Massage for children offers a variety of health benefits. It is human nature to touch as a way of showing love and affection. This touch stimulates the body in positive ways to help it grow and develop. Massage is beneficial at any age but because children are still developing it can be especially helpful for them. Parent-child massage is a wonderful way to bond with your children while offering them health benefits.
Infant Weight Gain
Premature babies often struggle with weight gain. Touch, obtained through gentle massage and cuddling, releases a growth hormone in a premature infant that helps him gain necessary weight and aids development of vital organs and the brain. A study by the Department of Neonatology at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. showed that premature infants who were massaged, particularly with kinesthetic stimulation (body stroking and passive movement of the limbs), gained more weight than premature infants without massage.
Stress and Anxiety Relief
Massage reduces stress hormone levels and blood glucose levels. According to Maria Hernandez-Reif, a researcher at the Touch Research Institute, lower stress hormones not only reduce feelings of anxiety but contribute to a healthier immune system. The immune system fights illnesses by defending the body against toxins, parasites, bacteria, microbes, pathogens and viruses. Due to its relaxing effect, massage has been found to reduce asthma symptoms in children and help them adhere to a sometimes painful diabetes treatment program.
Stimulates Motor Development
Children are developing their motor (movement) skills as they grow. Massage helps ease tension and pain in developing muscles that make motor skills possible. A study by the University of Miami indicates that massage improved motor function in children with Down syndrome, and the Journal of Pediatric Psychology reports that massage improved motor ability in children infected with HIV.
Stimulates Cognitive Development
According to Early Child Development and Care, preschoolers performed better on an IQ test following a 15-minute massage than they did from reading books. The International Journal of Neuroscience reported that massage improved function in the brain, resulting in increased alertness as well as speed and accuracy during math problems.
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