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The Skills of Summer

Babies are lovely summer companions. They're happy to be pushed or carried, and simply patting their hands in an inch or two of water will send them into paroxysms of pleasure. But by the time their second summer rolls around, it's likely you both will be ready to indulge in slightly more advanced seasonal pursuits.

And while most major summer skills  -- like catching a ball, jumping rope, even pumping yourself on a swing  -- won't be perfected until your child is at least 5 years old, the groundwork can be laid long before then. So enjoy. No matter what your age!

Pumping a swing

Sorry, it'll be a while before you're not solely responsible for pushing your child higher and higher. In order to pump himself, he'll need to combine balance, strength, and a sense of timing that are somewhat rare in preschoolers.

Double-team. Two adults working together can give your child the idea of pumping (and the motivation to use strength to do so): One of you should position yourself in front of him as he swings while the other stands behind.

Tell him to reach out with his toes to touch the person in front, and back with his heels to touch the person in back-the basic pumping action.

Describe the action simply: "Lean back going forward, lean forward going back." "Reach with your toes while pulling on the chains" (or whatever's holding the swing up).

Sing. As a rhythmic activity, swinging lends itself to singing.

Age you can expect him to...

Pump a swing independently: 4 to 6

Contributing editor Barbara Rowley designed and oversees the program at a day camp in Big Sky, Montana.