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New Skill: Hitting a Ball

Now's the time to begin batting practice. It's tougher than catching or throwing, but most 4- or 5-year-olds have the skills to start, and getting the basics down now will help them later. To teach your child:

1. Supersize. Start with a tee, an oversize softball or a beach ball, and an oversize bat. As your child gets better, use smaller balls and bats.

2. Toss a few. Once your child can hit off a tee, start to pitch. Use a normal-size bat, but return to a soft, oversize ball, such as a Nerf basketball. (The soft ball, by the way, is also for your safety!) Stand six to eight feet from him and throw the ball underhanded, without an arc. As your child improves, move farther away and try using a smaller ball.

3. Say \"Keep your eye on the ball.\" Kids often look at the field instead. If your child still whiffs, try increasing your pitching speed: A new study suggests that children can judge speed better when things are going faster.

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