About Tinker

Here you will find information about Tinker Tree and our roots, as well as a brief bio about our founder – Educator and Chief-Play-Artist Natalie Cronin. 

About Tinker Tree

Over a decade of childcare and early education in New York City

We believe playrooms should be safe, interesting and comforting.

We believe that because a child’s play is never the same.

We believe equipment and toys should be as flexible as the imagination.

Our furniture can transform from a boat, then a diner, to a cozy house to a snack time table within moments and allows us to make the best use of New York City space. The guidance practice of Tinker Tree is “keeping peace,” by “taking care.” Through caring for self, our babies, home and environment, playing well centers around awareness of peace to learning and thriving and having fun. We believe in long, open playtimes indoors and out with loving grown-ups nearby. The Tinker Tree’s curriculum in a nutshell, is to save the earth. These little children have a very big responsibility ahead, and saving the world is going to take everyone getting along and practicing compassion and courage. We follow the seasons and connect what we can do in our own home to make a difference outside. This inspires our art and music, the books we read and the things we do when we go to the park and some of the most fascinating conversations between friends.

About Natalie Cronin

Founder, Tinker Tree

Natalie Cronin has had an eclectic career in early childhood development spanning 27 years, 30 if you count tween-age babysitting. After spending a few semesters studying Theatre Arts and voice at Seton Hill College in Greensburg, PA she left her hometown for a change of scene and took a nanny post in the NYC suburbs of Connecticut. Her love of theatre and love of play collided when taking her 2-year old charge to a Gymboree class. She was encouraged to try it, found her niche, and taught for under two franchisees in Connecticut and Queens, NY, and authored her first program for Kindergarten gymnastics and came to NYC to teach with 74th Street MAGIC. During this adventure Natalie designed a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology at SUNY Empire State College in Early Childhood Play and Recreation with Dr. Judy Gerardi.

She lead the opening of the “For Kids Only” department of The Sports Club/LA in New York’s new Upper East Side and taught the company’s signature programs and went on to create many of her own before leaving to become the founding Early Childhood Director for Kidville, authoring that company’s signature programs, teacher education trainings and franchise teaching material as they expanded worldwide. While at Kidville, Natalie began her graduate studies at Touro College and completed “all but 3 credits of student teaching,” in a MS in Early Childhood Education and Special Education. Teaching in a school was not where she saw herself fitting into the field, and instead started her own company.

Motherhood changes everyone, and for Natalie, juggling childcare and a demanding job morphed into launching Tinker Tree Play/Care in 2010 a licensed, home-based childcare program serving mixed-ages with a “save the earth” curriculum. Rooted in the peacekeeping values of self-care and care for others (the mantra is “we all take care of babies,”) the program teaches STEAM in the context of caring for the environment, and climate and racial justice actions. The group has proudly been part of the efforts to stop the Williams, Keystone, and Dakota access pipelines among other projects harming the planet and indigenous people.

Mothering children with Special needs changes everyone and everything.  Navigating how to best meet her children’s needs as they entered school led Natalie to seek training in Orton-Gillingham to teach struggling learners to read. Knowing how early introduction of these skills can make an impact, she is both fascinated with and curious about the science in front of her and the next evolution of helping children and their families thrive.

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