Tips to Keep Kids Active Over Summer Break

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When all your teenager wants to do on summer vacation is play video games or binge watch Netflix, it can be hard as a parent to get them off the couch. And with research showing that physical activity helps regulate the body’s endocrine system (a.k.a. hormones directly related to mental health), keeping your teen active is as important as ever. But how do we implement healthy lifestyle changes?

Jason Morrow, a Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) physical education teacher and coach, impacts teenagers on a daily basis. With a passion for exercise science and a love for the outdoors, he shares a few tips to keep your teen active in Northen Michigan over summer break.

Create a Family Summer Bucket List

“We live in such a cool area because there are so many free things at our fingertips, you just have to be willing to go and do them,” Jason says. “Being intentional about planning and writing the activities down helps reach those goals.”  

At the beginning of summer, Jason and his wife, Sarah, create a summer bucket list filled with free and low-cost activities for their family to enjoy. Have a fire at Sleeping Bear Bay and going on a run four times a week are items on the list.

Camping, biking, and swimming are also activities Jason recommends adding to your list. “Not everyone has a kayak or a vehicle to put a kayak on, but there are a lot of great township parks in our area to go swim at,” encourages Jason. “There are countless beaches with free parking along the Lake Michigan coastline from Frankfort to Northport, Traverse City to Charlevoix.” (We love these Northern Michigan beaches.)

Need some inspiration? Check out our summer bucket list.

Have a Daily Active To-Do List for Your Teen

  • Walk the dog for 30 minutes.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Spend an hour outside.
  • Make sure your room is clean.

A simple active to-do list will go a long way for your teenager while you’re at work. Adding a few non-active items such as “reading a chapter” can’t hurt either. Plus when you get home, you can finish the list together. Jason notes that in order to make this list work “you just have to make it a priority.”

Another example of what to add to the daily checklist is participation in an active community group like Traverse City running clubs, junior golf leagues (Jason recommends checking out the walking junior membership at Interlochen Golf Course), TCAPS Summer LEAP Programs and teenage sports-specific athletic programs, and even Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s Junior Ranger program.

Jason also reminds us that TCAPS’ facilities such as tennis courts are open to the public all summer long.

Modeling Your Behavior for Your Kids

“If you want your child to work hard, you need to work hard—it’s the same for living a healthy lifestyle—you need to do it, too, and make sure they see you do it,” Jason says.

Jason and his wife model an active lifestyle to their 4-year-old son, Madden, on a regular basis. “We take him on walks, hikes, on bike rides, and swimming with us,” he says. “He’ll see us do yoga in the morning and he’ll even participate for a little while before going to play.”

Monitor Their Screen Time

While Jason realizes being a one-television-only household isn’t for everyone, he does recommend monitoring your teen’s screen time and encouraging energy-related activities.

There are many tools available to track your teen’s screen time, including several smartphone apps—some are even free.

Create Experiences with Your Teens

Jason believes that sharing experiences is more rewarding than owning possessions, and feels that’s important for teenagers to see as well.

“When you create active experiences and model an active lifestyle for your kids, you encourage lifelong fitness,” he says.


More Healthy Tips


Shape Up North is a community collaboration dedicated to helping northern Michigan residents benefit from healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle. Living a healthier lifestyle can and should be an enjoyable adventure. Small changes in habits at school, work, and home can have long-lasting, positive effects on your health. With an abundance of great local foods and a four-season playground right outside your door, you and your family can lead a healthy, fit, and fun life.