“Momma! Look at all dese nature treasures!”
Ellie is what I like to call my wildflower. She’s dreamy and imaginative and can frequently be found wandering around in circles, getting lost in her own world. She’s the type that will go out into the backyard and start singing softly to the flowers (or, more accurately, the “flowlers”). She’ll pick a handful of her favorites and rest them gingerly in the window of her playhouse. When I heard about Tinkergarten, I just knew I had to sign her up.
Designed to allow kids from 18-months to 8-years old explore and learn with nature as their classroom, Tinkergarten is a great alternative to typical kids classes. Free flowing and laid back, you don’t have to worry about kids not being attentive or getting distracted by an army of ants marching along a log—that type of exploration is completely encouraged by Tinkgergarten leaders.
The sample class Ellie and I got to check out was at Downing Park in Yorktown. A monster group of 27 showed up for this particular Taste of Tinkergarten—and they all seemed to really enjoy it.
As class started, the kids were given little buckets and encouraged to explore a little and collect some treasures. Ellie loved searching through the leaves and pine needles and quickly became obsessed with finding tiny pine cones, which she squealed at and called “cute little babies.” She also found some sticks she deemed treasure worthy, a bunch of rocks (which are her favorite things to collect lately), bunches of pine needles and… a pencil. Because, of course.
When the buckets were full, we went on a short walk to our “classroom,” which was some tarp laid out in a clearing a little further into the trees. Once there, our leader, Roxanne, explained that we would be making mud pies to leave for the fairies. My fairy-loving lady lit up immediately—and that light only grew brighter when she saw that Roxanne had some lavender buds (among other things) that the kids could add to their pies.
Once the kids were finished making their magical mud pies, they were encouraged to explore a little and find a spot to leave the pies out for their fairy friends. Ellie took this mission very seriously and wandered around for a bit before finding the perfect spot in the curve of a giant tree.
I loved that the kids were never rushed or told exactly what to do. They were allowed to work at their own pace and figure things out as they went. Some dumped huge handfuls of grass or buds into their dishes. Others were much less heavy handed and more precise. Some made multiple pies, working quickly and messily. Others took their time and made a single pie. Each kid did their own thing, but at the same time there was a spirit of community since they were working on the same activity.
We had a lot of fun and immediately went home and signed up for classes—and Ellie has been asking almost daily if it’s time to go back.
If you live in northern Westchester and are interested in learning more or signing your little wildflower up for classes this spring, they start next week. Head to Roxanne’s page to check out the class schedule (if you don’t live in northern Westchester, you can check for classes in your area here). And if you want to get 15% off one of Roxanne’s classes, mention my name in the referral field when you sign up!