Last week my just turned 3 year old son and I had an opportunity to attend Tinkergarten in Croton Gorge Park. I was apprehensive to try a new class with my little guy, as he has not had great success in the structured type of class environment in the past; however we are huge nature lovers and a big fan of our local parks. So I figured why not try Tinkergarten? Afterall, they offer a FREE trial class (check out our events calendar for all June’s FREE classes).
Our Westchester Tinkergarten Class Review
So what is Tinkergarten? Tinkergarten, is an outdoor nature class. The curriculum is tailored to the children who attend and the environment that day. The class we attended was a family class suitable for all ages under 5, but most of the children present were in the 2-3 year old neighborhood, after all we did go during the school day. They have classes in both Yorktown, Croton and Chappaqua. Our class took place in the beautiful Croton Gorge Park in Croton, a local favorite of ours. (Who saw the season finale of “The Following” that was shot here?)
We arrived a little early for the class and quickly found other parents of the class with their children at the playground. I figured it would be good to let the little guy burn off some energy before class started in hopes of him maybe being able to better sit and listen during class. The other mom’s were welcoming right from the beginning and my little Joey was quickly playing with their children. When our leader Roxanne showed up with her son, we started with a warm up exercise. I was nervous my guy would sit and listen with the playground and so much nature nearby but it turn’s out he didn’t have to! For the warm up exercise, children scoured the area (never out of our sight) for yellow, green and brown nature objects and pilled them into the respective boxes. This activity was great. The children would run out into the field and gleefully come back to show us their treasures. It allowed them to work on colors and sorting and get some energy out! After word we discussed the finds as a group. The kids were proud to show of what they found and well, it was adorable.
Up next, our leader Roxanne announced we would be taking a short hike to our “classroom.” As a group we all “hiked” up the trail head about 5 minutes to our “classroom.” Our classroom was a cleared area of the trail with a big tarp to sit on and the materials needed for our class. One of the items waiting for the children was little silver buckets and the tots were all over them when they saw them. The leader then began showing children what happened when you mixed water and dirt. She took the time to allow the children to observe the change for themselves and to allow them to discover that they had made mud! The children, or rather “the explorers” as Tinkergarten calls them and their leader spent some time playing and learning in the mud. The explorers of course, loved this. Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking “what, playing in the mud?” Well, yes playing in the mud. Creating it, watching it dry up, feeling it (my little guy was cool with dirt, but wet mud not so much), making mud baseballs, jumping in the puddles, watching water trickle down the trail when they poured too much. Honestly it was good old fashioned fun and learning. At one point when one the explorers started jumping in the mud his Mom, or rather his “guide” quickly asked him to stop. But our leader reminded us he was learning and in Tinkergarten they really try not to say “no” so long as a child isn’t hurting themselves/ others or is in any danger. And this, is why us “guides” mostly remained seated on the tarp at a safe distance.
Up next the children were briefly distracted by the passing by tractor, which of course they all loved. Afterward Roxanne took the time to show the children Poison Ivy and talk to them about avoiding it. Then we had a snack together on the tarp, talked about our discoveries, sang a Tinkergarten song and our class was over. We hiked back down the trail together and most of the children remained at the playground a while.
Overall, we had a great experience at Tinkergarten. For my child, like many 3 year old boys, sitting is hard. We failed at library class, we even failed at a kid’s gym class- circle time just wasn’t his favorite. So what we loved about Tinkergarten is that it wasn’t so highly structured- there was not a lot of sitting, if a child found something else of interest it might be incorporated into the class, or if a child wanted to do something else there was no need to immediately redirect their attention- just allow them to explore and come back to the group work when they were ready. Once the kids started jumping in the mud, my boy was in heaven. (Thank you Peppa Pig, for teaching him about muddy puddles.) As a mom I know you are supposed to let them jump in the mud once in a while, but let’s be honest we sometimes cringe at the thought. It was nice knowing the leader was doing the heavy lifting with regard to the activities and the messiness of the mud. While the activities were simple in nature, they are not things I might have thought of to do with my child alone.
So now the good news- Tinkergarten offers a free trial class and is offering special “a Taste of Tinkergarten” classes from June 8- June 13! More info can be found here. We hope to see you at a Tinkergarten class soon. This Apple Mom and her Apple Boy loved it so much we signed up for the remainder of the session!