With an average of ten toddlers from the ages of 18 months to 3 years in an indoor space, there are times during the children’s free play when they need additional quiet rest times, that supplement the traditional afternoon nap. These “rest times” generally do not involve sleep, but allow children who have been hurt, anxious, overtired or overwhelmed to settle back into their bodies and gather themselves. These framed rest times positively affect the quality of the day not only for the individual who receives them, but for the other children and teachers as well. This allows for a more peaceful and fluid day all around.
During these protected and secure times, the toddler teachers in the Dandelion room at Rose Garden Children’s Center incorporate Touch Relaxation. This is a very simple massage technique that is traditionally used between massage strokes, or at the end of a massage. The two techniques that we use are resting hands, which involves placing one’s still hands on the body of a child; and containment, in which one holds the limb of a child until it relaxes. For example, when some children are upset they have a tendency to scrunch their shoulders. I have found that if one holds a child’s hand between your own hands, in a contained way using firm pressure, the shoulder slowly drops and the arm relaxes. This technique also comforts children whose bodies tense up when distressed or uncomfortable. Both of these techniques have the ability to relax, calm and soothe when used consistently with young children.
The first photo shows a teacher resting her hands on a child’s shoulders. The second shows using Touch Relaxation to aid sleep. The third shows placing hands over a child’s heart and on her back for comfort after falling over.
Kate Castellani is a LifeWays graduate and lead teacher at Rose Garden Early Childhood Center in Buffalo, New York.