In a city filled with endless social activities, what can parents do when they desperately want a night out alone, but not the conventional babysitting experience for their children? The answer might be as simple as calling Project Playdate, a childcare company that provides enriching social and educational experiences for kids as a fun alternative to classic babysitting.
“I was paying my way through undergrad at NYU as a babysitter,” says Project Playdate founder, Amanda Raposo, a Queens native currently pursuing her MBA at Columbia University. “I realized that parents were paying a lot of money for a pretty low-value experience. It wasn’t stimulating, nor was it social. A lot of the times I was getting paid to sit on a couch, or put a kid in front of a TV. I wanted to fill this gap in childcare, with a better experience for both the kids and parents.” From that one simple idea, Project Playdate was born.
Shortly after, Raposo arranged the use of a play space in Tribeca, called Playgarden and hosted a Parent’s Night Out fundraiser. Moms and dads got to hang out for a night without the kids, children got to jump around and have fun, and all the while, money was being raised to help mothers and children in need. It was a hit, and Raposo was asked repeatedly to come back. “It took me way too long to realize that I had [a good idea] on my hands,” Raposo explains. “So, for a long time I was piloting this, before I even knew it was a business. In 2012 we officially hit the ground running, and I’ve been building it ever since.”
Raposo has always worked with children, having taken on roles as a camp counselor, afterschool educator, and caseworker during her high school and college years. Creating Project Playdate and watching it expand has been fulfilling, she says, and has been an experience that has caused her to grow and become more resilient. Although she is not a parent just yet, she says she tends to form lasting bonds with many of the children that are a part of the programs.
Known for colorful and festive pajama parties (for ages 2-6), Project Playdate uses its mobile factor to provide enriching childcare experiences, while using NYC’s wide variety of venues as its playground. With the aid of other play spaces in Manhattan, and some parts of Brooklyn (with plans to come to the five boroughs), Raposo and her team of expert childcare workers take on the task of organizing play dates, nurturing the next generation, and never leaving out the altruistic aspect of the company: Giving back to those who are less fortunate. Each location used by Project Playdate, also doubles as a drop-off center for lightly used goods, which is then transferred to a shelter.
Regardless of the venue for each individual pajama party, kids can enjoy a variety of activities. They can rock climb a mini-wall, have fun on a slide with friends, play with toys, or simply chase after each other in a friendly game of tag. Dinner and dessert are served to the children, with parents also having the option of providing their own meal for the finicky eater in their life.
In addition, the playdates go beyond the fun pajama parties. As a daytime option, parents can setup a 3-6 hour session filled with creative, safe and educational activities. Parents can choose from an outing at the MoMA, the theater, swimming, and more. For any special event (wedding, birthday party, etc.) Project Playdate is there to help. They can make any area kid-friendly and provide enriching activities along with attention and supervision. Art with Miss Danielle is an opportunity for children of all ages to create art in a customizable venue of your choice. If there is a desire for a private playdate, indoor or outdoor, this too, can be accomplished. Individual kids or groups of children are welcome. For every four kids, there is a childcare worker to supervise. There is also an after-school program at Pine Street School where kids can be dropped off five days a week from 3-6pm, where they can once again engage with other children, learn, and enjoy the snacks.
“I think our pajama parties are just a perfect way to start engaging with us, and getting to know who we are. They’re also the best opportunity for parents to feel the joy of having that time to themselves. Usually, they are with us from the time they first visit, until the child ages out,” Raposo says. “I never realized this until I started doing it, just how much giving parents this time for self-care and their relationship, makes them better parents. That, in turn, makes for a happier family unit.”
Every childcare worker employed at Project Playdate is available for private care. Should you have a little one who is in absolute awe of their temporary childcare worker, the option of extending the relationship does exist. And if you’re not sure about signing your kid up for an entire summer of camp, then Project Playdate can also help fill that gap. Flexibility and convenience are the name of the game.
Raposo has plans to provide a monthly calendar of Project Playdate’s whereabouts, in effort to help spread the word. “Our goal is to become more of a part of the DNA of each local community,” she explains. “We are also partnering with restaurants to provide a brunch and dinner series.”
To learn more, visit projectplaydate.org!