Last updated on April 30th, 2020 at 05:13 pm
Looking for an awesome outdoor class for kids? Tinkergarten has classes for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and kids up to 8 years old all over the United States. Scroll to find out more!
Sponsored by Tinkergarten. All opinions are my own. This class is super fun!
This Tinkergarten post contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
I first heard about Tinkergarten a few years ago when I was looking for unique toddler classes for my oldest son.
We already did a music class that we loved but I wanted to add in one more activity during the week that was different.
I was a Stay-at-Home Mom with two little boys and needed an excuse to get out of the house with the kids so we didn’t all go stir crazy!
We tried a Mandarin class, swim class, gymnastics, play groups, etc. But they were all indoor activities and my kids need fresh air.
I admit, I’m not the most outdoorsy person. Sure, I love taking my kids to the park or the beach, but we don’t routinely go outside to explore.
That’s where Tinkergarten comes in. It’s an excuse to get outside every week and someone else plans educational activities to keep kids engaged.
So, when Tinkergarten reached out and invited us to check out one of their classes near me, I jumped at the opportunity.
What is Tinkergarten?
Tinkergarten is a program that encourages families to take learning outdoors.
It started in Brooklyn in 2012 and grew through word of mouth from parents who were passionate about the importance of play for child development.
Now, Tinkergarten has leaders all over the country who create happy and educational play experiences for families in outdoor spaces and parks.
Each Tinkergarten class brings children and adults together as they learn through well-designed, outdoor play-based activities.
Throughout the class, kids will work on empathy, collaboration, creativity, persistence, and problem solving skills all while having a joyful, healthy experience outside!
CLASS AGE RANGES
Tinkergarten classes are geared towards children ages 6 months to 8 years old.
Some classes cover the entire age range. However, some are geared for kids 6 months – 18 months or 18 months – 3 years.
These are popular outdoor baby, toddler, and preschool classes.
Tinkergarten curriculum is very adaptable depending on whether communities are rural, urban, or suburban.
Leaders are able to showcase powerful themes through outdoor play no matter where classes are held.
The lessons are designed to help kids develop a range of cognitive and social-emotional skills as well as challenging the kids physically.
These skills are essential to support kids being ready to learn and thrive as they grow.
Tinkergarten aims to design lessons that inspire wonder, activate the senses, leverage brain science, and draw on wisdom of the ages.
Each class follows a five-part structure that includes a transition time, opening circle, lesson launch, guided play time, and closing circle and snack.
What Happened During Our Class?
Our class was geared for kids ages 18 months – 3 years old. We met at Lake Meridian Park in Kent, WA. It’s actually one of our favorite parks to visit because they have an awesome play structure.
Our meeting spot was smartly away from the play area in a semi-private area of the park. That was great because the kids could run around and there weren’t very many non-Tinkergarten people in that area.
We arrived a few minutes early and my son was invited to run around with the other kids before the program started.
Our leader Sarah also had some activities set up to occupy the kids before class. She had buckets of water and an assortment of items and the kids could predict which ones would float or sink and then test them out.
It was a huge hit!
Once it was time for class to start, Sarah asked the kids to join her on a tarp. They sang a welcome song that involved some motions and a little bit of running around!
Sarah introduced the theme of the week: Going on a Bear Hunt!
While we do live in an area where bears are known to make an appearance, this was all fortunately make-believe!
Before I knew it, she had gathered the kids to launch right into the activity.
BEAR HIKE ACTIVITY
I wasn’t sure how much parent involvement Tinkergarten required, so I was happy when Sarah explained that we should aim to be available but not hover over our kids.
This allowed the kids to do the activity with Sarah while the parents could hang back and see their kids in action!
My son loves to do things by himself and I was impressed how much he could do all on his own!
Sarah announced to the class that they would be exploring the park on a Bear Hike to find her friend, Bear.
She had designed an obstacle course throughout the open field and even into some wooded area.
It started with the kids following her on a little trail through some trees where they had to keep an eye out for rocks and sticks on the path.
Then, they walked across a teetering piece of wood (like a seesaw), jumped in some mud puddles, tip toed across a slew of upside down mini buckets, and navigated through a pile of leaves.
Each of the movements were designed to help kids work on their gross motor skills, proprioceptive and vestibular senses, and even a bit of self control.
Once the scheduled activity was over, the kids were free to play on any of the obstacles or go on a leaf hunt with Sarah.
My son decided jumping in the mud puddles was the best thing ever so that’s where he spent most of the time.
Of course, he had insisted on wearing regular shoes vs. his rain boots, so he got thoroughly soaked!
We also did the whole obstacle course again at his pace and he jumped into a big pile of leaves with the other kids.
Sarah announced that it was time to get ready for snack and the kids ran over to the tarp area.
Parent volunteers helped the kids wash their hands in a cool way. There was a collapsible bucket of water for the kids to swish around their dirty hands to get most of the stuff off.
Then, they went to a parent volunteer who squirted a bit of liquid soap on their hands and they lathered as they walked to another parents who rinsed them off with a water bag that had a spigot on it.
Finally, they went to another parent who dried their hands with a towel.
As the kids sat down on the tarp, Sarah gave each of them a green bandana to use as a “snack blanket” they could put on their laps and eat their snack on.
Parents handed their kids snacks and water bottles they brought from home. It was great to see so many healthy toddler snacks and I got a lot of new ideas!
As the kids finished up their snacks, Sarah read them a story and recapped everything we had done during class and the things we learned.
The kids cleaned up and class was dismissed!
After our Tinkergarten class ended, I took my toddler over to the playground with several other families.
This was a fun way to continue the socialization and get the last wiggles out before hopping into the car.
Side note: My son napped HARD on the way home and was out for quite awhile!
What I Thought About Tinkergarten
I was really impressed with how well organized our Tinkergarten class was!
Sarah was a fantastic leader and she had an authoritative, yet friendly/approachable manner about her.
Even though she had 2 of her own kids in the class, she was so focused on the curriculum and kept the kids completely occupied. It was nice to stand back and see how my son reacted to the challenges and new things he was learning.
As I mentioned above, I’m not really outdoorsy, so I was really impressed at how much fun we had in the cold and dreary Pacific Northwest weather.
And this class pushed me to relax a bit more about letting my son get super dirty. That’s actually what made it even more fun!
We saw kids running around in bare feet and rolling down hills and it all made me think back to doing those exact same things growing up.
Times have changed a lot since I was little and part of it is that play has become so structured. We live a life of play dates and classes instead of just playing in our backyard for hours.
But, I think that’s why classes like Tinkergarten are so important. It’s the perfect balance of a structured activity, with room for kids to be themselves and do the things that interest them.
It’s great for parents like me who would normally shout “don’t get dirty!” or “don’t splash in that puddle!”
When I saw how unbelievably happy my son was just being a kid at the park doing things kids have done for generations, I felt like I was doing the right thing.
Top Questions About Tinkergarten?
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
There isn’t really a set number. It depends on where the class is located, the number of sessions in a season, and the length of each class session.
For the class we did in Kent, WA for kids 18mos-3 years, it was $140 for 8 sessions. That works out to $17.50 per class. Each class is 75 minutes long.
You can also join classes that have already started at a pro-rated fee.
CAN I DO A FREE TRIAL CLASS?
Yes! And I’d encourage that!
I feel like it’s always best to test out a class to see if it’s the right fit for your family before committing.
Prior to the start of a season, leaders will often offer free trial class sessions so that parents and children can experience what a Tinkergarten class is all about.
At the end of the class, they can ask the Leader questions about the program and the upcoming season curriculum.
IS IT A DROP OFF PROGRAM?
No. I know a lot of other classes for kids ages 3 and older tend to be drop off, but not Tinkergarten.
But that’s kind of the point.
One of the coolest parts of the whole Tinkergarten experience is that classes help parents/caregivers discover new ways of learning with their children. It’s all about the shared experience in nature.
CAN I BRING SIBLINGS?
Yes! Siblings 12 months or younger are welcome to join the non-baby classes for free without enrolling.
Siblings older than 12 months who are enrolled at the same time receive a 30% off discount.
WHAT IF IT RAINS?
When you think of an outdoor class in a lot of places in the United States (especially the Pacific Northwest) your first thought might be acclimate weather.
However, Tinkergarten has a “game on!” policy for weather that’s hot, cold, rainy, windy, or snowy. Just be sure to dress your kids appropriately.
Of course, if weather conditions are considered dangerously hot, cold, or if there’s a threat of lightening, classes will be postponed and leaders will communicate that to the parents.
ARE THERE CLASSES FOR BABIES?
Yes! Tinkergarten Babies is an incredible program where new parents can connect with other parents and spend quality time with their baby.
Babies thrive with sensory experiences that help them develop physically, cognitively, and socially. Tinkergarten Babies is a great excuse to get outside once a week and talk about how parents can support their baby’s development in class and at home.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO CLASS?
While your Tinkergarten leader will provide all the activities, you are responsible for a few items:
Rain Jacket: You’ll want to make sure your child is protected from rain and mud. I really like this rainsuit for toddlers because it’s easy to get on and off.
Rain Boots: Yes, your child will be jumping in puddles or maybe even walking near a lake. Keep their feet dry with a pair of rain boots.
Sunscreen: Depending on the time of year, you might want to make sure to apply sunscreen on your kids.
Snack: You are responsible for bringing food and a water bottle for your child.
Extra Change of Clothes: As with any outdoor activity, your kids might get super mucky. Bring an extra set of clothes so they have something warm and try to change into.
How to Sign Up for Tinkergarten
If you’ve scrolled all the way to here, you’re probably wanting to find out how you can sign your child up for a Tinkergarten class near you.
Head to the Tinkergarten website and click Classes. Type in your zip code and filter by the season, days of the week you are available, neighborhoods near you, and if you have a leader preference.
Tinkergarten Makes a Great Gift
With the holidays coming up, you might have grandparents or family members asking about what to get your kids.
I always ask for museum memberships, classes, or other “experience” gifts for my kids. It encourages us to spend time as a family, PLUS they don’t clutter up my home!
You can buy a Tinkergarten gift card here.