Musical Mondays: Massage and Tickle Rhymes

Harper loves when her daddy does massage rhymes with her!

Babies love to be held, caressed and snuggled. Studies have shown that skin to skin contact between parent and baby is essential to healthy infant development. And like I mentioned in my post last week on steady beat, physical touch is the primary learning mode for babies. So what better way to help our little ones learn, grow, and develop than through musical massage and tickle rhymes. (For the record, I think we can ALL benefit from a little massage!)

What I love most about baby music is that we can teach simple musical concepts through play. Parents and children interact in physical and positive ways that makes learning enjoyable. And let’s be honest, is there anything more enjoyable than massage?

Within each baby music class that I teach, there is always a section that is devoted to massage. Depending on the poem or rhyme, we do massages for the face, arms, legs, back or chest. The babies can be lying on their backs, on the tummies, sitting up on their own, or in their parents lap. The goal is that they are comfortable and happy. So whatever works for them, will work for me.

We like to repeat our rhymes at least 2-3 times per class for about 2-3 weeks at a time. This gives parents the opportunity to learn it and helps babies become familiar with it. Babies love what they know. So the repetition of the same activities week after week, will make those selections a favorite for your little one.

It is obvious that our little ones love the massage and tickles rhymes because they feel so good. Parents love the massage and tickle rhymes because there have so many wonderful benefits. First and foremost, these activities aid in emotional development. The face to face contact is a great way to bond with your child. I have also found these rhymes to be super helpful in calming Harper down when she is having a tough time. Diaper changes becoming difficult? Massage rhymes are a great way to make diaper changing time easier and more fun. Saying a massage rhyme always keeps Harper from wiggling.

Participating in massage and tickle rhymes can also aid in language development as well. As you practice different activities with your child you can teach them the placement of body parts (see rhyme below as an example) as well as spacial relations (up, down, etc). Because rhymes are short and repetitious, it is a great introduction of language to your baby.

Musically, massage and tickle rhymes help to reinforce the steady beat as they are done rhythmically and physically. The steady pulse learned through rhythmic speech is a precursor for singing songs down the road.

Finally, these activities are a great way to introduce social development. When the child looks at the parent, watches and listens to their voice and movement and then responds with a smile or a laugh, they learn to communicate.

But what exactly does a massage and tickle rhyme look like. Well here is one example that is sure to become a favorite!

Criss Cross, Apple Sauce


Criss Cross, Apple Sauce. With four long strokes, make 2 large x’s on child’s back.

Spider crawling up your back. With two fingers, slowly “crawl” up child’s back.

Cool breeze! Gently blow on toddler’s neck, and pause.

Tight squeeze! Put your arms around your child, hug, and pause.

And now you’ve got the shivers! Tickle all over.

When speaking this massage rhyme you want to say it slowly, deliberately, and musically. It is important that you keep the steady beat with your motions and with your voice.

After the child is familiar with this massage rhyme, you can increase extra suspense and anticipation by repeating the motions and the words of the first line before finishing the rhyme. This also extends the steady-beat experience on your child’s back.

And this activity is in no way limited to your little ones. Big kids still love when you do criss cross on their backs. Try to catch them at pajama time to do it on their bare back before they go to bed. It is so relaxing. They love it!

So whether you decide to participate in a massage rhyme with your child or your husband (it is Valentines day soon you know…) everyone is sure to have a great time!

Criss Cross, Apple Sauce and many more massage rhymes can be found in Toddlers Make Music by Lynn Kleiner.

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4 thoughts on “Musical Mondays: Massage and Tickle Rhymes

  1. Aunt Rosemary says:

    How about a deedee??

  2. Tammy says:

    She is a really beautiful child.

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