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All the Right Moves (For ages 6-11)
How to keep your school-age kids healthy and fit. By Kristen Finello
All the Right Moves
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These days, getting kids away from the computer and out of the house to run, play ball or shoot hoops can be a challenge. But experts say that low-tech outdoor play is just what kids need to develop strong bodies and minds. "Physical activity improves a child’s balance, coordination, strength, endurance and confidence," says Mark A. W. Andrews, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Penn.

School-age kids can get their daily dose of physical activity — the American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes or more a day — through a combination of free play (bike riding, in-line skating) and organized sports. "Kids can usually start to handle sports around the age of five or six, when they have developed the coordination and basic skills necessary to show some success," says Jack C. Kern, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Encourage your budding athlete to try out several sports rather than focus on one, and help him improve his moves by dribbling a basketball, throwing balls through hoops and kicking soccer or beach balls with him, says Eric Small, M.D., founder and director of Family Sports Medicine and Fitness of New York in New York City and author of Kids & Sports.

At about age eight, kids start to understand sharing and passing, says Dr. Small. For them, playing catch, shooting hoops and kicking a soccer ball with a friend are great ways to boost their physical and social skills.

Kids learn by doing, so encourage them to make extra time for practice. If he isn’t up for organized sports, suggest he try skating or hiking. And don’t hesitate to join in. Plan an active family vacation. If you’re visiting a new city, explore it on foot; at the beach or a resort, rent bikes, swim or play tennis.

Showing your child that you enjoy physical activity is the best way to encourage him to get moving too.

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