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Mar 18

Our Spring Season Gear and Outdoor Play Guide

by Meghan Fitzgerald

Last weekend, most of us “sprang forward” in what may be one of the last times we’ll switch the clocks. This weekend, the real switch of seasons is finally here—that farewell to winter and the official start of spring! This year so many of us are feeling extra ready for our world to warm up and for friends to meet up for the magic show nature always puts on for us. 

What we may or may not be ready for is the muck, mess and unique weather situations that come with spring. So, to keep us all happily playing outdoors all spring long, we asked Tinkergarten Leaders what tips, tricks and gear have helped them keep their kids comfortable and exploring all spring long—and kept themselves smiling, too. 

None of this gear guide is sponsored—it’s just the honest spring scoop from experienced TG Leaders…and we hope it helps! If you’re in our Outdoors All 4 Group for Leaders and families, add your tips and favorites to the discussion (if you’re not in the free group, join today!).

Outer Wear

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For many Tinkergarten families, spring brings wet weather—and, at least at the beginning, it’s still pretty chilly. Exploring wet and muddy weather (oh, those precious puddle stomps!) is so good for kids, so it’s no surprise that many of our Leaders love rain suits or rain pant and jacket sets. 

  • Oakiwear One Piece Rain/Trail Suit and Rain pant/jacket combos always come out as top team favorites! Plus, if you use the code Tinkergartenplay when you check out, you get 20% off!
  • Tuffo Muddy Buddy suits are also crowd pleasers, especially for our younger explorers (2-5).
  • New favorites in Connecticut TG Leader Ericka Sargent's classes are the cute and super sustainable CeLaVi rain sets and overalls and rain sets. Made from 100% recycled plastic, they make us feel good as they keep our kiddos dry. 
  • For grown ups, brands like Marmot, Columbia, LL Bean, and Patagonia come out on top for rain jackets that are light weight, comfortable and great at their jobs. Patagonia can be expensive, but you can look for deals or visit their “Worn Wear” site to give a gently used Patagonia coat a second life! 
  • Seattle area TG Leader, Roxanna Morrow shares, “We're in Seattle and it's usually quite wet. We've learned Marmot rain gear tends to outlive counterparts for gear used often!"
  • Tip: One-piece rain suits are great at keeping kids warm and dry, but if potty training is at all stressful, the two-piece approach may help cut down on undressing stress…especially when explorers wait until the last second! 
  • Tip: As kids get older, give them the choice of one piece or two and color. When kids choose, they embrace the gear even more, making getting dressed to head outside so much easier and less stressful!
  • Tip: Want to let kids explore but be able to keep an eye on them, too? Pick brightly colored outerwear! 
  • Tip: Ask around about local gear swaps run by local schools or organizations or join in local swap or trading groups to exchange gear as your kids grow!

Overpack for Your Adventures

Given how variable the weather is day to day, or even within the same day, bring more layers than you need. That way, you’ll always be ready to layer up or down to match the variable spring conditions. You’ll also have extras to change into if wet or messy spring play turns clothes too soggy to hang out in.

One Bay Area Tinkergarten Leader, Shelly Smith shares, “In my area the learned wisdom (which I sometimes forget) is to keep the warm coats and hats in the car just in case it’s randomly freezing outside. We’ve had a few weeks of gorgeous sunny 70’s weather—then it will switch so quickly and be down to 40s the next day and it still catches me off guard!” 

Spring Hands

In many places, the first month (or even two) of spring feel pretty chilly. Add the wet, and kids’ hands can get pretty uncomfortable. If you plan ahead, though, you’ll be all set!

  • Waterproof rain mittens like the ones made by Reima (~$14.95) and Polarn O Pyret (~$23) work wonders. New Hampshire Tinkeragarten Leader, Gretchen Whitcomb, shares, “You can layer with a knit glove or mitten underneath for the really chilly days or just wear solo! They are truly waterproof, and there’s no need for endless cycles in the dryer like you get with thick, puffy winter gloves that get so waterlogged in spring slush and mud!”
  • Tip: Bring Multiple pairs of gloves for when wet hands get cold but then the gloves get wet.
  • Tip: Don’t have waterproof rain mittens? Put cleaning or food prep gloves over hands or even over winter gloves, if it’s still cold out.

By late Spring, or early on if you are in a warmer area, you won’t have to worry about kids’ hands getting too cold. But, they will (hopefully) get pretty dirty! We love to bring a little bottle or thermos of warm and sudsy water on spring outdoor adventures, just in case we want to wash up before having a snack or getting back into the car or stroller. We use a squirt of castile soap like Dr. Bronner’s to get the clean we want and be gentle on kids and the environment. And, don’t forget, to kids, a good, sudsy hand washing session can be super sensory play!

Happy Feet

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Kids’ feet can take a licking in the spring before it gets warm, and wet, soggy feet can be cause for discomfort after an outdoor play session. That’s why we love truly waterproof boots that allow kids to explore wherever they like and engage with nature until those summer barefoot days are here!

  • Bogs always come out on top for boots, and a good pair of bogs can last you four seasons!  
  • We also hear a lot of love for the rainboots form Kamik and our friends at Oaki—like these super cute forest print rain boots. (If you shop at Oaki, don’t forget to use the code Tinkergartenplay to get 20% off, too!).
  • TG Leaders like Denise Guirola in Southern California love water shoes for their spring outdoor adventures. She shares, “We love our Speedo surf walkers because they have Velcro at the top for a snug and secure fit and good rubber soles for traction.”
  • Tip: Don’t put the wool stocks away too early. If it’s chilly where you are, they still help keep feet dryer and warmer than other socks.
  • Tip: Just have lots of replacement socks so you can swap out when socks get soggy!

Grown ups, if you can get tall rain boots, they are game changing! I got my Original Tall Hunter boots (a bit pricey, but a great combined family birthday gift) when my oldest was born. 11 years later, they are still amazing after countless adventures and even helped me cross a deep stream yesterday when my middle was determined to challenge themself! If you search, you can find sales on Hunter or less expensive but still effective options like Kamik’s “Jennifer”  (~$90) or “Olivia” (~$49) rain boots. New to us, but seemingly well loved are Hisea’s tall rain boots (~$40) or neoprene muck boots (~$50), too.

Manage the Mess

Luckily, humans are washable, but finding tricks and hacks that help you control the mess can make all the difference! Tinkergarten Leaders are total experts on how to go and enjoy outdoor, messy play, then get all of the stuff—and their explorers—home and clean. One super charged way they do this? Bring a giant bag—Idaho TG Leader, Kalli Axford uses an IKEA—on your adventures. When you’re ready to come back into your car, stroller or home, get everyone to take off whatever is wet and muddy and put it all in the bag. Then, you can clean up the mess in the way that works best for you!

North Carolina TG Leader, Kate Macartney shares that she packs, “A big wet bag for everything. We often strip down in the trunk and put on new bottoms (pants and socks) because our feet are ALWAYS wet. Everything wet can go straight from the bag and into the laundry.”

Sunscreen

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As the sun grows stronger, so does the need to protect our skin—especially our kiddos' young skin. But, not all sunscreens are effective while also being gentle on our kids and our planet. To help you find all three, here are some of our team’s sunscreen wisdom:

  • Badger organic remains a crowd favorite for sunscreen and bug repellent (more of that needed soon, too!)
  • Blue Lizard is a huge favorite using healthy, environmental friendly ingredients. Plus, both Badger and Blue Lizard are on the reef-safe sunscreen list!
  • Not sure what “reef safe” even means? San Diego TG Leader, Lissa Tsu reminded us about it! In a reef-safe sunscreen, all of it’s ingredients are not toxic to coral or other marine wildlife. So, when you are swimming, you won’t harm the marine life who share the water. To many of us, it not only feels better to support reef safe brands, but it also feels better not to put things toxic to marine wildlife on our kiddos’ skin.  

Ticks

If ticks are a part of life in your biome, you’re probably noticing that they are already out! Our Leaders keep up to date on tick prevention and safety tips and have a few tricks to manage ticks, too.

  • Virginia TG Leader, Ashley Clevenger keeps a lint brush handy for tick checks on clothing before she gets into the car or house or her home. 
  • Wear light colored pants and socks, with the socks over the bottom of your pants, so tick bodies are easy to spot and pick off before they can travel to open skin.
  • Read a whole list of ways to stay safe from ticks when you play outdoors here.

Allergies

For some of us, the price of admission to the spring magic show is our allergies—and allergies can even impact our kiddos, too!  According to the Cleveland Clinic, Kids between 3 and 5 years old start to present seasonal allergies, but indoor allergens, such as dust mites and pet dander, can affect kids as young as 1 or 2 years old. And, once allergies hit, kids may outgrow them, or they may persist throughout their lifetime. 

Though we adults can recognize our own allergy symptoms, it can be tricky to tell the difference between allergies or a cold in our kids. One telltale sign that a child has seasonal allergies is when they keep rubbing their eyes and their nose. 

If you are worried about spring allergies and your child, our Tinkergarten advisors recommend that you ask your pediatrician about it and get their help in assessing the use of over-the-counter allergy meds. Parents magazine has this helpful list of ways to recognize and soothe your child’s allergies, too. 

Get out and PLAY!

If you haven’t yet, check to see if there are Spring Tinkergarten classes happening near you, or join our At Home program from anywhere this spring season! We’ve also got new, free activity calendars launching each month, so get on the list to receive those at tinkergarten.com/calendar today!

Whatever challenges and opportunities spring throws your way, we’re here to help you through them, and we wish you a season bursting with joyful moments outside!

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Meghan Fitzgerald

Founder

After 20+ years as an educator, curriculum developer and school leader, I have my dream gig—an entrepreneur/educator/mom who helps families everywhere, including my own, learn outside. Prior to Tinkergarten®, I worked as an Elementary School Principal, a Math/Science Specialist & and a teacher in public and private schools in NY, MA and CA. I earned a BA with majors in English and Developmental Psychology at Amherst College, an MS in Educational Leadership at Bank Street College, and was trained to become a Forest School leader at Bridgwater College, UK. My worldview is formed in response to a my environment, culture, family, identity and experiences, and I love to learn from others. What I write in this blog will inevitably betray the blind spots I have as a result—we all have them! Please reach out if there are other perspectives or world views I could consider in anything I write about. I welcome the chance to learn and update any pieces to broaden our shared perspective!
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