Using Nature to Play | Tinkergarten

Ahh beautiful nature, the grass, the flowers, the trees, the pretty stones! Sometimes, it’s nice to lose yourself for a while looking at it, appreciating it and then other times, it’s even more fun to immerse yourself in it and play!

Tinkergarten is a great way to get outside and play with nature. It’s play-based educational classes that caters for two different age ranges: infants-18 months and 18 months-8 years, held in nature’s classroom. The classes are designed to incorporate behavioral schemas, life skills, STEAM activities, and imagination with a main theme for the season (6-10 weeks) and smaller themes each week that incorporate elements of play to help develop skills such as teamwork, communication, sensory,  and empathy.
We went to our first class and had a blast! It was held at Mill Race Park in Columbus, Indiana under the shade of the trees by the river—pretty idyllic. Our class was the 18 month-8 years old and everyone in the class was able to take part somehow, no one was left with nothing to do. Our first activity was the welcome activity-the ice breaker if you will. The leader of the group presented us with a cooler full of colored ice cubes and the children were asked to have a look and see what they could do with them. This resulted in parents supporting discovery of how to build towers without them slipping and sliding down and finding different ways to make the ice cubes break.

We then sat down as a group to learn about what the main activity would be and what kind of skills the children would be working on and what to think about as parents, this week was looking at play schemas (we were given sheets that explained what schemas were) and then came the play! We were going to have a cookout with a campfire!

We were given muffin pans, buckets, homemade play dough, kitchen utensils, natural woven materials, and wooden circle pieces all to use as the children wished. Parents and children wandered around finding sticks for the ‘campfire’, mostly small but when we found a big one it became a great teaching opportunity to work out how to break it into smaller pieces. Parents and children alike made different ‘foods’ from the items we were given and cooked on the campfire-the play dough became a marshmallow being roasted on a stick over the campfire, mash potato pancakes, grass cupcakes and quiche to name just a few!

This activity could have gone on all day, in fact we had to pause the games in order to have snack time (bring your own snacks) and close the group. However, we were allowed to stay at the end to continue our play. During snack time we recapped schemas and what we witnessed our own children doing and also what the other children were doing. I really liked that because sometimes I missed what my daughter was doing but others saw it and could tell me about it. Then to close we read a theme inspired engaging storybook and sang the Tinkergarten song about woodland animals–I won’t spoil the beautiful song, you’ll have to sing it yourself!

The day we went was a glorious sunny summers day but this IS Indiana so it could have been raining! Well the group will still go on, I was told there’s no such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothing! So be prepared for all weather when you go. I would advise taking along spare clean clothing as messy play is encouraged during this group and believe me your child WILL get messy!! Rain or no rain! However, classes will be cancelled if there is thunder or lightning, extreme heat or cold, or snowstorms.

Classes are about an hour, depending on the age of children, and run throughout the year, in every season. During the summer they run on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during the Fall. There will also be a summer camp this year August 5-August 9 2019.

To register or find out more information visit Tinkergarten at or find them on Facebook. They will be more than willing to answer any questions you may have.

With the classes being held in Mill Race Park, it’s a short stroll downtown to grab some lunch from the many different restaurants. Whilst there don’t forget to visit The Commons for some free play in the indoor playground or if you have a bit more free time, the KidsCommons across the road with general admission just $7 and children under 18 months completely FREE!

After all of this, you will have definitely earned a special treat. Head to Zaharakos for some delicious ice cream, they have so many different flavors and toppings you’ll be spoiled for choice.

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