I came across this on the Institute for Play website. I think it has serious implications for preschool. I was especially struck by the line ”  … it requires the EXPERIENCE of play to make belonging occur.”  As we begin the school year, striving to create a classroom where children develop a sense of belonging, it behooves us to look seriously at play!


“The urge to play with others, in addition to being fun, is often driven by the desire to be accepted, to belong.

Kids start this process by “parallel” play, i. e,without much consciousness of the feelings or status of the play partner, But as development proceeds, friendships happen,  empathy for another is felt, with mutual play as the crucible in which it becomes refined. Group loyalty and affection ensues, and with it the rudiments of a functioning community. And there is a fledgling science that the NIFP believes would find benefits by looking more deeply into this.  In animals, affiliative play appears to be kindled by the release of certain hormones and neurotransmitters, but it requires the experience of play to make “belonging” occur. This area of investigation may well have implications for violence prevention an other aspects of social well-being.”

Sutton-Smith, B. (1976) Current research and theory on play, games and sports.  In T. Craig(ED) The humanistic and mental health aspects of sports, exercise, and recreation. Chicago, American Medical Assn.

Opie. I. (1993) The People in the Playground. New York, Oxford Univ. Press

Iacoboni, M., “Understanding others: imitation, language, empathy” In: Perspectives on imitation: from cognitive neuroscience to social science, Hurley, S., and Chater, N. (Eds), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press