‘Tinkering’ in the park

By on March 27, 2019

Looking for some good old-fashioned outdoor family fun this spring? Well, leave the smartphone and video games at home, because it’s time for something different.

Tinkergarten is here, and has been gaining ground all around the United States, including places like Lititz.

So what exactly is Tinkergarten?

Tinkergarten is a company that offers outdoor weekly play-based classes for young children and their caregivers in local greenspaces all around the country. Classes are taught by community members who have gone through an extensive interview and training process to become a leader.

And what better place to be inspired than the Lititz Springs Park? The outdoors are transformed into a classroom of learning by placing down a blue tarp on the ground. In a five-part class each Saturday, Tinkergarten “Leaders” (instructors) facilitate play scenarios, which allows children across several different age groups to problem solve, collaborate, create, and explore together.

Parents and guardians are also part of the fun too, and many times serve as “guides” throughout the duration of the class. Each season, a key skill is the focus. Once a season is completed, “Explorers” (children) earn an iron-on skill badge.

Tinkergarten Explorers (students) having a snack at the end of a recent class in the Lititz Springs Park. During this part of the day, they have a chance to reflect on the learning they did. Here, instructor is shown reading them a story that went along with that day’s lesson.

“The lessons families participate in at Tinkergarten are ‘play based,’ meaning that children are learning through the play that they do in class,” says leader Meredith Bailey, who has hosted classes in Lititz for the past two years.

“These lessons often involve simple materials plus ‘nature treasures’ that we find and return after class is over,” she added.

“Respect for our park and the materials we use from it is taught in class in hopes to build a sense of responsibility for taking care of the earth and our community.”

Classes are broken down by age groups; however, many of the activities are open ended and can be delivered to a mixed-age group successfully. Because it all takes place outside, activities are held all in kinds of weather, unless there’s a threat of lightning. The first part of the day is an opening activity, or warm up. Then a community circle. Next is the lesson launch, and then guided play. Lastly, a snack and celebration completes the day.

“Tinkergarten has been such a special experience for my family over the last two years,” Bailey said.

“Spending time outdoors (especially at our beautiful park) as a family on a regular basis has created so many special memories for us, and being able to impact other families in the same way is such a privilege for me.”

Learn more about Tinkergarten classes being held in Lititz by visiting tinkergarten.com/classes/63585.

Cory Van Brookhoven is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your comments at cvanbrookhoven@lnpnews.com or 717-721-4423. 

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