Jun 15

These Creative Play Centers Will Inspire Your Summer of Fun

by Meghan Fitzgerald

Last week, we put together a guide to setting up play centers—an art center, a mud kitchen and a water "playground," to kick off Camp Tinkergarten's eight weeks of fun.   

We sent it to our OutdoorsAll4 Facebook group and wow! The Tinkergarten community showed off some of the most creative play centers we've ever seen. 

Want to know how to set up a successful play center? Find ideas and inspiration here, and join our Facebook group for more! 

From Tinkergarten Leader Bernadette McGee: "Still working on ours, but got some of the foundations built today!! So excited!" 

Tinkergarten kids water center

From Tinkergarten Leader Cholena Smith-Boyd: "Started experimenting with centers... she even used the holes in the cinder block like an oven."

From Jessica Iturriaga Gavril: "We had a fun morning getting our mud kitchen ready! Trying out this portable set-up to start. We added painted rocks and herbs from our garden."

From Tinkergarten Leader Niki Lambert: "Wanted to provide some inspo for small space camp center set ups. We live in a smaller apartment and can't put anything in the yard/dont have immediate access to forest or anything, but we do have a small patio to set up! We scrounged up a piece of plastic to use for paint and then wash off and keep reusing. We have water table from a yard sale. We have a table of dirt for making mud along with kitchen things like pans and measuring cups. Some pieces of scrap wood for blocks and a bucket of sticks. The only thing we really purchased was a sandbox because my little LOVES sand."

From Casie Smith: "My little hasn't been too interested in art inside, but he was more eager when we brought the station out today. So fun!" 

From Erin Groopman: "We have an IKEA rolling cart. I also have a very curious 19 month old!" 

From Rachel Lisa: "We’ve got some brownies and soup on!" 

From Caitlin Quinlan Hurst: "Setting up our homemade mud kitchen next to my boys' favorite hole they love to dig in for easy dirt access." 

From Chelsea Wilson

From Tinkergarten Leader Amy Carson: "We got started setting up our mud kitchen this morning, thanks to all of those inspiring photos of the last few days, and I could barely get everything out to the yard before they wanted to dive in. So excited to see the play that transpires here over the coming weeks!"

From Laura Filppu"A box of old kitchen items, water, and dirt were enough to get my kids’ creative juices going."

From Tinkergarten Leader Tricia Hilliard Nelson: "Back at our outdoor kitchen all morning!"

From Emily Delahunty: "Put together this mud (sand) kitchen after being inspired by many others who have posted DIY kitchens. We just used what we had inside a messy garage!"

From Tinkergarten Leader Mandy Bennett: "We sanded, painted and sealed 2 full sized pallets found at a local CVS to create the base and backing. We just happened to spot a light weight pallet at the road of a neighbors house. We cut that in half, sanded, sealed and mounted it for the countertop. I found the wire spools at a local business as well. Make sure to get ones that are all wood. The ones with cardboard centers will fall apart in less than a week. I painted these in hopes that they will last a little longer."

From Tinkergarten Leader Mandie Yanasak Worsley: "City-style art center to-go. Wanted to share this pic because I’m proud of how my dollar-store small art center turned out & a great reminder that outdoor play can happen in *all* kinds of spaces!"

From Amy Jaret: "Grateful for all the mud kitchen inspiration - y’all made me feel like i could do it! I thought it would take all week but we did it in one day (2 if you count yesterday clearing out all the overgrowth). We made it entirely from pieces of scrap we already had, and our 5yo started making Alphabet Soup before it was even fully built. It’s been a haaaaard weekend here in Atlanta and we are lucky to have this little space for sunshine and creativity to shine through."

From Amanda Chandler: "Getting readyyyyyyyy!"

Header photo: Cholena Smith-Boyd


Meghan Fitzgerald


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 my environment, culture, family, identity and experiences. 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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