This weeks Meet a Mom interview is with local Tinkergarten teacher, Mrs. Amber (Reynolds)! Tinkergarten is an outdoor educational program with an excellent play based curriculum for infants, toddlers and young children. “Tinkergarten has truly changed the trajectory of my family’s life – we feel both calmed and energized by spending time outside together, we prioritize learning through play, and we know that less is more.” We asked Amber to share more about her Tinkergarten classes, mom life, favorite places around town and more!
Can you please share a little bit about your family and what part of town you live in?
I have 3 kiddos! My little artist is in Kinder, my sunshine and mud-puddle buddy is almost 3, and our baby boy just turned 6 months old!
I grew up in the Sugar Land area, so when my husband and I graduated and were looking for teaching jobs, we applied to several Houston-area districts. We landed first over in Clear Lake but always enjoyed visiting Pearland. On one stop to Pearland Coffee Roasters, we met someone who invited us to a church in the area, and as we started attending there and got more involved, we moved further and further west to be closer to friends.
Now we live in Central Pearland, and my husband has been teaching at Pearland High School for 7 years. We love the way Pearland feels like its own small town but is also close to everything we want to visit! We’re about 30 minutes from my family in Sugar Land and stuff we want to go do downtown, too. We love quick trips up to parks and restaurants in Rice Village, the Heights, and the Montrose area!
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I am passionate about gifted education! Gifted kids are so complex and fascinating and have so many unique needs in order to thrive and learn. That’s what I studied at Baylor, and I had my dream job working at the GT Academy in Pearland ISD before I made the choice to stay home while our family was growing. I love to stay involved with TAGT and current ideas and trends in gifted education, though, and someday I’ll be excited to get back into that field.
Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?
My mom and my sisters! I am beyond lucky to have them so close by. When I was still teaching, I only had to send my little one to daycare 3 days a week and my mom kept her the other two! It was such a blessing to all of us.
What do you do for self care?
Sunshine and fresh air is my go-to reset on any blah day, for sure. Monthly meet-ups with my book club save my sanity! I also love to go sit on the patio at a coffee shop and read or journal. (I love the Sacred Ordinary Days planner for this!)
And this has shifted a little in different seasons, but for most of the past year, my husband came home from work as soon as he could on Thursday afternoons and was totally in charge of everything until dinner, which allowed me some time to run errands solo, take a nap, or do whatever (often I ended up at my Tinkergarten park or PCR (Pearland Coffee Roasters)!
Being in the trenches with so many littles at home is tough, and having this to look forward to was a game-changer some weeks. (Pro tip for a free weekly “date night” at home: He also put them to bed a smidge early those nights so we could have dinner after, just us!)
Are you involved in a business venture, a local organization, a creative endeavor, or in the corporate world? Please share!
I love bringing the national program Tinkergarten to my Pearland community! Tinkergarten is designed by education experts and loved by families across the country, and it’s all about getting families outside and connected to nature through joyful outdoor play! You can enter in so many ways – their website is full of free DIY activities, they publish free monthly calendars with easy, purposeful ways to get outside all month long, and they are building a really robust grant program, too!
The heart of Tinkergarten, though, is our live classes with leaders. My Winter classes will be scaled back a little to just Sundays at 3:45 PM or Tuesdays at 10:15 AM, but you can join a live class anytime virtually, too, which is actually still so joyful and fun. Tinkergarten cycles through 8 focus skills, and this winter we’ll be learning about persistence by playing like Animal Superheroes! These are some of my very favorite lessons!
This creative outlet brings so much joy to me and to my family, and I love building joyful community in each of my classes! I love to see how explorers grow and change over the course of a season, and I love the way shifting mindsets about the importance of play and time outside affects whole families. This work feels purposeful and important, and I love it!
What inspired you to become a Tinkergarten leader?
While I was home on maternity leave and looking for the next right step for my family, I came across a Facebook ad that said something like, “Are you the adult kids come up to at birthday parties?” And I was like… yeah. We had just been at the zoo the weekend before and this kiddo felt compelled to tell me what he was noticing in the aquarium, and we stood there talking about the seahorse or whatever while my own family was ready to move on! haha.
But really, I’ve just always loved to be around kids. I’ve known I wanted to be a teacher since I was in 2nd grade myself. So I clicked on the ad and read a little about Tinkergarten, and I eventually did go through the whole process of interviewing and training with Tinkergarten.
I loved my child development classes in college, so their training courses were inspiring refreshers on those ideas, and I came to really love the organization’s values and mission. I led my first season with them in Fall 2019 and absolutely fell in love with bringing families outside. Tinkergarten has truly changed the trajectory of my family’s life – we feel both calmed and energized by spending time outside together, we prioritize learning through play, and we know that less is more.
How can families join your classes, and if one is interested in becoming a leader how can they get involved?
My winter classes run mid-January through March, so they’re starting soon! Come to a free trial class to see what it’s like, or just sign up! It’s all at tinkergarten.com/classes. If money is an issue, we have a great grant program, too; we just want you to come and learn to love being outside!
I also run a little instagram account, @pearlandtinker, documenting our classes and sharing simple, purposeful ways my family plays outside, so go click around or message me there if you want to know more!
(I know some of you Houston folks are scared of winter, but if you learn to layer up with jammies underneath, it’s so doable and it will make you feel so good! I promise families go to TG in the cold and rain and snow all over the country and love it! Check out the weather gear guide here or read here to learn more of the benefits of being outside in all four seasons!)
What is your best advice for juggling motherhood and working (or volunteering, running a business, etc .)
My husband is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. He makes so much time for us and takes on so many tasks around the house. That mental load of moms is real, though! There is so much to think through and to try to make sure I’m doing well. It is easy to get overwhelmed. Sometimes I just have to be explicit about things that are on my mind and ask for time to talk through problems and solutions.
One thing I would recommend, though, if you’re stuck in a rut and feeling overwhelmed with time management is looking into “The Ideal Week.” Weekly rhythms and routines are the answer so that you’re not constantly making decisions about what you should do but are actually giving time to what you say is important to you. I read about this first in a book called What’s Best Next, but my lovely friend Sandra has a very practical podcast for caregivers and spends an episode on it. I’ll link to the episode & its show notes here so you can learn more!
What would you tell the “old you” before you had kids?
I was not prepared for how disorienting and overwhelming that new postpartum phase would be! I also took a year off work to stay home with my new baby, and honestly, it kind of rocked my identity. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I love to check in on new moms. That period is just so wild, and I don’t think anyone can really be prepared for it.
I recommend getting out for walks, staying in touch with friends, taking time to invest in yourself (whether that’s therapy or eating well or pelvic floor physical therapy or exercise ((like Fit4Mom Pearland or MommaStrong online) or whatever!)), and if you’re staying home, finding something that helps you feel purposeful and connected. I know you’ve heard “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” but really, a happy and healthy YOU is important to your littles, too, so don’t forget to take care of YOU!
Funniest shortcut or routine for helping you through parenthood.
On Sundays we always have a charcuterie board for lunch! It makes us wash and prep our veggies so we’ll actually eat them during the week, everybody gets a little protein and usually even more veggies than normal, and it’s one less meal for us to plan! It varies, of course, but some staples include peppers, cucumbers, and carrots, hummus, goat cheese, salami or pepperoni or even regular lunch meat, cheese cubes, crackers, nuts, and fruit.
We love to support local businesses. What is your favorite place in the Pearland/Friendswood or Sugar Land areas to: (Please be specific)
Go out to eat with your kids: pick up Killen’s burgers and take it to the park for a picnic! Donuts – Pena’s Donut Heaven on the west side or Shipley’s! Breakfast Tacos – Soliz Casa de Tacos near Sugar Land. Honestly, I don’t even want to share the secret of this amazing hole-in-the-wall, but really nothing else compares to these breakfast tacos. As often as we can find an excuse, we drive all the way to Sugar Land for them. (I’ve ordered the Darlene since high school!)
Grab coffee: Pearland Coffee Roasters
Have a date night: Killen’s Steakhouse PATIO for cocktails!
Have fun as a family: We love to explore parks! Shadow Creek Ranch Nature Trail is fun, and we love Independence Park in Pearland, Stevenson Park in Friendswood, and Oyster Creek in Sugar Land. Enchanted Gardens in Rosenberg (a nursery) is also super fun! And if you haven’t been, the Sugar Land location of the HMNS is worth a visit! Also, it’s not quite back open yet, but we love the Wellborne Cinema in Alvin ($5 tickets!!) and in town, we also love Moonstruck Cinema – it’s a Drive-In! If you’re up for a drive, we love to spend weekend days at the Houston Arboretum.
(Our kids have also loved being in classes & camps at Miss Stephanie’s School of Dance, i9 sports – a 1x/wk commitment since practice is right before the game on Saturday mornings, The Little Gym, and Aquatic Academy. I wholeheartedly recommend any of these!)
Get your hair done: Honestly, I’m a get-a-hair-cut like once a year kind of girl, but I’ve gone to Altered Images (East Pearland) for years
Get your nails done: Cozy Nail Lounge in Pearland or Isle PediSpa in Rice Village
Get a facial: I’ve never gotten a facial!! haha
Shop for yourself: what’s that? haha! Um, I’ve basically been pregnant or nursing for most of the last few years, so I’ll give a shout-out to Kindred Bravely! Seriously, get a pair (or two or three) of their Jane nursing pajamas for yourself or a friend. They are my favorite buttery-soft leggings, and I live in them.
Shop for your kids: Just Between Friends Houston South consignment sale (usually every October/April) – seriously, I basically buy everyone’s wardrobe (and usually even birthday or Christmas presents!) there every year and fill in gaps at Old Navy or Target as needed!