In its most innocent form
massage is simply touch,
and all kids know how to …
Children and Massage
T ouch is the first sense to develop in humans. It is essential to our health and well-being. Babies have been known to fail to thrive and even die without an adequate amount of physical contact. Adults, as well, can become depressed and ill if they are isolated from this most basic of human needs. Children who learn healthy views of touch and are provided with positive tactile experience by their caregivers are more likely to grow up to be adults with healthy self-esteem, a sense of appropriate boundaries and long-lasting intimate relationships.
Psychology Today: The Power of Touch
I f touch is a language, it seems we instinctively know how to use it. But apparently it's a skill we take for granted. When asked about it, the subjects in Hertenstein's studies consistently underestimated their ability to communicate via touch—even while their actions suggested that touch may in fact be more versatile than voice, facial expression, and other modalities for expressing emotion.
"It's an essential channel of communication with caregivers for a child," says San Diego State University School of Communication emeritus professor Peter Andersen, author of Nonverbal Communication: Forms and Functions.
A mother's touch enhances attachment between mother and child; it can signify security ("You're safe; I'm here") and, depending on the type of touch, it can generate positive or negative emotions. (Playing pat-a-cake makes infants happy, while a sudden squeeze from Mom often signals a warning not to interact with a new object). Mom's touch even seems to mitigate pain when infants are given a blood test. University of Miami School of Medicine's Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute, has linked touch, in the form of massage, to a slew of benefits, including better sleep, reduced irritability, and increased sociability among infants.