lying down and receiving massage on the front of their body, allowing for lots of eye contact and bonding, others may enjoy being on their tummies, and our older toddlers sometimes like to try doing some of the strokes on their special grown up too!

Although we tend to use story massage at these particular times in class, it is a highly adaptable activity that once you have learn you can practice anytime that suits you and your little one.

Have a go at home

Try these 3 strokes with the lullaby, Rock a Bye Baby.

Depending on your child's age and what they prefer you can perform these strokes on the front or back or their body while they are lying down in front of you, or on their back as they sit up, and you sit behind them. Repeat the stroke a few times as you sing each line of the song.

Half Circle – rest one hand on your child’s shoulder and using the flat of the other hand draw a half circle shape on their torso, moving back and forth from side to side like a rocking cradle.

Do this as you sing the line, “Rock a bye baby on the tree top”

The Wave – with one hand on your child’s shoulder, use the flat of the other hand to make a wave like, zig zag movement down their body. Repeat, moving from shoulder level downwards.

Do this as you sing “When the wind blows the cradle will rock”

Downward Fan – place both hands down flat at the top of your child’s chest, or either side of the spine, and stroke downwards, fanning out at the bottom so your hands finish at either side of the body. Repeat the movement a few times.

Do this as you sing “When the bough breaks the cradle will fall”

Repeat the Wave stroke again as you sing,

“And down will come baby, cradle and all.”

Learning More

To learn more about Story Massage from its creators, Mary Atkinson and Sandra Hooper, and its continuing use for older children, visit

At Tots Play you can learn these different massage techniques along with a wide range of other play activities that will boost your child’s development. You will find our classes friendly and welcoming, providing a fun and positive environment for you and baby or toddler to learn new skills together. We have sessions designed for newborns up to 4 year olds.

Find your nearest session HERE. We also offer online courses and resources so there is nothing stopping you and your little one trying story massage, or one of a variety of other activities from our programme today.

We would love to hear about your favourite way to enjoy story massage with your Tot, so pop over to our Facebook Page and let us know.

Happy Playing!

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