The Mindful Story Massage is a soothing way to take a mindful break and help children relax. It’s super calming when going to bed, too. You can play it at school by having children perform the story together, which is exactly what we’ve done to end martial arts practice on a relaxing note. You can’t go wrong with story massage and I recommend it to everyone.
To touch is to give life.
Some Western cultures are touch-deprived, and this is especially true of the United States. There are plenty of studies on the importance of touch, and as you play this game it becomes clear how uplifting, compassionate and soothing touch really is.
A different kind of body scan
The mindful story massage is like a playful body scan with a story. The story part is something you can come up with easily. We usually have a variety of animals in our stories. You can have all kinds of animals that walk, run, tip-toe, creep and slither differently. Different sized animals like babies, grown-ups, both big and small animals will give you variety. This is fun as the movement and pressure you apply varies according to the animal. As a result, it will be fun to pay attention to your touch.
This morning we had playful baby frogs in our story massage. We started with one frog leaping from my son’s heal from “stone to stone” all the way up to the back of his knee. Then the frog jumped to the other leg and back to the heal. It started to rain and I made rain drops with my fingers on his legs and back.
The baby frog called on his friends and they slid from the heal up to the knee and back. Then the baby frogs decided it was time to play catch and they jumped all over his back. Until big mommy frog came and told them it was time to go to sleep. The baby frogs hid in his armpits, which was a nice way to get a tickle into the story. The frogs then listened to the wind, as I made wind patterns on my son’s back, arms and legs. Finally the baby frogs fell asleep happy and exhausted. Ta-dah!
Seriously, story massage is such a fun way to connect. My son wanted to have another story immediately after and to perform one for me, too. I told him we could do more later as a transition when we get back home.
Your children may like one particular story, and you can repeat it. But the fun part is to come up with new stories and have the familiar characters revisit the stories.
Some other fun animals are mice, hamsters, elephants, hedgehogs, deer, kind snakes and bunnies. Weather is fun, too. You can have small raindrops or big ones. And all kinds of winds and the sun drying the water. Your imagination is the limit. Kids can then repeat your story and come up with their own stories. If you’re practicing with your own child then it’s fun to allow them to come up with their own stories and get your own story massage :-) Yes, it’s soothing for grown-ups, too!
Great for bedtime and sleep
Two nights ago my son couldn’t sleep. Nightmares woke him up and he wouldn’t stop crying. I’m not that great at comforting… regretfully, I’m more like a 911 operator trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it asap.
So, I’m working on my comforting skills… and I figured I could try some story massage to comfort him. He agreed by nodding between angry kicks and sobs. As a result, I performed a funny story with hamsters. One of the hamsters in the story was my son and the others his best friends.
My improvisation became a comforting story with hamsters playing together and I somehow managed to include a few funny jokes. At first my son kept kicking, but I persisted and he calmed down and giggled a few times! It was amazing to see that change in his state.
The rest of the night was much better with my son giggling in his sleep. That must be my favorite sound! The morning after he told me how he had dreamt of his friends.
Mindfulness for Children – The Mindful Story Massage Game for All Ages
Purpose: Body awareness, Focus, Calm & Relaxation
Best for: Ages 3+, groups or one-on-one
What you need: Imagination :-)
Note to educators: If you allow children to perform a story massage to each other then you will want to show how it’s done first. You can then have the children perform the massage as you tell a story, having them follow your story with the movements they perform. But first, start by explaining that you are allowed to touch feet, legs, arms, hands, back and head only ( and to stay away from private parts.) Have them lie on their stomachs and tell them that they are to touch lightly and with kindness only. It’s supposed to feel nice and relaxing.
First, have your child lie on his or her belly. Ask him or her to find a comfortable position, to relax and pay attention to your touch.
Here’s one script to inspire you:
Lie down on your stomach and get super comfortable.
Relax and pay attention to my touch.
You can close your eyes if you wish.
A little mouse walks ( from the heal up to the back. )
Oh dear, the mouse forgot something and walks back.
The mouse puts on big boots and walks back.
The mouse looks for the friendly snake, but can’t find her.
Soon a friendly snake slithers up the other leg. There she is!!
The wind starts to blow ( from the head down the back all the way to the heals. )
Leaves rustle in the trees and fall.
It starts to rain. First a little ( with tiny droplets. )
Then a lot ( with heavy drops all over! )
The little mouse wants to go home. But can’t remember which way.
The mouse runs around getting all wet in the rain…
AND then finally finds her home cave… in one armpit ( tickle gently ).
Ta-daaah! You’re done :-) Yes, it’s easy!
Remember to ask how it felt, if it was fun and perhaps even calming.
You can leave out the tickle if you’re trying to get your child to sleep. However, the tickle is something children will start to anticipate and it makes the whole thing lots of fun.
The only “problem” is that children will want another story as children love this game!
Okay, if you liked this activity and want to support my blog then…
you might want to get 150 playful mindfulness activities in my five-star rated best-selling book:
“The Most Important Mindfulness Book You’ll Ever Buy” – Helen Hudson
Wishing you many fun and calming moments with your children :-)
Chief Mindfulness Ninja @ Blissful Kids
If you are new to mindfulness with children OR you want to make practice easy we recommend our online mindfulness courses.
Chris Bergstrom is a bestselling mindfulness author, a leader in the field of mindfulness, the founder of BlissfulKids.com, a blog dedicated to children’s mindfulness, and a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is a certified mindfulness facilitator and trained to teach mindfulness to students in K-12. He’s also known as “the dad who tried 200+ mindfulness activities” and has taught meditation for more than 15 years.