The nine traits of temperament: Activity level

Understanding your child’s activity level can help you understand and support your child.

Is your child very active or more quiet?
Is your child very active or more quiet?


Temperament refers to personality traits that determine how someone reacts to the world. Are they quiet or rambunctious? Easygoing or apprehensive? The traits of temperament are mostly innate traits that we are born with, although they can be influenced by an individual’s family, culture or their experiences. A person’s temperament style plays a role in how they behave and how they interact with other people and within their world.

There are nine different traits of temperament, and in this article we will explore the trait of activity level.

Activity level

Activity level refers to how physically active a person is. Some people feel the need to be up and moving and on the go all the time, whereas other people are more likely to move more slowly and engage in quieter, calmer activities.

High activity level

Children who have a high activity level may switch quickly from one activity to another. You may think of their behavior as rowdy and may see them as disruptive or boisterous. During slow or quiet activities, high active children may have trouble sitting still and will likely be fidgety.

Low activity level

Children with lower activity levels will naturally choose activities that are quieter and calmer. They will be more likely to be able to sit still during quiet activities and will not have quite as much energy to burn during their daily activities.

Parenting and activity level

Make sure your highly active child has lots of opportunities to move and run. They have a lot of energy that needs to be burned off, so try taking a break from quiet or slower activities, like going on a car trip, and giving them an opportunity to get a burst of high activity, like a quick game of tag at a rest stop. If your child has a lower activity level, make sure they get lots of opportunities for quiet or slower activities, like blocks, reading or board games.

Letting your daily schedule and your expectations vary to meet your child’s activity level can prevent conflict and stress, and allow your child to have their needs met in a way that plays to their strengths and builds upon their natural temperament.

For more information about children and temperament, check out the other articles in this series:

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families are experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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