Tinkergarden: Something New


The old adage goes something like this “the days are long, but the years are short.” I get it. Seriously, I do. But when the days feel longer than usual and the eight month old is screaming at the red light while the toddler is demanding yet another snack, it’s hard to avoid daydreaming about the big glass of Pinot Noir that awaits post bath time and bed time routine. It’s even more challenging to not wish for a more serene moment. Rest assured, I do not wish it away.

I find I’m most present and purposeful when I have a plan. Heck, even a sloppy sketch of what my day will look like tricks me into cultivating confidence while managing my girls. And while I love a good cozy craft day at home, our best and most memorable times tend to occur when we venture out into the world.

So as the summer calendar drew to a close I knew I needed to find something new for my daughter, and I also needed to be able to don the baby carrier and bring her sister along. Enter Tinkergarden. A friend suggested it and I felt drawn to its basic principle, "discover through play."

So, what is it? Tinkergarden is a four-season outdoor classroom curriculum for children eight months through eight years old.

We started in September and will end in two weeks. Each session is eight weeks long. A Tinkergarden leader facilitates the lessons and parents assist their child(ren) as needed.

My class meets weekly at a local park in Summit. We gather outside, even on cold or rainy days, and spend an hour together. Maybe I lost you with the weather, but this is why I find the class so fun. We teach the kids about seasons. If there's mud, we let them play in it. If there's a pile of leaves, we encourage them to roll around in it. If there's rain water, we paint with it.  Last Thursday a light sprinkle interrupted our craft so the leader worked some magic and produced a makeshift tent between two trees in record time.

My daughter is loving every second of putting on her boots and play clothes and exploring the best of what mother nature has in store for her this season.

There are just certain things I can't capture or produce as a parent. I'll also admit that there are many messes I tend to avoid. At Tinkergarden, all of these things come together outside. Our leader has given me so many ideas on how to transform ordinary objects into purposeful projects. There are also times I need an incentive to get outside. With the baby appropriately layered and protected, this class has empowered me to get outside despite humidity, wind, or rain. In fact, we eagerly brave the elements. Prior to this class I was likely to let the weather dictate my decisions. These days I try to remember the joy of puddle jumping and fresh air on a crisp autumn day.

Tinkergarden offers a universal experience while celebrating the spirit of individuality. Aside from projects and play, there's also a small circle time for songs and snack. And because I'm a big proponent of mom socialization, it offers a lot of opportunities for connection and collaboration.

If you're like me and eager for something new and different, then I'd highly recommend looking into this program. If you'd like to bring this program to Madison consider becoming a leader. Currently, Tinkergarden is enrolling for the winter session.

Now about that big glass of Pinot Noir...