Fairness makes play possible, and children learn fairness in play.
Anyone who has spent much time observing children plays independently of adult control knows that they are very concerned with fairness. “That’s not fair” is among the most common phrases you will hear. It is used not just by those who feel that they have been mistreated in some way, but also by those who are pointing out the mistreatment of someone else. You hear it among children of all ages—from 3- and 4-year-olds playing a fantasy game and negotiating about who gets to use which props on through teenagers organizing their own ball game. In his extensive observational study of children’s play in nursery schools, Hans Furth (1996) pointed out that the “fairness rule” seems to be the primary meta-rule of play; it underlies every instance of play.