Tinkergarten Reignites Childhood Play with Outdoor Community Classes by Jenna Abdou


One of the most impactful insights I’ve learned about finding our calling stems from Scott Belsky, the Founder of Behance, when he said: “Success lies in the intersection of three things; Genuine interest, skills and opportunities.” 

Parents, passionate educators and now the founders of Tinkergarten, husband-wife duo Meghan and Brian Fitzgerald are the perfect representation of Scott’s advice. 

Tinkergarten is early childhood education grounded in the simple premise of bringing kids back outside. 

The catalyst for the widely popular children’s classes was Meghan and Brian’s quest to ensure that their first daughter was happy, well-rounded and didn’t spend the majority of her days in front of a screen. 

Community leaders host Tinkergarten classes in over 24 cities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. You can find a list of cities here

Classes are tailored to children between 18 months to 8 years of age and bring together 10 - 12 families who engage in exploratory activities exclusively designed by Tinkergarten. All classes are held in communal outdoor spaces. 

Whether kids are finding unfinished notes from forest fairies or building snow houses, the activities promote experiential, social and unhindered learning. 

Everything is so structured and negotiated by adults. There’s always a coach, teacher or parent, so kids don’t learn to navigate the social world.

Meghan on the importance of providing space to imagine and explore in Tinkergarten classes.


Parents can also download activities from Tinkergarten’s website to do with their kids at home. 

Leaders are often parents and teachers who derive joy from working with young children. They are trained online, equipped with a library of Tinkergarten activities and provided with simple ways to communicate with families. 

Tinkergarten pays leaders 30% of class earnings, enabling them to earn up to an extra $10,000 every year.

Despite officially launching in December 2014, the team plans to expand to 50 markets in the next six months.  The Bay Area, Portland, Arizona, as well as more in cities in Massachusetts and New York are first on the agenda. 

If you’re interested in hosting Tinkergarten classes in your hometown, you can apply to lead them yourself or recommend that someone bring them to your community here.  

Technology plays a heavily important role in the startup's success scaling. 

“Without the technology it would have stayed in Brooklyn,” Megan shared.

Brian is especially active in this domain having held senior positions in product development at Audible, Knewton and Yahoo. 

In addition to technology working in the background of the weekly classes, the team’s systems enable simple and meaningful communication between leaders and parents. Families receive updates after each class describing why that week’s activity was chosen, how to continue the conversation at home as well as photos from the class. This is especially powerful for parents who aren’t able to attend. 

Tinkergarten is eliminating the worry that children will receive iPads before soccer balls, and families, educators and investors are excited about it. The team raised a $500,000 seed round from Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Structure Capital and angel investors John Katzman (Founder of The Princeton Review, 2U and Noodle) and Don Katz (Founder of Audible). 

According to Brooklyn Bridge Ventures’ Founder and Partner Charlie O’Donnell the future is incredibly bright for the young startup. 

“If you ask me what companies in my portfolio have the biggest potential, Tinkergarten pops in my head,” he affirmed. 

Meghan and Brian echo his vision with their ultimate goal to become the Boys and Girls Scouts of our generation. 

As more children ask if “today is a Tinkergarten day?” I’m confident they’re on the right track. 

To learn more about Tinkergarten and the startup’s upcoming expansion plans, tune into Meghan and Brian’s episode of 33founders and follow them on Twitter here

Here’s a glimpse of what we discuss. 

  • How social learning impacts child development 
  • An inside look into Tinkergarten activities and classes 
  • How to become a Tinkergarten leader
  • The technology enabling the startup to scale 


Further Reading
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.
  • She's the First Sponsors Girls Education to Break the Cycle of Poverty — Each time I hear an insight that deeply moves me I write it on a small piece of paper and tape it to my mirror. The latest is from Tammy Tibetts, the Founder and President of She’s the First, when she said: “Your 29-year-old self is out there, and she’s doing amazing things.” Tammy’s insight is an exceptional representation of the opportunity She’s the First provides for young girls.
  • Osmo Builds iPad Games To Promote Emotional, Social and Physical Learning — Whether it was the moment I walked out of my last college class or recorded my first interview, the most telling indicator of groundbreaking news is when I race to tell my grandparents. Last week marked one of those moments, as I truly couldn't contain my excitement telling them about my interview with Pramod Sharma, the Co-Founder and CEO of Osmo.


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