From fencing and yoga to tennis and gaga (the sport, not the Lady), these youth fitness classes in NYC's premier fitness centers offer ways for kids to stay active while having a blast. Little ones will love testing their fencing skills, doing the doggie paddle or trying capoeira for the first time, and who knows—maybe they'll find something they really love. Not the sporty type? Try these art classes for kids instead.
RECOMMENDED: Kids' fitness centers in NYC
Youth fitness classes for sporty kids
This national martial-arts association offers age-specific programs for fighters at all levels. Expect experienced instructors and small student-to-teacher ratios. Amerikick Tigers (3–4), Dragons (5–6), and Youth Martial Arts (7–12) classes offer traditional and contemporary martial arts training, and kids will learn the kicks of Tae Kwon Do, the blocks and punches of Shotokan and the hand strikes of boxing and Kung Fu.
Ages 3 and up.
The downtown location of this sports and recreation center features a kitchen and theater for culinary and performing arts programs, plus two pools, a gymnasium, a fitness center and classrooms. For little ones, try Toddlercise classes (12-24mos); kids can work on balance, jumping and swinging through basic gymnastics activities. For older kids, the sky's the limit.
This Gowanus climbing gym is the largest in New York City, featuring more than 18,000 square feet of bouldering and climbing walls. Climbing classes for all skill levels, as well as yoga and pilates instruction, are also available. Learn the ropes through packages like BKB Adventures (9am–3:30pm), which includes five full-day sessons with unlimited climbing, outdoor recess and snacks ($539 per week). Bring the whole family to Weekend Family Hours (Sat, Sun 9–11am) to avoid peak-hour climbing traffic.
Even kids who think a foil is something you wrap lunch in can get their inner Jedi on at this fencing club, located in an old tea warehouse in Dumbo. All classes, from beginner to advanced, are taught by Dan Kellner, a national champ and 2004 Olympian. Find classes for Mini-Musketeers (younger kids) and Cadets (older kids) in beginner and intermediate levels. Ages 6 and up.
Tough kids who can't get enough of active play will dig this hybrid class, combining elements of gymnastics and obstacle courses. Youngsters who enroll in the 12-week program will work on locomotor skills, hand-eye coordination, agility, balance and strength, plus build a sense of teamwork with fellow students. After a ten-minute warm-up, kids will dive into 15 minutes of skill work—each week has a different theme, ranging from throwing to climbing to inverting—followed by 20 minutes of play and obstacle time. Ages 6–12.
Not limited to any one activity, kids spend their summer here playing basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball and European team handball. There are also dance classes, rock-climbing classes and multi-sport classes, depending on the season! Look out for holiday camps to keep the kids busy during winter break.
Gaga—available exclusively at this Upper East Side spot—involves an octagonal pit, a soft foam ball, running, striking, dodging and jumping. Each class begins with a warm-up followed by a strategy lesson; kids spend the rest of the hour playing the game. As they get better at gaga, kids also build skills they can use in traditional sports. Ages 5 to 12.
Michael Phelps wanna-bes are in the right place to perfect their strokes. This swimming school was founded by Olympian Casey Barrett and former NCAA champ Lars Merseburg, and recently counted 2010 Olympian Anthony Ervin as one of its teachers. Kids as young as six months splash around alongside parents in the Imagine Starfish class, eventually picking up water safety tips and stroke skills in subsequent classes before learning competitive strokes in Imagine Dolphins. More advanced students can join the Manhattan Makos swim team. Ages 6 months and up.
At this yoga studio specifically aimed toward the younger set, kids use basic poses and their imagination to improve flexibility, coordination and focus. Try a parent and child class, where you and your child (walking–3) can bark in downward dog and hiss in cobra pose, or send the kids to glow-in-the-dark yoga, where games and partner poses will keep kids 5–7 busy.
Kids in the center’s introductory courses learn fencing basics while improving hand-eye coordination and overall fitness. Plus, kids are in good hands and paired with the right group: classes are split by age and by experience. In all classes, kids will learn good sportsmanship, balance and quicken their reflexes. Ages 4 to 18.
The first class is free at this Lower East Side studio, where Michael Goldstein (a.k.a. “Mestre Ombrinho”) teaches capoeira Angola, a traditional method of the Brazilian martial art that incorporates self-defense, West African music, dance and sport in lively, ritualized game play. Kids can try out a class in their age groups on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Ages 3 to 12.
Leaping into the foam-filled “marshmallow pit” is a blast, but kids in the classes at Elite’s two locations also work on the uneven bars and balance beam and practice floor events. Trophies from the team’s many triumphs are scattered about, inspiring even the tiniest tumblers. Depending on their age group, kids can try 55 or 90-minute gymnastics classes to get the basics down pat. Ages 9 months and up.
Of all the boroughs, play spaces are the sparsest in the Bronx. But the enviable Uptown Sports Complex would be considered a gym in any neighborhood. The 16,000-square-foot facility offers a wide variety of classes for kids and adults, including baseball, gymnastics and dance, as well as afterschool and summer programs. In addition, the sports spot has open play for younger tots (ages 6 months to 3 years) at select times in its soft-mat area. Ages newborn to 12 years.
This UES Studio teaches kids about meditation, focus and breathing techniques while moving through various yoga poses. At Siblings Yoga (ages 3–9), kids quit bickering and learn about cooperation and communication through asanas, games, song and even foot massage. You can also try Family Yoga class, in which parents can practice with their little ones. If your baby is battling teething and thinks sleep is for losers, then you could probably use some downard-dog time yourself; new moms can take a Bye-Bye Bump class ($45 for drop-ins), while babysitters mind the children nearby. Ages 6 weeks to 16 years.