Tinkergarten: Nature Based Play Classes

Disclosure: Tinkergarten has sponsored a visit to a trial class by Arbor Annie and this post. All opinions are mine.

Tinkergarten offers nature based play classes for kids from 18 months through 8 years old. Jenny Jacobs, an Ann Arbor Mom and biologist, brought the program to Ann Arbor this spring. The fall session will run from September 28 through November 16. 

Tinkergarten Nature Based Play Class

Tinkergarten Class Structure

Since we attended a trial class, the class was less structured due to the larger than normal class size. Each class will follow the same routine of 5 activities.

  • Opening Activity – allows the kids to transition into class as everyone arrives. This will change each week.
  • Circle Time – to build community, language, and imagination and will include a welcome song.
  • Activity Launch – The main child-led play activity of the day which will change each week.
  • Guided Play – The children will have a chance to play with support from leader and adult guides
  • Snack time – Each class ends with a social snack time that includes a discussion of what everyone did and concludes with a closing song.  

The class will include different activities each week. The activities are designed to engage both toddlers and preschoolers at different levels. They are also designed for the parent to interact with their child. 


Each week parents are encouraged to bring water, sunscreen, a change of clothes (layers if needed), and a snack for their children. 

Tinkergarten Trial Class

My daughter is too old for a Tinkergarten class (she is 10 and in school all day), so I brought Arbor Annie with me to a Tinkergarten trial class last week. After attending, I am definitely disappointed that the classes didn’t exist when my daughter was younger. I will say that the getting dirty portion of class definitely would have challenged both of us.

The following video shows our Tinkergarten class experience:



Arbor Annie and I had a great time at the Tinkergarten trial class. We joined the kids in searching for Nature’s Treasures as our opening activity. We searched the park and found leaves, barks, and twigs laying on the ground to add to our treasure bucket. Island Park is the perfect location to explore since it offers a variety of places to explore from an open area to a wooded water’s edge. After winter there was lots of treasures to be found on the ground. From leaves to sticks to nuts to bark.

Tinkergarten Class - Arbor Annie Gathers Nature's Treasures

After a brief circle time, we started our main activity. Everyone was given a jar so they could make a magic potion from their treasures. We filled the jar with some of our treasures, added water, and stirred using a stick we found. There were also lids for the kids to shake their potions and take them home. The teacher Jenny, had a jug of water to fill the jars for the potion, although some explorers decided to use the nearby river to fill their jars. I love that they used their creativity to come up with an alternate plan.

Tinkergarten Class - Arbor Annie stirs her magic potion

Tinkergarten Fall Session

The Tinkergarten Spring Session will be held on Wednesdays at 10-11:30a. Classes will start on September 28 and run through November 16. The class will be held at Island Park in Ann Arbor. At the time of publication, there are only 3 slots left for the fall trial on September 14, so be sure to sign up tonight!

Possible activities include making paint from natural ingredients or making forest putty. Parents will also receive emails both before and after each class that include ideas on how to get outside with your children on your own and extend their learning.

The Tinkergarten Spring Session costs $200 for the 8 week session. There is a 50% discount for subsequent siblings being registered with the same adult.

Classes are held in most weather conditions. If a class needs to be canceled due to thunderstorms, or extreme conditions (too wet, cold, or hot), a make-up class will be held.

Tinkergarten Class Location

Currently, Tinkergarten class is held at Island Park in Ann Arbor. Island Park is a great location because it features different habitats. The river offers great opportunities to explore, but does mean you need to keep a close eye on your children. I do have to admit that I had a moment of panic at the beginning of class when I heard a large splash in the river behind me. I was quite relieved when I turned around and it was a Canadian Goose who had jumped from a rock into the water and not a child who had fallen in. 

Upcoming sessions may be held in other local parks.

So what do you think? Will you be signing up for a Tinkergarten class?



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Anna Mae

Anna Mae owns & operates Ann Arbor with Kids, a website dedicated to Family Activities in Ann Arbor. My husband and I moved to Ann Arbor in 2003 and our daughter joined the family in 2006.

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