What is ‘Story Massage’?

We all love stories, and when combined with the therapeutic benefits of simple massage strokes, stories can present wonderful opportunities for creativity and nurturing for children of all ages and abilities. Below, Mary Atkinson and Sandra Hooper, co-authors of Once Upon A Touch… Story Massage for Children, explain more about their innovative Story Massage project.

Once upon a touch_authors

What is ‘Story Massage’?

‘Story Massage’ can be imaginative, educational, bonding, calming – and great fun for children and adults alike! We have worked together for nearly 10 years now and continue to be amazed by the power of touch and storytelling in so many different situations.

‘Story Massage’ involves the use of ten simple movements (given through clothes), associated with words that help to build up an engaging and interactive story. Tracing a large circle on a child’s back, for example, can depict the image of the world. Similarly, a gentle squeezing action on the shoulders can represent kneading the dough for a pizza. The ten basic ‘Story Massage’ strokes all described with colourful illustrations in our book are given a name, such ‘The Wave’ or ‘The Drum’, and are accompanied by a distinctive symbol for ease of reference.

We have devised these ten ‘Story Massage’ strokes to offer a structure within which both child and parent can enjoy their own creativity. Our book contains over 25 tried-and-tested ‘Story Massages’ but there is also plenty of scope to adapt favourite stories, or have fun with your own stories to reflect particular interests, activities or events. The strokes can be applied to a child’s back, arms, head, hands, feet, legs – wherever is most suitable for the individual. Depending on the situation, ‘Story Massage’ can be shared as a child to child or as an adult-to-child positive touch activity wherever and whenever you choose!

What are the benefits of ‘Story Massage’?

We now run regular ‘Story Massage’ training sessions for professionals and parents. Indeed, it is so versatile, with such wide ranging benefits, that it is being developed worldwide in settings including the family home, school, after-school clubs, family centres, hospitals, hospices and special schools. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with benefits ranging from preparing an autistic child for a new school, calming a distressed child at bedtime, raising self-esteem and confidence, and encouraging young people at a special school to engage actively with sensory stories.

There is also an educational element. It is ideal for learning numbers and letters, and aspects of history, geography and science. For many children, learning through doing  known as the kinaesthetic approach, means they ‘feel’ what they are learning and this engages them in a different way. ‘Story Massage’ may also help complement other ‘tools’ in helping parents and children develop resilience and coping strategies.

We have recently heard from a mother of four daughters, one of whom has ADHD. ‘Story Massage’ has made such a difference to her family that she wanted to share the five top benefits with others.

  • ‘Story Massage’ is a simple and quick way of giving individual attention to a child. It makes them feel special.
  • ‘Story Massage’ is a wonderful reward for completing chores or counting the days to an exciting event. Now that we have integrated Story Massage into our routine the reward can be either a massage just for them or to be able to make up their own story and share it with the others.
  • ‘Story Massage’ offers my children a channel for making sense of the world and expressing their difficult emotions. We have been very moved by some of the stories our daughters have written.
  • ‘Story Massage’ can help calm down potentially explosive arguments before they start this is one of my most difficult times. And this is where ‘Story Massage’ has become a huge help. It is a great way to diffuse the situation calmly and peacefully.
  • ‘Story Massage’ can be very calming. If any of the girls are feeling tense, upset or tired then ‘Story Massage’ can be really helpful. My daughter with ADHD is usually very fidgety but during a ‘Story Massage’ she becomes quite still, and I can see her whole body relax. The wonderful thing is that she asks for it now because she knows it makes her feel good.

How can your book be used as an introduction to ‘Story Massage’?

Our book contains information and simple guidelines on how to integrate ‘Story Massage’ into the family home. It is a good idea to start slowly and gently, maybe with a few strokes on the back or hand at bedtime, then gradually build up the massage at the child’s pace focusing on a story or song that would hold their attention.  Keep the massage time short and frequent. Before each session begins, the child should be asked whether they would like to have a ‘Story Massage’, and respect should be shown for their right to decline. It is a fun activity that promotes respectful and positive touch for children of all ages and abilities. We hope you enjoy ‘Story Massage’ as much as we do, and find Once Upon a Touch… Story Massage for Children useful.

Once Upon a Touch... Story massage for Children by Mary Atkinson and Sandra hooper

Once Upon a Touch… Story Massage for Children by Mary Atkinson and Sandra Hooper

A fun and creative way to increase general well-being, improve concentration and self-awareness, and encourage relaxation in children aged 3-11, this book offers a hands-on guide to story massage. To purchase, or for more information, click HERE.


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