Huffpost Parents
Lisa Belkin Headshot

What The Heck Is A Play-Date Consultant, And Why Are Parents Paying $400 An Hour For One?

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CHILDREN PLAYING WITH TOYS
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The New York Post, which has made a specialty of exposing the opportunities wealthy parents have for spending far too much money to teach their kids entirely the wrong lesson, has another gem today.

Remember their story of parents who spend upwards of $350 an hour to hire disabled "guides” so that the little ones need not be inconvenienced by lines at Disney World? Well now, parents in that same tax bracket can hire “recreation experts” for $400 an hour to teach their preschoolers how to play.

Or, more specifically, how to play nicely. With others.

As the Post’s Tara Palmeri reports, “child’s play is deadly serious for parents, because the toddlers will be judged on these skills when they apply to top-end schools.” That looming reality has led to the existence of firms with names like “Aristotle Circle” whose consultants observe 4-year-olds in small groups and “monitor how the kids share crayons, color, follow directions in Simon Says, and hold a pencil.”

There’s a small problem, of course. The thing about play is that it isn’t something someone teaches you how to do. The joy of it, the entire POINT of it, is that children find their own way, at their own pace, with adults guiding, perhaps, and keeping an eye out for safety, yes. But taking notes and then correcting your technique so that you later impress the admissions committee at the Very Best Private School? I don’t think that falls under the traditional definition.

Why do today’s children arguably need such intervention while previous generations managed to play without a coach? Palmeri blames the over-scheduled culture. “These children have five classes a week” in things like Mandarin and violin, she quotes author Wednesday Martin as saying, “but they don’t know the simplest thing -- how to be at ease and play spontaneously with another child.”

I have a suggestion. Instead of adding a class in Playdate 101, why not remove a few courses from the schedule? Use the free time to invite another child over to just... have fun.

The money saved could be spent on something that might really enhance their childhood. And, no, I do not mean a disabled guide at Disney.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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