Kids’ Guide: Inside Out – Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

This feature was written by Studio MSP writers. While some of our advertisers were sourced, no advertiser paid to be included.

Seven Ways to Get Your Kids Moving This Summer

Gym class is dismissed, and the “lazy” days of summer commence—usually encompassing an excess of screen time. But with warmer weather come more opportunities for fitness built into summer break. “Exercise can help kids improve cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, and boost mental health,” says Alicia Kockler, vice president of Life Time Aquatics and Kids. “If kids don’t establish healthy habits early on, it can be more challenging to do so later when they’re adults.” Spark good habits with these tips.

example. If parenting could be boiled down to one phrase (and we know it can’t be), it would be this: Lead by example. Kids learn by modeling behavior, especially of those in their household—that’s you. “If you’re taking small steps to eat healthier and move more, your kids are much more likely to follow your lead,” Kockler says.

Leading by example can also take the form of spearheading family exercise initiatives. Take the kids to meet friends at a park, take a bike ride (destination: ice cream), or sign up for a themed 5K walk/run. Taking a walk is the easiest and most convenient way to develop a fitness habit, Kockler says. “Instead of drifting off to the TV after dinner, why not take a family walk around the neighborhood?”

Try something new. We know, getting kids to try new things can be a bit like getting the weather to cooperate. To avoid exercise feeling like a chore or another to-do, Kockler says, work with your child to pick a sport or activity that aligns with their interests—now you’re working together to make movement fun.

Low on ideas? Sneaks ways of integrating movement into your local adventure itinerary. We call it exercise in disguise.

Recipe For Fun

Cooking with your kids not only forms health habits but also teaches a life skill and supplies bonding time.

“Kids are more likely to eat the dish if they help you decide what to put in it and help prepare it,” says Lynn Elliott, owner of Way Cool Cooking School Inc., who shares one of her faves.

Wok ‘n’ Roll Egg Rolls

  • 1 lb ground pork (or turkey)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 quart peanut oil for frying
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2c shredded cabbage
  • 1 c shredded carrots
  • 8 (7-inch square) egg roll wrappers
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Season pork with ginger and garlic powder and mix thoroughly. Heat mixture in a medium skillet, stirring, until pork is cooked through and no longer pink. Set aside.
  2. In another large skillet, heat oil to about 375°F or medium-high heat. While oil is heating, combine flour and water in a bowl until they form a paste. In a separate bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, and reserved pork mixture.
  3. Lay out one egg roll wrapper with a corner pointed toward you. Place about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the cabbage, carrot, and pork mixture on egg roll wrapper and fold corner up over the mixture. Fold left and right corners toward the center and continue to roll. Brush a bit of the flour paste on the final corner to help seal the roll. Repeat with remaining wrappers.
  4. Place egg rolls into heated oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels or rack. Put on serving plate and top with sesame seeds if desired.

Why Summer Camps Are More Important Than Ever

While virtual classrooms have achieved the learning portion of a school day, the social development and relationship building fomented by a physical classroom have been diminished—even put on hold. “The emotional toll has been heartbreaking,” says Ann Joseph-Douglas, director of education at Children’s Theater Company. This is where summer camps (in their myriad forms and themes) play a vital role—especially as Season 3 of the pandemic rolls out.

“It is more important than ever for kids to interact with other children, be silly, and explore new things,” Joseph-Douglas says. Theater Arts Training at CTC works to build curious, creative, and confident young people through its drama camps. “We are more interested in what happens along the journey, from the first day to the last, than in a polished product,” she says.

Exploration is often a theme in summer camps, whether exploring expressions and characters onstage or discovering different cultures. At Concordia Language Villages, children expand their worlds by learning about different cultures, trying new foods, and developing new language skills; they learn about themselves by developing friendships, exploring nature, and trying on leadership roles. As a result, “they often become more courageous and inquisitive,” says associate director of marketing Nicole Ellis.

Unplugging from technology is a key factor in developing connections at camps. “Summer camp provides a healthy and safe space for kids to just be—in an environment where they can explore, try on new names, and build confidence,” Ellis says.

“Participation in the arts boosts self-esteem, builds empathy for others, and improves collaboration skills, much of which young people have been missing due to the pandemic,” Joseph-Douglas says.

“It is more important than ever for kids to interact with other children, be silly, and explore new things.” —Ann Joseph DouglasChildren’s Theater Company

Beyond developing budding personalities and gaining self-confidence, summer programs are often opportunities for kids to improve skills or try a new interest—without having to try out for a team or commit to an extensive program. At The Blake School summer camps, staff members ensure all children are welcome, regardless of background or ability level. “Our staff love working with children and take the time to get to know and build trusting relationships with them,” says Tony Andrade, director of summer programs at Blake, “which, in turn, results in campers feeling more comfortable to take risks and explore new ideas and experiences in an environment that’s safe and supportive.”

Summer programs also usually transcend school districts, which can expand friendships, Andrade says. “This is especially important today—following the ongoing pandemic, which has limited some avenues for social development in children.”

“Summer camp provides a healthy and safe space for kids to just be—in an environment where they can explore . . . and build confidence. ” —Nicole EllisConcordia Language Villages

Tips from Pediatricians to Support Kids’ Mental Health


“I recommend the first and most important thing parents do is to validate and listen,” says Dr. Sarah Jerstad, a child psychologist at Children’s Minnesota. Supportive relationships and connection with others are key factors in kids’ mental health and well-being. When parents listen to concerns that their kids have, children feel heard and validated.


“Getting outside provides more than a fun break for children and teens,” Jerstad says. “Research has found that when children spent time in natural settings, they had less anger and aggression. Impulse control also improves.” Time bonding with Mother Nature also lowers stress and depression for kids (and adults!), she says. “This might be especially important when normal routines have changed for children.”

“Research has found that when children spent time in natural settings, they had less anger and aggression. Impulse control also improves.” —dr Sarah JerstadChildren’s Minnesota


Type A parents, this is your moment. “One of the best things for our mental health is to be able to plan something,” Jerstad says. Giving kids something to plan for and look forward to, like playdates or family gatherings, can help counter the stress of uncertainty and ever-changing plans, she says. Even small moments of routine—normal bedtimes and mealtimes—can be beneficial.


Children frequently learn through observation, so modeling is very important for helping kids express and talk about their emotions. “As a family, share the best and worst parts of the day,” suggests Dr. Andrea Hutchinson, CEO and licensed psychologist at CARE Counseling. “Some families add a third check-in based on their family’s values, such as proudest, bravest, or kindest part of the day.”


Self-regulation tools are things kids can use to calm themselves and manage their emotions. “This can include relaxation techniques such as belly breathing, stretching, yoga poses, and tensing and releasing muscles,” Jerstad says. When kids get upset or angry, they can turn to these skills.

This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.


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