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The Skills of Summer

Turning a somersault

Mastering one  -- something most easily accomplished outside, on soft grass  -- is the very stuff of childhood.

Tips

Start out with just simple rolling, like a log. Demonstrate yourself. You can even lie down head to head, with your hands linked, and roll together. Start on level ground and progress to slight hills.

If your child's game and you think she's ready, you can help her move to the next level:

Have her crouch down and hold a beanbag or a small, soft ball under her chin (to keep her head tucked down).

Tell her to squat down and pretend to be a ball by holding her knees up to her chest.

Then place one of your hands on her head and one on her back to help her gently execute a roll.

Age you can expect her to do...

• Log rolls: 1

• Front rolls (with a parent there to help): 3 to 4

Catching a ball

Most kids under 5 aren't particularly good at catching and throwing, so don't worry if your child flails and flounders until he gains the needed hand-eye coordination.

Tips

Start close. Two or three feet apart is plenty. As he improves, increase the distance.

Don't use any old ball. A small beach ball deflated just to the point where it doesn't bounce is perfect. Bounciness is one more impediment to catching, and not even a sensitive child will be undone by a bonk from a beach ball.

Don't even use a ball. A small stuffed animal or scarf also makes a great throw toy for beginners because it's easy to grab and grip, and won't threaten small noses or noggins.

Say to watch the ball. We've heard it a million times  -- "Keep your eye on the ball"  -- but your child hasn't, and it's key to catching. Try saying it in different ways, like "Look at the ball and watch it go into your hands."

Age you can expect him to...

• Throw: 1

• Catch: 2 1/2

• Catch proficiently: 5 or 6 1/2

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