Skip to Content

What age do kids have the most energy?

When it comes to boundless energy, kids take the cake! As parents know all too well, children seem to have limitless reserves of energy, running, jumping, and playing for hours on end. But is there an age when kids reach their peak energy levels? Here we’ll explore when kids tend to have the most energy and why.

The Preschool Years: Ages 3-5

The preschool years from ages 3-5 are often cited as the ages when kids have the most energy. During this stage of rapid growth and development, preschoolers are a bundle of energy, curiosity, and spirit. Their energy seems endless as they run, climb, jump, and roughhouse throughout the day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, active play for preschoolers should include at least 15 minutes of vigorous activity for every hour they are awake. That comes out to 2-3 hours of energetic play daily!

There are several reasons preschoolers tend to be bouncing off the walls with energy:

  • Rapid growth – Preschoolers grow more rapidly than at any stage since infancy. All this growth requires extra energy.
  • Brain development – The preschool brain is wiring thousands of new neural connections daily. The energy cost of all this cognition is high.
  • Sleep needs – Preschoolers need 11-12 hours of sleep daily, more than any other stage besides infancy. Without enough sleep, they struggle to regulate their energy levels.
  • Immature regulation – The parts of the brain that regulate impulses and energy output are still developing. This can lead to uncontrolled bursts of intense activity.
  • Improved motor skills – With growing coordination and balance, preschoolers delight in testing the limits of their bodies through energetic play.

The boundless energy of preschoolers can be exhausting for parents, but it facilitates healthy development. Structured active play and outdoor time provide productive outlets for their exuberance.

Ages 6-8: The Magic of Childhood

Elementary school-aged children from 6-8 years old also have remarkable energy reserves. While they may have outgrown the intensity of the preschool years, this is still an age characterized by nonstop action and lively imaginations.

Kids this age delight in active outdoor pursuits like bike riding, swimming, climbing, and rough-and-tumble play. According to Active Healthy Kids Australia, 6-8 year olds should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, with several hours of light activity like play or sports.

Some key factors influencing the energy levels of 6-8 year olds include:

  • Growth spurts – Periodic growth spurts require extra calories and ramp up energy expenditure.
  • Need for play – Play remains a key developmental driver. Unstructured active play is critical for physical, cognitive, and social-emotional growth.
  • Physical confidence – At this age, children gain competence and confidence in physical abilities, enjoying pushing themselves to the limit.
  • Vivid imagination – Imaginative and social play with peers engages the mind and body.
  • Good health – School-aged kids are less susceptible to minor illness, allowing them to sustain active lifestyles.

Harnessing this developmental window of energetic engagement through physical education and recreational sports is beneficial. But free unstructured play meeting the child’s needs is most important.

The Preadolescent Years: Ages 9-11

Late elementary school aged children from 9-11 years old see some changes taking root. While still highly energetic overall, the beginnings of a shift start emerging at this preadolescent stage.

According to the CDC, 9-11 year olds should get at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Sports, dance, recess, and recreational play are excellent ways to meet their energy needs.

A few factors contribute to the changing energy landscape at this age:

  • Growth slows – The rapid growth of earlier childhood eases a bit, lowering calorie needs.
  • Busy schedules – School, extracurriculars and social lives fill up free time previously centered on play.
  • Screen appeal – Interest in video games, computers and other screens increases, competing with physical activities.
  • Self-consciousness – Peer pressure and self-awareness emerge, inhibiting unstructured play.

While 9-11 year olds still have room for energetic activities, early signs appear of the lifestyle shifts on the horizon in the middle school years. Maximizing outdoor playtime with peers and family while still possible is advantageous before further changes approach.

The Middle School Plunge: Ages 12-14

The middle school years from ages 12-14 mark the most dramatic drop in energy levels. The perfect storm of physical, social-emotional and lifestyle changes converge to lower kids’ energy reserves.

According to research published in BMC Public Health, physical activity levels fall by up to 75% as children transition from childhood into adolescence. Only about 15% of 12-14 year olds get the recommended 60 minutes per day of activity.

Let’s explore why energy nosedives for tweens going through puberty and middle school:

  • Puberty – Hormonal surges of adolescence promote fatigue while rapidly changing bodies feel awkward.
  • Priorities shift – Social lives, academics, interests and hobbies take center stage over physical pursuits.
  • Screens dominate – Video gaming, social media and devices consume available free time.
  • Sports drop-off – According to research published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 70% of kids quit playing sports entirely by age 13.
  • Other obligations – Older kids juggle more responsibilities like studying, chores and part-time jobs.

While the dip in energy associated with puberty and middle school is normal, ensuring adequate physical activity is essential for wellbeing. Embracing interests like dance, finding screen-life balance, keeping sport sampling enjoyable, and making time for family activities can help.

The High School Years: Ages 15-18

Physical activity continues to decrease through the high school years. Only 10% of high school students get the recommended hour of daily physical activity. At this age, academic activities, part-time jobs, driving, dating and college planning take time once devoted to play.

According to Pediatrics, teens spend over 7 hours daily on screens, limiting energy expenditure. The structure of high school also reduces active time, as students move from class to class rather than enjoying recess. But while energy levels don’t rebound to childhood levels, some increase as teens adjust to their changing bodies.

Several factors influence high schoolers’ energy capacities:

  • Puberty settles – As teens come out the other side of puberty, fatigue subsides.
  • Sports interest returns – Some teens rediscover sports they dropped years ago or discover new pursuits.
  • Habits improve – Teens may increasingly prioritize exercise for health, wellbeing and appearance.
  • Work and academics – Juggling school, sports, clubs, volunteer work and employment leaves little free time.

While the intensity of childhood is behind them, encouraging physical outlets suited to changing interests and identities can help teens make the most of their evolving energy levels.


When it comes to the boundless energy of childhood, the preschool years take the prize. But that force of nature remains strong through the elementary years until it dips during the middle school plunge. While not matching early childhood, energy recovers somewhat in high school as teens adjust to their maturing bodies and interests. Promoting developmentally appropriate physical activities tailored to each stage allows kids to channel their energy in positive ways as they grow.