Should Kids Be Forced to Play with Everyone at the Playground or at Recess?

I volunteer at my nanny kid’s school when I can. While observing recess my nanny kid and her friend asked two other girls if they could play with them. One of the other girls said, “I am just playing with Anna today but can play with you tomorrow.”

My nanny kid said, “okay,” and happily went back to the jungle gym to continue the game she was playing. But the other girl she was playing with who had asked to play, started to cry. After school, the girl that cried told her mother about what happened during recess.

That afternoon the mothers of the children called me to ask what happened.

The mother of the girl that said she was just playing with one friend that day and would play with the other girls the next day asked me if her daughter had been rude. Her mother has told her daughter that it is okay to only play with one friend at a time as long as she isn’t mean or rude to other kids.

The mother of the girl who cried was upset and felt it was not okay to let other children feel left out.

Since my nanny kid didn’t cry I wasn’t phased by the encounter. I didn’t think the child was rude. Had my nanny kid been the one that cried perhaps my perspective would have been different.

But, had a child who had no one else to play with asked to play then I would think the children should let the lonely child play with them.

Certainly children shouldn’t be allowed to be mean and no child should feel left out.

There is no doubt recess is an important time to rest, play, imagine, move, and socialize — but it is a balancing act. What do you think should the rules should be about playing with others at the playground or during recess?


  1. Thanks for this & all your posts. The family is lucky to have you. Kindergarten teacher Vivian Paley has a book about this. IIRC, it’s not about forcing kids to become friends with other kids. But you show kids how to not exclude others from playground games. It’s OK for there to be an expectation of little kids that other little kids can always join. Play dates are for one on one time—public parks & playgrounds are places kids need to share the space & make games fun for everyone. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, you just have to be kind.

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