Primary Project

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Most students yearn for that one-to-one time with a caring role model in the playroom. Primary Project is a life changing experience for our children.

School Principal

For Primary Project Teams

Save the Date... Primary Project Training: The Basics

We are sharing anticipated dates for Primary Project Training: The Basics, which is a foundational session for programming. We are securing locations for in-person training, and in the event that we need to adjust and offer it virtually, we anticipate the dates remaining the same.

For our NYSED funded schools, this training is required for the project coordinator, mental health supervisor, child associate, and principal. Ideally, identify the dates that work for your team so that you may attend together.

Another communication will be sent when more details are available, including registration. As you know this continues to be a fluid environment with changes occurring often.

Guidelines for Program Implementation

In response to COVID-19, we are pleased to share Guidelines for Program Implementation for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. These guidelines are to be used in conjunction with the Best Practices Rubric.

A flyer highlighting the importance of Primary Project given the current circumstances is also available. This may help advocate for continuing the program even during these uncertain times.

As your Primary Project team considers what implementation may look like in the coming school year, please know that your program consultant is available to provide support. Additionally, a variety of resources will be made available in the coming weeks. They will include such items as:

  • A collection of helpful resources on our website shared by fellow programs
  • Upcoming training opportunities and format
  • An additional screening tool and pre/post measure, the Parent-Child Rating Scale (P-CRS)
  • Dates for monthly opportunities to focus on specific components that are typically driven by the time of the year and/or a time to answer frequent questions coming from teams

Program Consultation
Your consultant is available to answer questions to support high-quality programming right from the start. The primary purpose of consultation is to provide ongoing assistance in the implementation of program core components, with specific attention to trouble-shooting challenges that may arise, and to support maintenance of the program over time. Consultation has been found to play a critical role in the success and sustainability of programs. Read more

We invite you to connect with other schools and Children’s Institute through our Facebook page. Check back here for additional resources and updates.

If you know a child who appears to be having challenges in the learning environment, Primary Project may be the solution.

Primary Project is a national evidence-based program that helps children in Pre-K through third grade adjust to school, gain confidence, social skills, and focus on learning. Through play, Primary Project addresses children’s school adjustment difficulties and increases their chances for success.

Begun in 1957, Primary Project is the foundational program of Children’s Institute. It has helped countless children since then, and continues to grow throughout New York and the nation. It identifies young children who show emerging school adjustment difficulties and provides them with one-on-one time with a specially trained and supervised paraprofessional.

Read our newsletter

  • Teachers and parents of pre-k through third grade children who may be experiencing school adjustment challenges
  • Detect school adjustment difficulties early
  • Children develop a school-based, trusting relationship with an adult
  • Reduce social, emotional, and school adjustment difficulties
  • Enhance learning skills
  • Reduces negative adjustment behaviors
  • Improves children's self-confidence, social skills, learning skills, and other school-related competencies
  • Allows school mental health professionals to focus on children who need more intensive interventions
  • Early screening detects school adjustment difficulties
  • Children meet weekly with highly trained and supervised paraprofessionals (called child associates) in a playroom setting
  • The child sets the pace with the child associate supporting and reflecting on what the child says and does to reinforce and build on the child’s strengths
  • Ongoing consultation and program evaluation allows for continuous improvement
  • Ongoing training opportunities are available for teachers & educational staff, Primary Project supervisors and child associates, and Primary Project preschool sites. Contact us for more information.
  • Evidence-Based Program - National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • Sharing Success Program - New York State Education Department
  • Lela Rowland Award for Outstanding Prevention Program - National Mental Health Association
  • Exemplary Prevention Program - U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health

COMET is Children’s Institute's data management and reporting tool

Schools who implement Primary Project use COMET to screen children in the early grades and identify those who may benefit from the program, they then complete pre-post assessments on COMET to monitor progress and report on results. Having the assessment tools available online, as opposed to paper, has increased response rates up to 98% and reduced turn-out time for results from weeks to instantly!


Massengale, B., Perryman, K. (2021). Child-Centered Play Therapy’s Impact on Academic Achievement: A Longitudinal Examination in At-Risk Elementary School Students. International Journal for Play Therapy, 30(2), 98-111.

Publications Library


lsmith [at] (Lynn Smith, LMSW)
Co-Director of Primary Project

ssanyshyn [at] (Shelley M. Sanyshyn, MS)
Co-Director of Primary Project