A massage that could change your life

Posted by Sarah Hynes / Friday 26 August 2016 / Children's centres Early intervention
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Being on your hands and knees babbling nonsense to babies might seem a world away from being in an office cooking up plans on how to influence Government – but they’re both ways that Action for Children is helping to improve children’s development.

I’ve worked at Action for Children on our new political campaign, Fair by Five for two months now. We want to persuade the Government to make child development a national priority, and I’ve learnt more about how children develop than when I watched ‘The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds’ (twice!). It’s been pretty fascinating.  

Children are learning and developing all the time. Their brains are like sponges in the first five years as they figure out how to be a person interacting with the world. And parents’ confidence in their own ability is critical to helping children fulfil their potential. Sadly, by age five, around a third of children do not yet have basic abilities like making themselves understood, being curious, playing well with others, or eating without help. These children are more likely to stay behind throughout childhood, affecting their future health, education and even relationships.

Not long after I started work, someone mentioned that many of our children’s centres offer ‘baby massage’. Images arose in my mind of a sort of ‘Baby Spa’ where these babies would lie around in luxurious dressing gowns, with cucumber slices over their eyes, detoxing from the stress of baby life.

Unsurprisingly, this was not the case.

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I visited our excellent children’s centre in Totnes where I saw a baby massage session in action. A former midwife, now a volunteer at the Centre, encouraged the mothers in the room to interact with their babies, making eye contact as they each rubbed their children’s feet and massaged their legs. I quickly realised the idea was for parents to spend dedicated time with their baby, making them feel secure through affection and by enhancing their bond with their child.

This added to an understanding I was already coming to, that fairly simple activities such as giving your baby a massage, reading them a story, or singing them a nursery rhyme, can really help create an environment in which they can flourish.

So as I travelled back from Totnes, contemplating how a baby massage actually has nothing to do with dressing gowns and cucumber slices, but everything to do with attachment and relationship- building, it brought home to me how vital our campaign is. To reduce the number of children who are not reaching a good level of development, the Government needs to help parents play that crucial role in the first five years of a child’s life. Being encouraged to look for (and able to find) advice and encouragement, in an atmosphere that is welcoming, would help thousands of parents make small changes that have mighty impacts – now and across lifetimes.

To make sure this happens, we need to pile the pressure on our politicians, to get the discussion going in Parliament and to ensure the Government commits to support parents. And to do this, we need your help.

 

Join our Fair by Five campaign and help us ensure child development is firmly on the Government’s agenda.

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