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Massage Today
April, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 04

Massage at Preschools and Schools

"Children Who Massage One Another Do Not Fight!"

By Rolf Elmstrom

Rolf Elmstrom is the former headteacher at the Axelsons Gymnastiska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, one of the largest alternative medicine schools in Europe.

Mr. Elmstrom currently oversees several projects for Axelsons, including international education programs and portions of the institute's massage therapy program. This article is Mr. Elmstrom's report on an ongoing Axelsons project that incorporates massage in preschools and grade schools in Sweden.

In modern society, stress has become a serious problem. The tempo of life has accelerated and we always seem to find ourselves short on time. We communicate more and more using technology and machines. Much of our children´s natural play time has been replaced with sitting in front of the TV, watching videos or playing games on the computer.

We must not forget that everyone needs physical and psychological contact with other people. Physical contact in particular gives nourishment to the giver and the receiver.

The Touch Research Institute in Miami, Fla., has conducted significant research on the importance of touch; in Sweden, Professor Kerstin Uvnœs-Moberg has shown that levels of the peace-and-calm hormone oxytocin increases with touch, while at the same time, levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreases. Touch is the first sense we develop; it is of vital importance to communication and learning.

Together with Kerstin Uvnœs-Moberg, from the Karolinska Institute, and Professor Annelise von Knorring from the Psychiatric Clinic for Children in Uppsala, Axelsons Gymnastiska Institute has conducted a study involving 150 preschool children. Among other things, this study clearly shows that with massage:

  • Levels of aggression, anxiety and stress are lower.
  • Children function better in groups.
  • Psychosomatic illnesses are fewer.

Why Did Axelsons Gymnastiska Institute Start the Project "Massage at Preschools and Schools"?

After considerable contact with the Touch Research Institute, we realized just how important massage is. We felt it important to spread this knowledge, particularly to young people, and therefore we started at kindergartens. We have trained about 8,000 teachers throughout Sweden in the past five years. Every day, we hear reports of what a great difference massage makes in the children´s groups:

  • Children become calmer and less aggressive.
  • Children fight less.
  • Children can concentrate more easily.
  • Children develop more empathy.
  • Children learn to say no to unwanted physical contact.

The following are comments from children involved in our program:

  • 7-year-old girl: "The autumn term was good because we started massaging each other."
  • 9-year-old boy: "This is life!"
  • 9-year-old girl: "When my father is angry, I give him massage and then he is not angry anymore."

Participants of the Participants of the "Massage at Schools and Preschools" project. And here is a teacher's comment after taking our course:

"This is the best further-training course I have been on, and I have been on many. Since I took this course, the children in my class have had 20 minutes every day to massage one another. The first term the children practised together with me, but now they work two-and two in their own rhythm directly at their desks."

The Axelsons Institute organizes courses for all people who work with children. The purpose of these courses is to provide the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to introduce massage in schools. The courses include elementary massage; how to massage; the strokes used; where and when not to massage; how often you can massage; etc. Course participants learn how to give and receive whole-body massage and massage sitting on a chair; how to massage children and how to teach children to massage one another; and how to integrate massage into everyday schoolwork.


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