Tinkering around at Tinkergarten

img_8833Our adventure today was a Tinkergarten class, held at Cradle Creek Preserve in Jacksonville Beach, FL. Tinkergarten is an outdoor learning experience held at local parks, where kids 18 months – 8 years learn through play and exploring the outdoors. They have it set up in 43 states so far, so check out the website to find a class near you. They offer a free trial class, so we signed up to give it a try and ventured out on a cloudy drizzly Wednesday morning to go get our nature on.

We arrived nice and early and then discovered there were no bathrooms. As soon as I learn there are no bathrooms somewhere, I always suddenly, urgently have to pee. I wasn’t up for squatting in the woods (at least not this time) so we took a quick detour to the gas station and headed back. Our class leader Sara said she was looking into moving it to a different park with better amenities and parking. There were only maybe 4 spots in the lot, but you can park on the side of the street.

We got started with a little song and then read a story that just happened to be my favorite book from kindergarten, Stone Soup. After the story, the kids got to participate in making their own version of stone soup using dirt, sticks, leaves and whatever else they could scavenge. My favorite part was when they added the “seasonings” from a bag of lavender that smelled heavenly.

The age range for our class was about 2 – 5, so it was hectic but fun. There were wanderers and the occasional tantrum breakdown, but overall all the kids seemed to enjoy it. Keelan wasn’t sure at first, but after a few minutes he got really into making his “soup” with water and dirt and even went back for extra seasonings.

I’m waiting to hear if the class is going to be moved to a park with bathrooms before we sign up. I really did like getting to visit the nature preserve location because there weren’t any other distractions around, but I can’t be peeing in the bushes. I mean, I just met these people and it’s not exactly a kegger in the woods. 😆

Check out their website Tinkergarten.com to see if there is a class near you, and if not, you can also sign up to be a class leader in your area. I’m actually looking into that myself since I’d like to get paid to play outside with the kiddo!

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The Collection Obsession

charm-necklaceWhen I was little (back in the 80s), the first thing I remember being obsessed with was my charm necklace. Or more specifically, the little charms that hook into the plastic chain link necklaces. The charms were everything from tiny unicorns to roller skates. I recall being quite the 3rd grade gangsta loaded down with charms.

Next it was jelly bracelets. I had them all the way to my elbows. Then Garbage Pail kids. I was out of the game before Pokémon came along, but it’s no surprise to learn that kids are still into the “gotta collect ’em all” mentality.

The Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company is playing into that with their Surprizamals collection, which combines the surprise egg theme with the collecting aspect. There’s a surprise cuddly little animal inside each red ball. They sent me five free ones to check out and review. They retail for $4.99 and are recommened for age 3+. The age group for these is a little older than my son, but I knew he’d totally be into the surprise egg part thanks to his obsession with Ryan’s Toy Review on YouTube.

So this is how the tryout went:

Day 1, Egg 1

Saw red egg and immediatly lost it yelling “Surprise egg! Surprise egg!” Found a Fenley Fox inside. Liked it so much he slept with.

Day 2, Egg 2

Next I decided to take one to the playground to see what the other kids thought. We got a cute little Lola Lady Bug (ultra rare!), which one of the other kids promptly ran off with to bury in the sand. Before I knew it all the pieces were everywhere. Tags, egg halves, Lola… I did manage to get our lady bug back before we went home but her egg was nowhere to be found.

Day 3, Eggs 3 – 5

Got a unicorn. He’s decided he doesn’t like the tags, which really are long and cumbersome so I had to remove them.

Day 4, All the eggs

Egg halves are scattered around the house along with 3 foxes, a lady bug and unicorn. The little animals are so soft that every time I step on one I think I’ve stepped on a cat paw or tail. Keelan mostly likes to put them back in the egg and then open it again. I actually think his favorite thing is the egg.

The final verdict:

The materials say “hours of fun” but that’s kind of stretching it. But really, is anything hours of fun to a toddler? It’s more like, repeated fun with the bonus of an egg to play with and refill! I don’t think he quite gets the collecting aspect, but I can guarantee you if we see these at the checkout line he’s going to be begging for one.

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The Library Mystique

Am I the only one who gets really excited when they walk in the library? Like seriously, I think I get a little tingly. There’s just SO MANY BOOKS! Books about everything I could ever want to read about! And they’re all FREE!

booksWhen I was little, I used to love to spend the entire day at the library. I’d actually pack a lunch so I didn’t have to leave. (I know, nerd much?) I’d leave with 30-40 books at a time. My mom would sometimes quiz me to make sure I was actually reading them. I guess she didn’t want to lug around the giant paper bag of books if I wasn’t really using them.

There’s something mysterious and exciting about the library to me. One of my favorite After-School Specials was about a kid who got locked in a spooky library overnight. And then there’s the magical aspect.  The Neverending Story really helped solidify the possibility there’s an adventure waiting if you find just the right book.

Unfortunately I have badly neglected the library in my adult years, but am happy to say I’ve been rediscovering it with my son. I’ve found most libraries have story time and some even have arts and crafts for the kids. I’m hoping he will grow to love the library as much as I do. I think it will be harder since his generation is so tech based. But there’s something magical about books you just can’t get from a computer screen.

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The Hands On Adventure

IMG_4084Our toddler adventure for today was at the Hands On Children’s Museum in Jacksonville, FL. I went in expecting it to be on the science-y side, but it ended up being more like a museum of real life.  There was a grocery store, bank, veterinarian, cafe, theater, etc. I’m not really sure where the “museum” part comes in… maybe because it has been there for 17 years? Lol

Everything was a little old and beat up, and it was hot and some stuff was stinky, but you know who doesn’t care about any of that? A two-year-old. So I just took a step back and let him go crazy and play with everything. We’ve got to kick that immune system into high gear for our impending date with preschool anyway!

It’s definitely worth checking out if you live in Jacksonville. We were there a couple hours and K didn’t want to leave! I think it’s odd that parents have to pay $5.50 to sit and watch their kid, so essentially that made it a $9.50 visit. But overall worth the trip since I had a tired baby afterwards!

Like a Toddler in a China Shop

In my big effort to “get out there and do stuff,” I signed us up for a handprint ornament class at one of those make it and paint it pottery places. In other words, I took a toddler to a fragile land of no-no filled with colorful animals, flowers and even tanks and video game controllers that he can’t touch! In case you are wondering how fun it is with a 19 month old, well on a scale of 1-10…it’s maybe a 3. And that’s if you just really like arts and crafts. And chasing toddlers. We spent 10% of our time on the handprint and 90% of the time it was me chasing him around going “No Touch! No Touch!”

It all sounded so lovely – a story time with snack and drink, followed by creating a pottery piece that went with the story. Unfortunately they started with the crafty part, so by the time the story time came he was WAY over it. Then the snack and drink were terribly inappropriate for his age group. Little hard gummy bear type things and juice in a small Styrofoam cup that he immediately grabbed and tried to crush in his tiny toddler hands as it sloshed all over my lap. I quickly ate all the gummy bears, took the shot of juice and then gave him a pouch from home. Oddly enough the only thing he didn’t try to crush was his handprint. I could barely make a dent. I was starting to worry I was hurting him, trying to cram his hand into the clay.

Other highlights include a kid peeing his pants in the corner and a mom who thought a loud airplane might be a tornado. I’m serious. She went outside to check the clouds.

So in just a couple weeks we will get a lovely $18 handprint turned Santa ornament to mark this occasion. I’m glad we tried it, but it will be a little while before we try it again. It is making me reconsider the $90 art class I’ve been eyeing. Maybe save that for a couple months from now…

I’m glad I didn’t stick around for the footprint (an additional $18) because I found this nifty idea online on how you can do the exact same thing at home for free:

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