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Clumsy Kids

Does your child still run into the kitchen table even though it's been in the same spot for three years? Does he always seem to be dropping a pencil here, a sock there?

Don't worry. Many kids are klutzy because their motor skills haven't kept pace with their fast-growing limbs; they tend to grow out of the dropsies by age 8 or 9. Plus, as they're trying all sorts of new things, from playing soccer to building model airplanes, they may come across as clumsy just because they haven't yet mastered the skills.

In some cases, dropping or running into things is a sign of a physical or neurological problem; if your child's clumsiness comes on suddenly or he starts having trouble at school, see the pediatrician.

Most kids, though, just need a little extra time and practice to bolster coordination. How you can help him get through this stage in one piece:

Realize how frustrating it is for him.
It's not fun to be the kid who's always tripping over his own feet. Jokes or reprimands from you about it won't help. Try not to get exasperated when he holds you up.

Boost his skills.
Karate and other martial arts are a great way to improve coordination, with the added bonus that these aren't team sports, which limits the performance pressure. At home, you can listen to music or jump around to dance videos: Hearing and moving to the rhythm will give him practice matching his actions with what his brain wants to do.

Break it down.
Some kids have trouble processing all that goes into kicking a soccer ball, for instance, or jumping rope. If there's a certain skill he can't seem to master, find a way to reduce it to a series of simpler actions and practice together.

Take it slow.
Broken plates (not to mention broken wrists) sometimes happen because kids are in such a rush to get from one place to another. Remind yours to slow down, or at least make sure his shoelaces are tied.

Encourage him to keep trying.
Practice makes perfect  -- or close enough to it. Whether it's carrying laundry without dropping it or catching a fly ball, he'll get there.