Parenting Advice Column Says Playing With Toy Guns Is Fine

(AP Photo)

I’m a big advocate of buying toy guns for your kids. I think that they’re a great way to teach your child gun safety in a way where the stakes are low. If they screw up with a toy gun, no one gets shot. Not necessarily the case with a real firearm, right?


However, there have been those who routinely claim that playing with toy guns leads to violence later in life. For all of us who grew up playing with toy weapons of various types, that’s patently absurd. Yet, the perception persists. Maybe that’s why it’s harder and harder to find a good toy gun for your kids.

Yet a recent post points out something some of us have been saying all along.

They pull the trigger on a toy gun, or even a stick they pretend is a gun, and shout “bang, bang!” Their playmate, and make-believe victim, is then supposed to fall down and play dead.

The game is great fun for young children, giving them a feeling of power. Many adults take a dim view of pretend gunplay, though, worrying it could lead to real armed violence later. Some even forbid it whenever they can.

And yet child psychologists and child guidance counselors mostly dismiss such fears and say kids’ gunplay isn’t dangerous – so long as the guns aren’t real, of course.

“When children play, they process their experiences and what’s occupying their mind,” remarks Kerstin Lueking, a midwife and mother of seven. She knows from personal experience that at some point parents will see their child playing shoot-’em-up games.

Family psychologist Annika Roetters is quite familiar with adult disapproval of children’s pretend-shooting games. But she notes: “Unlike adults, children aren’t able to fully think through the consequences [of hypothetically shooting someone].”

They don’t, in actuality, want anyone to die, she says.


Of course they don’t.

For me, this kind of play was huge probably because my father was a cop and a Vietnam veteran. Yet everyone I knew, regardless of their background, played this stuff. It was a huge part of our childhoods.

And not one of us grew up to become a serial killer.

Kids play as a way to model what they’ve seen. I held a stick aloft and yelled, “WOLVERINES!” because I’d seen it in Red Dawn. I also probably used that same stick to fight Mordred because I’d seen Excalibur around the same time.

What play doesn’t do is model future behavior, necessarily.

Yeah, you may find where violent people played with guns as children, but millions of others played the same games without becoming violent. If we’re going to accept that as a valid argument, then I’m going to contend that drinking water made them violent. After all, they all did it at some point or another.

It’s kind of refreshing to see a story that not just acknowledges the truth but doesn’t hem or haw around it because they’re afraid they’ll spur some vile blowback from anti-gunners.

Let’s hope we see more of it.

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