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Get Moving!

Let the games grow with your child

When my oldest daughter was only 18 months old, she began running a circular path around the living room nearly every evening. Soon we added some twists to her route: We gave her coins to toss in a kitchen pan as she ran, and we placed cushions in the way for her to jump over.

Taking into account your child's specific developmental abilities can inspire all sorts of new activities. Some ideas:

• Make up silly relays. Toddlers are naturals for these  -- and the more active the relay, the better. Set yours off to scoop one cup of water from an outdoor bucket, then run and dump it in another. He'll also get to indulge his love of filling and pouring. A preschooler, on the other hand, will have more fun with the same relay if you tap into his passion for pretend play: Tell him he's a fireman as he runs back and forth, scooping and pouring.

• Play follow-the-leader. Get in the game by making a musical circuit around the house: Ring a bell at one stop, beat a drum at the next, and blow a horn at the last; repeat until everyone's worn out.

• Get creative. Hold a hula hoop for your child to toss a ball through, see how far you each can roll one on its side, hop from the inside of one to the inside of the other, or use it the old-fashioned way  -- around your hips. Try stretching out a jump rope to limbo under or arranging a few of them to create an obstacle course for hopping.

• Encourage him to show off. Your preschooler will happily count how many times he can hop on one foot, and he'll love to give you goofy challenges, too. You can even create your own Family Book of World Records to keep track of everyone's accomplishments.