Some rich New York City parents are paying consultants $400 an hour to teach their kids how to play well with others to bolster their chances of entering an exclusive private school.
The recreation “experts” organize play dates for the kids and teach the youngsters the proper ways to socialize. The expensive play dates involve groups of three to five 4-year-olds playing in a room. The kids are closely monitored to see how they share crayons, color, follow directions in Simon Says, and hold a pencil.
“Some kids need a little bit more work” at learning how to play, Suzanne Rheault, the CEO of one of the firms that organize play dates, called Aristotle Circle, said. “Sometimes [parents] hear from our experts that there are some areas to improve.”
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.
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“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,” Wednesday Martin, who documents Manhattan motherhood in her upcoming book, “Primates of Park Avenue,” said.
All this child’s play is no joke 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.
However, some say that too much fine tuning can be a red flag to schools.
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“The kids end up sounding like robots,” Amanda Uhry of Manhattan Private School Advisors, who advises her clients against coaching, said.
The parents who have the cash would rather be safe than sorry, though.
“It’s generally very helpful for the children so they know what to expect,” former Horace Mann admissions director Dana Haddad, who runs similar workshops, said.