If you’ve been considering Tinkergarten, either as a leader or a participating family, this article will explain exactly what Tinkergarten is, why my kids love it, and why we had to sign up again for the Fall semester!
Why We Love Tinkergarten
Earlier this year, I decided to enroll my kids in Tinkergarten, a company that provides outdoor play-based activities across 48 states. Each week, local well-trained leaders, parents (called “guides”), and young explorers meet at a local green space and enjoy some structured nature play. My little girl, 3, is a nature-lover and loves everything dirty and creepy crawly. My son, 7, does not.
I figured that my daughter would have a blast, and my son…well, he’d get used to it.
In the end, My daughter (3) loved painting, digging in the mud, and making nature bracelets (to make your own, simply put masking or duct tape around the wrist inside out and stick pretty flowers, leaves, and other items from your nature walk to it).
My son (7) abandoned his germophobic tendencies and loved making mud pies, building shelters for wildlife, and catching minnows in the river. He ended up loving our weekly Tinkergarten meetings as much as his sister, which was quite the accomplishment!
8 Exercises to Develop Creativity In Your Kids:
In addition to being a great way to get some nature time, Tinkergarten teaches kids important life skills including problem solving and creativity.
The team at Tinkergarten recently posted a great article called Why Creativity Is Just As Important As Literacy which emphasized the importance of developing creativity, saying “According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity are the three most important skills a child will need to thrive.”
- “Give kids purposeful play experiences. Humans creativity always has some kind of starting point. Just be sure to offer the starting point and then give plenty of space for kids to take it from there. Try some of these DIY ideas to start.
- A truth a week: Take one of the truths listed above and repeat it to yourself as you watch your child play each week. How do you contribute to reinforcing that truth? How might you unwittingly undermine it? It’s hard, for example, not to step in to help kids when you see that they are building a tower that is certain to fall. But, from a creativity standpoint, a child will learn so much more from seeing a flawed solution through and learning from the results. It’s amazing how really focusing on each of these truths can lead to changes in our behavior!
- Encourage (or even just allow) kids to make messes. Not all kids will want to get as messy as others (we all have different sensory systems). But, there is great wisdom to the saying, “Play messy today, think messy (or freely) later.” When we allow kids to make mud, mix different paints together, or dump out all of the toys to see what happens, we allow them the chance to get comfortable acting freely and exploring a wider range of possibilities. In short, we’re giving them the go ahead to play outside the box so they can think outside the box later on.
- Cheer when kids take things apart. There is great value in destruction — it’s one of the key creative acts. Meanwhile, gently teach them that not all objects (e.g. the remote control or your neighbor’s flower bed) are open for destruction.
- Remember, every object has infinite uses to the creative mind. Try to never correct a child’s use of an object unless they are using something in an unsafe way (and even then, try to find a better way to say “be careful.”)
- Model creative thinking yourself. If you have a creative practice, be sure to share that with your kids. Or, play alongside them as you try out creativity-boosting activities together. Model using everyday objects in novel ways. Model failing and trying again. It’s actually a whole lot of fun once you let yourself go!” (From “More Than Mudpies” Tinkergarten Blog)
Is Tinkergarten Legit?
Totally. I think both of my kids got something from the weekly meetups in the spring. This fall, we decided that only L would participate, as my son is already over extended with sports, scouts, and volunteer commitments.
I definitely consider the organization legit. It’s not just playing in the mud (although that was our favorite day!), but it’s about skill development and learning through play. Local Tinkergarten leaders receive comprehensive training in early childhood development, adult development, community outreach, and more.
“Tinkergarten lessons are engineered to help kids develop a range of essential physical, cognitive, and social-emotional skills. These skills support kids at being ready to learn, ready to thrive and ready for anything. We make learning irresistible by designing each experience to inspire wonder, activate the senses, leverage brain science, draw on wisdom of the ages and unleash the talents of our passionate network of educators, parents and caregivers.” (Tinkergarten.com)
If you’d like to test some of the principles of the Tinkergarten methodology without the cost, check out this great collection of family-friendly back yard outdoor activities.
Must-Have Tinkergarten Supplies
It took me several weeks to nail down our go-to items in our Tinkergarten bag. To save you some time and frustration, here is what I recommend:
- A reusable water bottle that can be thrown into a bag. I highly recommend the vacuum-insulated and very durable, Hydro Flask
- I definitely recommend warm dry boots for fall semester – Bogs brand outdoor boots are perfect for cool and wet weather exploring, and are highly recommended in the Forest kindergarten movement!
- Hand wipes for cleaning up before snack time, try these: Doctor Butler’s organic hand wipes