Friday, July 19, 2013

Rich parents hire play-date consultants to help kids play better for private-school admissions

  • Last Updated: 7:18 AM, July 19, 2013
  • Posted: 12:40 AM, July 19, 2013
    It’s pay to play — for kids!

    Posh Manhattan moms and dads are taking parental obsessiveness to new heights — by hiring $400-an-hour recreation “experts” to organize play dates for their children.

    These pricy pre-planned play times are monitored by instructors who teach them the proper way to socialize with their well-heeled peers in order to maximize their chances of getting into New York’s elite private schools.

    “Some kids need a little bit more work” at learning how to play, said Suzanne Rheault, the CEO of one of the firms that organize play dates, called Aristotle Circle. “Sometimes [parents] hear from our experts that there are some areas to improve.”
    Rheault’s pricey play dates involve groups of three to five 4-year-olds playing in a room. The experts closely monitor how the kids share crayons, color, follow directions in Simon Says, and hold a pencil.

    All this child’s play is deadly serious for parents, because the toddlers will be judged on these skills when they apply to top-end schools, such as Trinity and Horace Mann.

    “Given that admission rates [to elite kindergartens] are so low, parents don’t want to leave anything to chance,” Rheault said.

    Experts said that kids may need the play-date tutoring because their young lives have become so regimented, with classes in subjects like Mandarin and violin, that they don’t know how to play with others.

    “These children have five classes a week but they don't know the simplest thing — how to be at ease and play spontaneously with a child,” said Wednesday Martin, who documents Manhattan motherhood in her upcoming book, “Primates of Park Avenue.”

    But some say that too much fine tuning can be a red flag to schools.

    “The kids end up sounding like robots,” said Amanda Uhry of Manhattan Private School Advisors, who advises her clients against coaching.

    But most parents would rather be safe than sorry.

    “It’s generally very helpful for the children so they know what to expect,” said former Horace Mann admissions director Dana Haddad, who runs similar workshops.

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