Play is sociocultural. When children play, they bring their whole being to the table: their imagination, personalities, attitudes, styles, creativity (see Bagwell & Schmidt, 2011; Vygotsky, 1978). As they engage in play, they learn to negotiate with and adopt the perspective of others, blending and combining styles to keep the play going. They need to feel psychologically safe to do this. In settings that are less tolerant, where exclusion and rejection are normalized behaviours among children, play can be a challenge - or a traumatic experience.
From a Vygotskian (1978) perspective, patterns of thought are often shaped by our patterns of interactions. We learn from each other as we interact. We learn the norms and rules that provide the backbone of a culture - a point of reference to calibrate our behaviours.
When exclusion and rejection are normalized responses to differences, the children whose behaviours are outside of those norms are the most vulnerable to social stress. Relationships are now well-understood to be a determinant of health (see Umberson & Karas-Montez, 2010). Our need to feel accepted and understood is essential to our well-being and overall health.
Our goal is to explore ways that create a more inclusive play setting at school; a setting where it is normal and acceptable to look after the most vulnerable and empower them.