A Big Win for Outdoor Play!

by Meghan Fitzgerald

This morning, some meaningful news about Tinkergarten hit the wire, and I’m excited to tell you more about it. We just raised $5.4 million of “Series A” funding to help get more families learning outside together. That, in and of itself, is a big deal for a company like ours, because it gives us a shot to leverage the hard work every person in this community has contributed to date into something even greater. Beyond the headlines, however, is an even more powerful signal—that it’s good business to invest in our children’s future.

This investment comes from Owl Ventures, Omidyar Network and Reach Capital. Pioneers in their own field, we deeply respect the work these firms do to support high growth companies that create large-scale, social impact. Our shared passion equates to an invaluable alignment that will help us to build a sustainable, successful business—one that will continue to drive meaningful change in the lives of kids and parents across the planet.

We couldn’t be more excited and motivated to share this news because this support will help us to spread this fast-growing movement even further and realize our vision to get all families learning outside together. Our tiny project that started in one park in Brooklyn a few years ago has now served over 60,000 families, fueled by over 700 talented leaders in nearly all US states. 

The support from these investors is also a signal toward an emerging trend in edtech—increased venture investment in early learning. This segment has long experienced underinvestment, despite the numerous studies which have demonstrated that early education yields the highest ROI of any educational sector. 

Which begs the question—why would edtech investors invest in outdoor play? Remember, Tinkergarten is using technology to train, support, facilitate and optimize a real life, human experience. But beyond that, parents and educators alike feel the pendulum needs to swing back, away from screen time, toward more in-person, hands-on experiences. Also, the education community has long known that active play in an engaging environment like the outdoors helps kids develop in so many ways, including: piquing curiosity; deepening engagement; supporting socialization; nurturing creativity, problem solving and persistence—in short, it's the best environment for kids to learn how to learn. And yet, our social norms are reducing our kids access to rich, outdoor play.

So, it is no surprise that we are beginning to see increased interest in programs such as Montessori, experiential learning, and outdoor preschool models. Tinkergarten shares a similar philosophy to these educational offerings, yet such programs can’t reach all young children, because they are not available in every community and often come with significant cost. At Tinkergarten, we’re finding a way to make outdoor, play-based learning accessible and affordable, so that anyone, anywhere can access it.

Lastly, we’re tackling the systemic issues surrounding an often undervalued and under-compensated early childhood workforce. We are introducing a unique training and support model to activate high capacity individuals (whether they’ve been traditional educators or not) who are exceptional connectors with entrepreneurial drive and passion for facilitating high quality early learning in their communities.

This new funding will allow us to find, onboard, train and support even more amazing leaders, as they are the heart of our team and the work we do. We will also continue to invest in helping parents to understand their children’s development, how best to guide and support their kids, and how spending this kind of time with kids can pay enormous dividends over a lifetime. And most importantly, this funding will help invest more deeply in creating high quality learning for kids, all in hopes that we can inspire a new generation of curious, capable, well-balanced people—can you think of a better investment than that?

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