• Erin Marsh

Kids' Fitness Guide: Find an activity geared toward your child’s unique personality

Updated: Dec 23, 2017

Physical exercise and sports hold numerous benefits for kids; choose one that fits your child and can grow with him over the years.

Everyone--from the government, to schools, to children’s shows--emphasizes the importance of daily physical exercise, especially for young children. When kids are in school, parents know their children are fulfilling the daily recommended dose of physical activity, but now that summer vacation has arrived, some children are reticent to enjoy the great outdoors (the PS3 and TV can be quite alluring).

Whether you are searching for an activity to engage your child or simply wanting to provide your active child with some diverse options, the activities below were chosen based on personality type. Is your child quiet? Observant? Adventurous? Continue reading to discover a physical activity that will complement your child’s personality.

For the focused, gentle introvert: YOGA

Why It’s for Your Child

Yoga is a noncompetitive physical activity that allows kids to focus on their own moves instead of competing against another child. Most of the class focuses on #yoga poses, which allows kids to work individually and improve physical fitness, but the class also includes singing and games to gently encourage bonding and interacting.

Yoga Benefits

Kids Yoga helps kids take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and yoga at an early age has also been shown to encourage self-esteem and body awareness. Many young athletes (swimmers, runners, etc.) are even beginning to turn to yoga to enhance their performance and to guard against injury. According to Dan Sandy, doctor of physical therapy, clinical director of rehabilitation at APRN Balance and Mobility center, and father of two young girls, yoga’s physical benefits include “improved flexibility, balance, strength, and posture. Yoga forces you to maintain certain difficult positions, and that strengthens postural muscles.”


Yogaja Yoga offers Kids Yoga workshops during the school year that last approximately 1.5 hours on a weekend day. During the summer months, they offer week-long yoga summer camps where kids practice yoga daily for about an hour.

For the adventurous thrill-seeker: BMX

Why It’s for Your Child

Nothing screams adventure like a BMX bike racing over mounds of dirt, jumping over obstacles, or sliding down railings. While this may seem like an adolescent sport, young kids--even ones who only recently learned to ride a bike--can participate. This is for the daredevil child whose parents are NOT prone to worrying as the sport can be dangerous. But that’s the allure, right?


Biking is cardiovascular, but riders also build muscle by pedaling and pulling/jerking the handlebars over obstacles. BMX does not have set rules, so this allows kids to be creative and find their niche within the sport. Furthermore, kids meet friends their own age who seek the same challenging and exhilarating experiences. Sandy also described a benefit of biking that many do not know:

“The vestibular system is made up of the organs in the inner ear that give you your sense of balance. That type of activity [BMX biking] will train that system to work really well.”


BMX is offered at Toledo Speedway BMX and can be expensive; one must invest in a BMX bike (that must meet certain safety standards) and safety gear, pay the annual membership, and then pay for individual practice time ($5) and for each race ($10).

For the independent, competitive water-enthusiast: SWIM LESSONS

Why It’s for Your Child

Swimming is both an individual and team sport, so it’s perfect for the independent child who likes to compete on his/her own but still enjoys interacting with teammates. It’s also great for those who are naturally drawn to the water; swim lessons can channel that love of water into a healthy workout. Plus, you can start swimming with your baby as early as 6 months old!


Swimming provides an exceptional cardiovascular workout with minimal impact on the joints, so it’s an excellent lifetime sport. Even if your child decides not to competitively pursue swimming, the sport provides strength and coordination that are beneficial in any other sport. While this may seem obvious, swim lessons also help prevent drowning, which is a leading cause of death for children under 4.

Sandy adds that there is “cardiovascular and pulmonary improvement with swimming, and also increased strength and stability, mainly in the neck and back.”


The YMCA offers two groupings of swim lessons: parent/child swim lessons and youth/adult swim lessons. The former is for children under the age of 5 (and older than 6 months) and their parent(s); the latter is for children ages 6 and up and adults with disabilities.

For the observant outdoor explorer: TODDLER TRAILS and GEOCACHE ADVENTURES

Why It’s for Your Child

There is nothing like the great outdoors to enthrall the explorer in every child. If your child loves to be outside and constantly observes the world around him/her, then check out the many programs geared for children offered by Toledo Metroparks.


Many of the programs encourage children to be outside and interact with their natural surroundings while also remaining active.

Sandy explains that this kind of trail walking improves “endurance and even balance, especially for toddlers, because kids are walking on different types of surfaces. There is also increased cognitive function and attention because you’re forcing [the kids] to focus on completing a task, and they have to really think about what they’re doing.”


Toledo Metroparks offer numerous programs for children of all ages to investigate the world around them. Toddler Trails (ages 18 months to 3 years) is an outdoor, exploratory program for child and parent. The Kids Geocache Adventure teaches kids how to use GPS for a “fun adventure of high tech hide and seek.”

For the creative, daring, artistic acrobat: BIRD’S EYE VIEW CIRCUS SPACE

Why It’s for Your Child

Circus acts are so awe-inspiring that viewers typically respond with, “I could never do that!” or “I wish I could do that!” If your child has that daredevil spirit, then perhaps a private lesson on partner balance, aerial silks or hoop, juggling, or stilt walking is the perfect challenge.


The physical benefits depend on the type of circus act your child chooses, but in general, your child practices and perfects hand-eye coordination, poise, and balance. All of the activities are also deceptively challenging, and they require endurance and strength.

Sandy states that the “main thing that would improve would be coordination and balance, and again an improvement with the vestibular system.“


Bird’s Eye View Circus offers private lessons ($60/hour for one instructor) and open gyms. Children ages 9 and up generally benefit most from these circus acts, and the entire family is welcome to join in on the fun and stay in shape together (the hourly rate stays the same).

For the rambunctious, active young child: TUMBLE TOTS

Why It’s for Your Child

Not every child, especially when young, is ready for structured lessons. If you are looking for something free-spirited for an active child, then tumbling tots or gymnastics fits the bill. Toddlers can jump, tumble, and swing to their hearts’ content without the commitment to a weekly/daily lesson.


Gymnastics encourages young children to exercise (disguised as fun) in a padded environment. Kids can explore some of the gymnastics equipment, which will help them gain independence while safely working on coordination, flexibility, strength, and motor skills.

Sandy affirms that this kind of physical activity results in “improved strength, balance, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness.”


Tumble Tots at Sunrise Gymnastics is for children ages 1 to 6. Classes are each 45 minutes, and they are separated by age group (Parent/Child ages 1-3, Tiny Tumblers 3-4 and 4-5, Kinder Gym 5-6). Classes are small (6:1 ratio), and the brightly colored equipment in the separate preschool gym is sure to keep even the most rambunctious toddler entertained.

For the timid or action-loving child or adolescent: KARATE

Why It’s for Your Child

Karate allows the active child to expel excess energy, but it also gives the shy child self-confidence. Additionally, if your child is a huge Chuck Norris or Bruce Lee fan, he/she can practice karate moves in a safe environment with the guidance of an experienced teacher.


Karate teaches self-defense, but along with that comes a natural self-confidence. When you give a child the tools to defend himself, he will inevitably become more confident in himself and his abilities. Martial arts also teach children respect and discipline through routine and structure, all while encouraging physical fitness, “strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.”


There are many different forms of martial arts, but most karate studios in the Toledo area, such as Kempo Martial Arts, break up their classes according to age and/or belt. Some styles focus solely on self-defense while other styles emphasize impressive kicks. Research and reviews are often helpful in choosing the martial arts studio right for your child.

Yoga photos copyright of Mary Wyar Photography.

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