Calling all explorers! Tinkergarten classes have come to the Bay Area with the goal to get little ones learning outside. Kind of a no-brainer, right? Play with mud, dig for worms, build a nest and more—all in one of our local parks. But there’s more to it than just rolling around in the dirt. Read on to learn the inside scoop and why you should sign up for a Tinkergarten class ASAP.

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What is Tinkergarten?
Tinkergarten is the brainchild of Meghan and Brian Fitzgerald—parents just like us who wanted to get their kids outdoors to play like we used to play before iPads and Sprout were invented. Unable to find any programs like this for their kids, Meghan and Brian rolled out Tinkergarten and now there are over 100 Tinkergarten leaders all over the country.

Tinkergarten classes are geared towards the 8-and-under crew and they offer play-based activities that get kids using their creativity, independence and problem-solving skills in a very organic way. Classes are held at local parks and are led by community members, many of whom are also parents themselves. Tinkergarten trains all leaders before they kick off their classes and the progressive curriculum is also provided to leaders and updated with the season.

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Parents (called “guides” in the Tinkergarten program) attend the class with their little ones (called “explorers”). Guides are there to do just that—guide the explorers through the day’s activity and let the child do the learning.

The Leader starts the class with an opening activity such as collecting nature treasures. This gets the explorers moving, engaged and excited about the day’s activity. Circle time brings the group together with songs, rhymes and even a book that all surround the day’s theme.

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After circle time is when the magic truly begins. The leader might introduce a painting activity but “Oh no!” the paint has been left behind. What items from nature can be used for paint? The explorers are encouraged to solve this problem by using the nature treasures that they collected earlier. Maybe petals or berries could be crushed with water? Mud used to make brown paint? Explorers are only limited by their imaginations.

Part of what makes the Tinkergarten curriculum unique is that kids are never told exactly what to do or how to do it. Leaders lead, not teach, and parents guide. This makes the classes truly about the kids and their own learning process. Parents also learn about their own interactions with their kids, gaining strategies for how to better support their child’s development.

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Ready to Try Tinkergarten?
Bay Area classes are currently held in San Francisco, Pacifica, San Mateo, Palo Alto, San Carlos, Los Gatos, Morgan Hill and Santa Cruz. You can check out all the available classes here. Classes typically meet for 8 weeks but many of the summer classes offer flexible schedules for those who might miss a few sessions due to vacation time.

New leaders are being added all the time so check back if you don’t see a class near you. Or better yet, apply to be a leader yourself or nominate someone you think would make a great leader. Tinkergarten is hiring moms and dads to lead classes all over the Bay Area. You can even bring your kids with you when you lead (talk about a parent’s dream job).

Online: tinkergarten.com

What do your little ones like to explore outside? Let us know in the comments below!

—Kate Loweth

Photos courtesy of Tinkergarten