Toy guns, toy knives, toy swords, light sabers, toy battle axes, toy bows and arrows…
We generally don’t allow them; never have. The only exception had been brightly coloured water pistols that don’t really resemble a weapon like some toy guns do, and even then only in summer etc. It actually took me a while to really feel comfortable even with that concession. I don’t like the idea of normalising or glamourising weapons, personally. That’s just my point of view. Just recently though, a lady who lives near me posted on our local community facebook page that an elderly man stopped her in the street and chided her for the toy gun her 3 year old was carrying. He told her that all the reports of gun crime should make her want to move away from that kind of thing for her son. I put the topic out on my facebook page and the responses were interesting.
In the initial discussion, some people passionately defended toy guns and say that it is the way we parent, model behaviours, discipline and discuss weapons and violence with our kids that will affect how they turn out, not what we let them play with. They said it was all just harmless role play. I agree with most of that- but I do think what we let them play with is also a possible factor.
One person said that NOT allowing toy weapons was limiting their ability to role play and therefore they would suffer developmentally and have poor self esteem. That I do not believe for a second!
The other comments defending toy guns seemed to keep circling back to letting “kids be kids”. I don’t understand this one. What is it about a prop used to role play violent acts that somehow completes the childhood experience?
Another person made an interesting comment (which was referred to in one of the above quotes)- you don’t give kids toy illicit drugs to play with to let them role play taking drugs, so why would you give them replica weapons to encourage role play of violent crimes like assault and murder? This was met with general outrage and claims that this was a ridiculous comparison- but it caught my attention. We would be horrified if our kids role played say “drug dealers and users” instead of “cops and robbers”. It seems a strange standard of social acceptance. The consensus among the pro-toy gun camp seemed to be that toy guns and pretend killing are entirely normal and part of childhood- healthy, even. But play acting any other illegal and/or abhorrent act was ridiculous and the suggestion itself was worthy of moral outrage.
Quite a few people said that even though they didn’t allow toy guns, their children would make a gun out of anything- a stick, a rolled newspaper. I do admire their ingenuity here! I can’t recall our older kids ever doing this, though.
I did some searching online to see if there was any research to support my stance or to oppose it. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of study in this area but from what there is, there seems to be some evidence that childhood gun play doesn’t lead to an aggressive adult and some that it does. So like most aspects of parenting, it comes down to what you are comfortable with.
I’m comfortable with a no-toy-weapon policy. Guns do kinda freak me out a bit. I’m a city girl so I don’t have that lifelong respect for the gun as a tool that someone raised in a rural or farming area might. In my experience, guns are weapons. I don’t come from a culture where guns are regarded as the right of each and every citizen; I come instead from a culture where a gun license is a privilege and not a necessity. I see guns on police officers and soldiers and security officers and know that these men and women do not carry or use them lightly and I have great respect for the burden this places on them and anyone else that must carry one as part of their duties. I hear of other people using guns to injure, kill, threaten and intimidate. I have even had one pointed at me in this manner. Am I projecting my fear of guns on my kids by not allowing them to play with them? Maybe. Do I think it will do them any harm? No. If they reach adulthood and declare themselves the victims of a deprived childhood, I’ll be pretty surprised. That said, it’s not something I would condemn another parent for either. They have come to their own decision based on their own reasoning and experiences- I get that.
Do you allow toy weapons in your house?