When tea becomes ritual, it takes place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. - Muriel Barbery
Tea and warm drinks are a core part of Tinkergarten in the winter, but a tea break outside can take the chill out of fall and spring days, too. That's why we are thrilled to share these sweet and simple ways to add a cozy tea or hot cocoa party break into any family adventure outdoors.
The ritual of sharing a warming drink together helps to create a moment of quiet and cozy to overcome the chill and heighten your enjoyment of time outside together. Read on for tips on how to include a sweet tea (or cocoa) break into your outdoor routine.
This activity is featured in our October 2023 calendar. If you do not yet have your free copy, get it here.
Plan a walk.
Plan an outdoor adventure that makes sense for your group, given weather, distance and the ages of kids involved. Get ideas here.
Brew some tea or cocoa.
Brew a thermos full of decaffeinated herbal tea or a warm beverage of your choice (e.g. hot cocoa, apple cider). If you have access to herbs in your outdoor space, head out with a collection container and forage for tea-making ingredients together. Foraging for cooking ingredients is a super way to help kids learn how to identify plants and herbs and connect with the flora that grows in your area. Use an app like PlantNet or PictureThis to help identify the plants as you forage. Use a mortar and pestle (or hands) to mash up the leaves, then place in a tea infuser and steep in warm water. If you do not have a tea infuser, strain the liquid after steeping to remove leaves. Some of our favorite ingredients for making tea include:
Pack a bag.
Grab your thermos or insulated water bottle full of tea, some cups, snacks and even a blanket or two.
Bring friends—real, stuffed or imaginary—to make it a party.
Head out on your walk and activate different senses along the way. Take deep sniffs to smell the cool air. Feel the air on your cheeks. Look with your eyes and notice how your outdoor space has changed with the changing season. Stop and listen to what movement (and stillness!) you can hear.
Have a tea or cocoa party!
When your hike is almost done, stop to enjoy a special treat—an outdoor tea/cocoa break! To get extra cozy, wrap a blanket around each person—or snuggle up and wrap one blanket around all of you. Pour tea and nibble treats. Notice how the warm cup feels against your hands. If it is cold outside, notice the steam that rises from your cup. Take a moment to appreciate how the liquid warms the body from the inside out and how good it tastes after a good outdoor walk.
Why is this activity great for kids?
The addition of warm tea or cocoa into a hike on chilly day activates the sense of touch, taste and temperature—a huge sensory system win! Additionally, introducing something new and unique into an activity you do somewhat regularly heightens the investment and excitement for everyone involved. Plus, giving kids tools they can use to stay warm in colder weather is a super way to help extend outdoor time while also helping kids develop persistence and grit.
Try a Free Lesson
Tinkergarten for Teachers
Teach Tinkergarten in your community or classroom!
The oldest and simplest definition, “student of plants and animals,” dates back to 1600. The term has evolved over time, it's importance changing as the values of dominant culture have changed. 400 years after that old definition, Howard Gardner, the paradigm-shifting education theorist, added “naturalist” to his list of “multiple intelligences.” Gardner challenged the notion that intelligence is a single entity that results from a single capability. Instead, he recognizes eight types of intelligence, all of which enable individuals to think, solve problems or to create things of value. To Gardner, the Naturalist intelligence enables human beings to recognize, categorize and draw upon certain features of the environment.
A true naturalist has not simply Googled and learned the names of plants, animals, rocks, etc. Rather, he or she has had direct experience with them, coming to know about them and using all senses to develop this intelligence. A naturalist also has a reverence for nature, valuing and caring for living things from the smallest mite to the tallest tree. A naturalist comes to not only knowing the creatures and features of his or her environment, but treasuring them in thought and action.
Why does it matter?
In the process of becoming a naturalist, children become stewards of nature, a connection that is associated with a range of benefits, including greater emotional well-being, physical health and sensory development (not to mention the benefits to nature itself!). In a world in which primary experience of nature is being replaced by the limited, directed stimulation of electronic media, kids senses are being dulled and many believe their depth of both their interest in and capacity to understand complicated phenomena are being eroded. To contrast, the naturalist learns about the key features of their natural environment by using all of his senses and be interpreting open-ended and ever-changing stimuli.
What are Gross Motor skills?
Gross motor skills involve movement and use of the large muscles of the body (e.g. those in our arms, legs and trunk/torso) that enable such functions as walking, running, sitting upright, climbing, and throwing.
In the first 16 months of the average baby’s life, she rapidly acquires significant gross motor skills: rolling over, sitting up, standing, crawling and walking. Toddlers and young children go on to build gross motor skills such as throwing and catching a ball, balancing on a log, jumping, and running in a game of tag.
Gross motor skills develop through practice and repetition, which is why a baby takes weeks to perfect each new milestone motor skill, and a child will attempt that same climbing stunt again and again or take a whole season to learn how to throw or catch a ball successfully.
Each child develops at his or her own pace and in his or her own way. Typical gross motor skills development also requires that the brain, spine, nerves and muscles need to be intact and undamaged. If damage has occurred through birth trauma, accident or illness, then progress of motor skills, as that of other skills, may be not resemble the notes below.
Why does it matter?
Gross motor skills are essential for every day, important body movements including walking, keeping balance, reaching, lifting and even sitting. These skills are essential for getting around, accessing the things we need and participating in games, sports and other activities that promote wellness, social development and learning. Gross motor skills are also necessary for other physical functions. For example, a child’s ability to sit and hold his upper body strong and steady will likely impact his ability to use his hands to write, draw and cut as well as his ability to follow instructions and participate actively in a classroom setting.
Typical Gross Motor Development by age:
Babies learn to walk well, skip, jump, and run. They learn to climb on stairs, logs, small ladders and age appropriate playground equipment (or, if like ours, on equipment designed for kids much older!). They also enjoy moving and grooving to music.
Toddlers run, jump and climb with improved coordination. Toddlers start to enjoy playing games that coordinate more than one gross motor skill like those that involve running, kicking and/or climbing. Toddlers also enjoy experimenting with movement in certain directions such as: forwards and backwards; in straight lines; rotating until dizzy, etc.
Large muscle movement grows more coordinated. Children can run faster and switch both terrain and direction with much more ease, making chasing games and races both fun and helpful. Many children this age begin to use pedal toys and attempt to hop with both feet and then on one foot while keeping their balance. They can toss objects in the direction of a target and play catch at short distances.
Large muscle movement grows even stronger and more coordinated. Most children master the hopping with one or both feet. They can run, jump forward and often skip. They can throw objects and often hit a target. Games that involve kicking and throwing while running are now possible and fun. Toddlers this age love to balance on the edges of objects and walk in straight lines. Movement that is rhythmic is both highly engaging and possible.
Large muscle movement only continues to grow stronger and coordinated as children’s energy level soars at this age. Most kids can hop, skip, and even jump rope. They easily throw balls at targets and are improving their ability to catch balls that are tossed to them. Kids this age start to take more risks with their climbing, making it an great age to begin climbing trees, challenging logs and rocks.
What is Sensory Development?
Although some scientists classify as many as 20 senses, when childhood educators talk about "developing the senses," we typically mean developing the five standard senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. In addition to honing these senses, educators care about sensory integration, which is the ability to take in, sort out, process and make use of information gathered from the world around us via the senses.
Why does it matter?
The better kids are able to tune and integrate their senses, the more they can learn. First, if their senses are sharper, the information kids can gather should be of greater quantity and quality, making their understanding of the world more sophisticated. Further, until the lower levels of the brain can efficiently and accurately sort out information gathered through the senses, the higher levels cannot begin to develop thinking and organization skills kids need to succeed. Senses also have a powerful connection to memory. Children (and adults) often retain new learning when the senses are an active part of the learning.
So, if kids have more sensory experiences, they will learn more, retain better and be better able to think at a higher level. Makes the days they get all wet and dirty in the sandbox seem better, doesn't it?
Persistence & Grit
What are Persistence & Grit?
A persistent person can continue on a given course of action in spite of challenges or barriers that arise. In other words, persistence is the ability to stick with something and keep trying. It's partner, grit, is the strength of character, and sometimes courage, to allow one to persist. Those who possess grit don't mind rolling up their sleeves, focusing on the task at hand, and sticking with it to completion despite the challenges that come their way.
Why does it matter?
Talent is helpful, but it's hard work, persistence and grit that unlock talent and turn capable people into success stories. As Thomas Edison so famously said, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." Practice with being persistent, including the chance to struggle and learn how to overcome struggle, will help kids later have ability to wade through and make sense of confusing new information, navigate difficult situations, and solve tough problems.
Further, studies like those discussed in Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's NurtureShock tell us that kids will actually perform better when we praise their hard work instead of just telling them how smart or great they are. As parents, we also tend to offer kids activities which are enjoyable and attainable and, as such, too easy. Bear in mind that if we spare them frustration, we actually deny them the chance to work hard and develop persistence and grit.