Kids Should Have to Play With Everyone: My Thoughts on Teaching Children to Be Includers by Lark Sontag

Kids Should Have to Play With Everyone: My Thoughts on Teaching Children to Be Includers

In education, we have no problem forcing kindergartens to do developmentally inappropriate homework worksheets. We also have no problem advertising products to 2-year-olds. But many of us draw the line at playing with everyone. 

Kids shouldn’t get the choice to be mean.

When I taught, you could be as loud as you wanted. You could also be as messy as you wanted, but you had to play with everyone and you had to play with everyone nicely – that was a non-negotiable.

I viewed my role as teacher as a facilitator of experiences, and too many times the one child on the side by themselves is there owing to sexism, racism, localism, lookism and/or ableism. I decided the classroom community I facilitated was not going to be biased. Children are products of their environment – they learn to exclude – by watching who we exclude on an institutional level.

For me the point of education has always been to build community, inclusiveness, to teach children how to give and take, to cooperative, and to not be mean. The building blocks of those skills take place in the earliest grades. So yes, you have to play with everyone and you have to play with everyone nicely.

What do you think?

Today’s Modern Family: How to Be Inclusive When Speaking With Kids

Encouraging Empathy in Kids: How to Teach Your Child to Be an Includer

Stand Up to Bullying: How to Teach Your Kids the Power of a Bystander

All Ages at Recess: Here's Why Kids Benefit From Mixed Aged Recess

Elisa Schmitz
This is such an interesting perspective. I have a feeling people may feel strongly about it (on either side). I always told my kids to play with everyone, and they remain inclusive to this day. I think giving everyone a chance is the best thing to do - for them and for you. You never know who may become a friend. Thank you, Lark Sontag !
Joe Campbell
I so appreciate your perspective Lark! I tell my kids that I expect them to be positive influence for everyone around them. Doesn't mean they have to be best friends with all the kids, but they do have to be respectful. Excluding kids is not a positive influence. Sometimes if a kid gets left out in order to be a positive influence they have to reach out another time or find another activity that works with that child.
Michael Kennedy
Timely piece Lark, my child is riding out this same thing right now with older classmates and although I wish this ideology was implemented everywhere, unfortunately it isn't. We are looking to it as a growing moment and coaching our kids daily to be inclusive, yet independent when times arise meanwhile building strength in both situation where they are included ...or not.
Thanks for your piece.

join discussion

Please login to comment.

recommended tips

Parenting During Summer Break: 3 Reasons Kids Need Unstructured Play & Free Time

Don’t Define Me: Why Even Positive Labels May Affect Our Kids & Teens!

Hey, Mom! 6 Reasons to Put on a Bathing Suit & Get in the Water With the Kids

Want Politically Savvy Kids? Here's One Thing Parents Should Think About Doing at Home