Children of all ages and abilities are now enjoying the benefits of outdoor learning. We talk to Story Massage Practitioners who are taking classes outside to share the joy of sensory stories in nature.
Outdoor Learning at School
Gill Allan, pupil support assistant at Oyne School in Aberdeenshire works alongside Rhona Mowat, who is Forest School trained, to support P6/7 pupils in their outdoor learning experiences. They share massage stories based on sensory themes to encourage children to think about what they can see, smell and hear around them. Classes take place in the bell tent or in the orchard.
“Pupils who struggle with emotional regulation and anxiety have really benefitted from sharing massage stories in nature,” says Gill, “Several have now written their own short stories.”
Jennifer Sorbie, Class Teacher at a special needs school, has written her own massage story as part of the outdoor learning experience for her pupils with significant learning disabilities. You can download it here: Our Natural World
“Sharing massage stories in the open air is a great opportunity to create a wonderful sensory experience,” says Jennifer, “It helps to bring a sense of calm and provides space for everyone to reflect and refocus.”
Tracey Allen, owner of Made for Little Feet, holds a selection of Nature Groups suitable from birth to 12 years in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland. These include Baby Buds, Tree Tots and Nurture Nature Groups. “The Story Massage Programme can be carried out anywhere, over clothes and on any part of the body, which makes it so suitable to use outside in nature,” says Tracey, “The babies and parents, grandparents and carers really benefit from walking, talking and exploring in nature. We finish the baby sessions with singing songs adapted with the Story Massage strokes. We find that it works so well doing the strokes over slings.”
Tracey’s toddler groups often involve a nature-based activity such as a scavenger hunt and nature art combined with calming massage stories and songs. Older children, aged 5 to 12 years, enjoy massage stories as part of yoga sessions outdoors. Due to Covid restrictions, the children use self-Story Massage on their hands and arms and Tracey says they love it!
Julie Woolrich-Moon, a trained Forest Schools leader and meditation teacher, runs regular outdoor sessions for children aged 2-4 years at a local pre-school near Andover, Hampshire. She enjoys adapting books about nature as massage stories. One of her favourites is The Busy Fox: A Story about the Calming Power of Nature by Isaac Madge which is about a fox that goes forest bathing. “We talk about the beautiful world around us,” says Julie, “and about self-care and meditation, and how positive touch can make us feel good. Then I teach them how to use the Story Massage strokes on their own hands and arms.”
Julie has written a simple massage story to teach the children the safety rules of outdoor learning. She says this helps to embed the rules more quickly than just talking about them, especially the younger ones who have little language at present.
Helen Mayers, owner of Becalm Relax, is a trained Natural Mindfulness and Forest Therapy Guide running nature connection events in Bridgend for adults, families, after school clubs and those with additional needs. “The outdoors and nature have been a lifeline for many during these strange times,” says Helen “Science is now backing up that being immersed in nature is good for our well-being. And the benefits can be enhanced by adding nurturing positive touch through massage stories. Outdoor learning with the Story Massage Programme is a chance to refresh, revive and feel at one with nature.”
More about the Story Massage Programme
The Story Massage Programme bring the benefits of positive, respectful touch together with the creativity and engagement of storytelling. Ten simple massage strokes form the basis of the programme. These strokes have a name, such as The Circle or The Sprinkle, an action and an easy to recognise symbol. It is a fully inclusive activity, no clothing is removed and no oil is used. The strokes are all explained in our Story Massage book Once upon a touch…story massage for children.
Would you like to train in the Story Massage Programme?
Are you inspired by these stories of sharing massage stories as part of the outdoor learning experience for children and families? Would you like to learn more? Sign up for our Story Massage Online Course and help share the benefits with the children or adults in your care – at home or at work.
We teach you how to share the ten Story Massage strokes and work with you to adapt familiar stories and even create some sensory stories of your own. Ideal for all teachers, SEN staff, support staff, therapists, Early Years practitioners, those working with people with additional needs, Baby Massage Instructors, Relax Kids Coaches… everyone with an interest in sharing positive touch activities with children and adults of all ages and abilities.