At Purposeful Play we believe that learning is innate and intrinsic. Tyke-size gym equipment, music, and parachute time provide opportunity for physical, cognitive, and social growth. Your baby, toddler, or preschooler will have the best of both worlds; exposure to new challenges with the security of their special grown up for love and guidance. With developmentally appropriate activities, your child will move, groove, and grow with confidence!

What They Do

Developmental Play Programs For:

  • Infants
  • Toddlers
  • Preschoolers

How To Find Them

Upper Merion Community Center

431 West Valley Forge Road, King of Prussia, PA 19406


Whitemarsh Parks and Recreation Building

2391 Harts Lane, Lafayette Hill, PA 19444


When walking into the world of Marianne Sutera, you feel as though you’ve entered some alternate universe of play. The bright colors of the rainbow get your initial attention, but as your eyes adjust, all the activities in the room come into view. Ladders, slides, blocks, colorful tunnels and so much more overwhelm you, but don’t stop you from diving in!

This is Purposeful Play, Sutera’s developmental play program for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to learn and build confidence in a fun, safe environment alongside their parents.

But this world has humble beginnings. After working at Gymboree Play and Music for 28 years, Sutera wanted to continue developing programs for young children after the the branch she worked at closed. At the request of parents, Sutera packed her car with all the equipment and began running programs out of basements across Montgomery County. Purposeful Play was born.  

“That was good for a little bit, but it didn’t really meet all my needs. I missed the whole space and an ability to reach more people to take it further,” she said.

Sutera was then directed to parks and recreation, who embraced Purposeful Play and gave it the much needed space to flourish. Now, Sutera runs classes out of the Whitemarsh Parks and Recreation Building and the Upper Merion Community Center.

“I love what I do. I love working with the parents and their children,” she said. “From seeing the babies just sitting up for the first time, to taking their first steps. Often it’ll be here.”

The class format is the same for each age group, beginning with a music activity in a circle. The focus for the rest of the class varies according to the different stages of child development. For example, classes for newborns provide tummy time and sensory activities, toddlers develop motor skills and spatial concepts, while older kids exercise their imagination and practice more finite skills. But given her experience, Sutera doesn’t try to impose too much structure on the children, and instead, embraces a young child’s tendency to explore.

“If there’s a kid who wants to climb up and down the ramp 20 times, then that’s what they need to do,” she said.

Sutera stressed the importance of this freedom.

“They learn so much, just by doing,” she said.

But this amazing learning experience is not only for the children. The adults also play a vital supervisory role in every Purposeful Play class.

“The children, they’re getting the best of both worlds,” she said. “They’re getting to be around other young people their age and try new activities and challenges, but with the safety and support of their grown up with them.”

It also gives the grown ups a chance to connect with their young child or baby.

“It’s wonderful for bonding,” said Sutera.

The parents and guardians also learn a lot seeing their child play alongside others their age.

“Why is this good for them? What are the social benefits, cognitive benefits? The children are playing, thus naturally learning. Play is a child’s work.” said Sutera. “The parents are learning about child development as the children direct their learning.  

The facilitated activities are meant not only for class, but to lend ideas to bring home. During class a child may choose not to participate in the group activity, but will enjoy at a later time.  Some children (and adults) need to observe and process prior to “doing”.

The environment also forms a personal network between the parents, grandparents or nannies that bring their children to the programs.

One day, Sutera hopes to make Purposeful Play into a brand name. Still unsure of whether to open her own space for the company, she is continuing to increase its presence across Montgomery County’s many township, municipal and parks and recreation centers. Her newest class in the works is a potential night class at the Fellowship House in Conshohocken.

Prospective participants can preview classes before signing up their children. They are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Whitemarsh Parks and Recreation Center and Fridays and Saturdays at the Upper Merion Community Center. Upper Merion also hosts Purposeful Play’s early art education class called Paint and Play on Thursdays and Saturdays.

All classes take place in the morning or early afternoon between 9:30AM and 1:30PM. Register  your child through Whitemarsh Parks and Recreation or the Upper Merion Community Center today so they can have some purposeful play!