Gunning for Peace?

Posted by on Mar 2, 2013 in education, Parenting, Uncategorized | 5 comments

So when I started this blog, back last summer,  I made a list of topics I wanted to write about.  The debate about whether to allow children to play with toy guns was something at the top.  After the Sandy Hook tragedy this is clearly a hot and sensitive subject.  Having two boys who, like many of their gender, are naturally drawn to toy guns I wondered if I should allow them to play with such things.  Many of my friends do not allow toy guns of any description in their houses and even light sabers are down the garbage chute before you can count to 10!  But growing up with two brothers, both of whom loved their fake machine guns, rifles etc. and  who are now the most peaceful, tree hugging adults, I wonder what is best? I also think back to my early days of teaching Kindergarten at UNIS, where we naturally frown upon guns, but where my students constantly constructed guns out of lego or anything else they could lay their hands on.  I would hear the gun firing noises and whirl around to catch a glimpse of a group of angelic faced boys suddenly pretending to fish – “They’re fishing poles Miss.” What did my disapproval do I wonder?  Is it better to suppress this natural urge to play with guns that many children, especially boys have, or could the forbidden become more enticing?

In her article ‘Why Gun Play is Still OK’ Heather Shumaker clearly states why we should allow children to play with toy weapons and how this role playing is beneficial to children.  When I have asked the many children I have taught or my own sons about their gun play they have looked at me curiously and said, ‘Well of course we know it’s not real!’ As a parent the disturbing part is when, in full play, your child is screaming violent and gory things with a manic look on their face. The deaths and descriptions can be alarmingly gruesome. We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is fantasy and it is necessary for children to role play.

I do allow my boys to play with toy  guns but I do not encourage it.  I express disapproval and I tell them why I do not like it without banning them from this play. I have also shown them pictures of child soldiers and we have talked about what it would be like to be a child in a real war.  I know it makes them stop and think.  I read on one blog that a seven year old child threw all his toy guns away after his mother told him about the Sandy Hook shootings.  I chose to not discuss the shootings with my seven year old unless he asked, I decided to shield him from the tragedy.

I think if you do allow your children to play with toy guns they have to be carefully monitored.  As with anything, there needs to be limits. I do not allow my boys to play ‘war’ for more than 20 minutes (there would definitely be a headache after 30!). I also try to make sure their  toy guns look like toys and rather than shooting at each other we make a target. As for violent video games that is a whole other topic.  Something I would definitely like to see is more resources for discussing these things.  Picture books that teach children about guns and discuss gun play and why a parent may not like it. Anyone know a publisher?




  1. Hi there,

    Here is an interesting perspective on the toy weapons argument:
    Thanks for continuing this discussion!

    • Thanks for this Brenna. My boys actually have the playmobil police station and safe with robbers etc. This is a great article.

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