Danielle Wright finds a day spa for children less about creating a 'mini-me' experience and more about 'me time' for the kids.
Children are well-versed in disciplinary time outs, but time out for themselves is something that seems more and more undervalued in an age where every hour of childhood can be crammed with well-meaning activities.
It's with this in mind that I've talked my friend, Tanya Beckett, and her six-year-old daughter, Tyler, into trying the kids' spa at Ponsonby Rd's Spa Ayurda. But as we drive there I worry it will be a bit grown up, or creepy, like children using spray-tanning salons, or worse, botox.
I needn't have worried. As soon as we arrive I'm pleasantly surprised when the serious staff talk about the wellness aspects of the treatments, rather than pampering or vanity. They consider their treatments an important part of holistic well-being.
"It's a great time for kids to connect with their bodies. They are so full-on with activities, it's a rare time for rest," says manager Brande Melland. "We see them come in so unfocused and running around, then so chilled out afterwards."
Entering the room, filled with candles, red tulips and burning essential oils, is a bit like coming into an alternate world of peace and calm. Melland says the spa for kids is becoming more popular as word gets around.
Options include head massages, wellness massages and facials for six-12 year olds, as well as teen spa options to reduce stress caused by what Melland reminds me is "a time of major physical, intellectual and emotional growth".
"The day spa experience is especially good for girls moving into those teenage years as they start to accept themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin before the transformation begins," says Melland.
It's then we're introduced to Tyler's softly spoken therapist, Jane Tofinga, who takes us through what will be happening next.
Tyler has picked the wellness massage, which uses warm, medicated oil to help improve circulation and aid relaxation.
"The room smells like perfume," says Tyler, as she hops up on the massage table saying it's "very comfy".
Tofinga starts with breathing exercises and then cleans Tyler's feet with warm towels using sesame oil, which is apparently very relaxing and nourishing.
Soft music is playing and Tyler looks a little unsure at first but five minutes later we have to check she hasn't fallen asleep: her expression is so relaxed.
Tofinga modifies the massage techniques when working with children and says it's more about relaxing strokes, rather than removing toxins or rectifying any Ayurvedic imbalances.
At the end, Tofinga massages oil into Tyler's hair and puts warm towels on her feet. Tyler seems very peaceful as she turns to us and says: "I loved it, I nearly fell asleep."
It's quite something to get a six-year-old to sit still for 10 minutes, let alone 45, and although I started out unsure about what a children's spa would entail, I left feeling it was a good first step in teaching children to value their own well-being, as well as being a bonding time for Tyler and her mum away from two little sisters vying for attention.
As we are served herbal tea and water in the reception, Tyler says: "I really liked the day, I am looking forward to another day just like this day!"
Tanya smiles and replies: "And now you'll know what to ask Daddy for when Mummy needs a treat."
A little me time
Spa Ayurda is located at 213 Ponsonby Rd, ph (09) 360 0007. Cost is $40 for a 25-minute head massage, $60 for a 45-minute wellness massage, $30 (and up depending on age) for a 30-minute facial.