Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Guns as Toys? What will you do?

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So toy guns - right?

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As Little Man gets older and older, the likelihood that someone eventually is going to purchase him a water gun, nerf gun, or any other variety of toy gun.  And if you've seen the internet - that typically means a lot of debate and a lot of discussion.

Typically you find people on two sides of the debate - those who think that there should be no guns whatsoever because they condone violence and those who think that withholding toy guns are inhibiting pretend and fantasy play, especially since we live in a society where guns are free to be owned by adults.

As per usual, I tend to land somewhere in the middle.  It's taken a little thought and conscious decision-making, but here are some of the ways we'll approach toy guns in our home:

1. For the time being, don't provide them.

Little Man is only just barely three years old.  For the most part he doesn't know what guns are at this point, and we're trying to keep it that way for a while longer.  We don't let the kids watch television shows or movies where guns are present and there isn't any play he encounters currently that would involve guns or shooting.  When the time comes, we'll address it - but until then, we're not pushing the issue by providing those toys.

2. When we do get to that time, ONLY allow toy guns that don't look real.
So things like those Nerf guns that DH can't wait to play with the kids, okay fine.  But play guns that look like real guns?  Not happening in our household.  DH and I have talked about it, and we want our kids to know that there is a very obvious difference between play and real firearms.

3. Toy guns have rules as well.

When we're allowing our children to play with Nerf or squirt guns we will for sure go over their rules first.  Rules like only playing with others who've agreed to play with you, only squirting someone from the neck down, never squirting animals or kids/adults not playing, and cleaning up any mess you make while playing.  Establishing a few ground rules will set the stage for understanding and learning about actual firearms later on.

4. When at the age of readiness, basic firearm skill courses.

Since we're a hunting-friendly family, when we determine our children are ready we will teach them about handling and cleaning first.  Once they understand the very basic safety skills {as well as proper storage, including the fact that they will not have any sort of access to weapons whatsoever}, we'll enroll them in a firearm safety course as well.

These four basic guidelines were how I grew up to both learn and respect firearms and their ability to feed our family - and I found it to be just the right mix of play, knowledge, and safety.  Following these same guidelines with our own children has just seemed right for DH and I.

How will you approach toy guns with your family?

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6 comments:

  1. Our game plan is basicall, no, exactly, the same as yours.

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  2. Ours is pretty much the same. I think a few people think we have been a bit strict on us not wanting Carter to have any toy guns, but just as you said, Carter is only 3, and there is no reason he should even know what a gun is. Luckily, we are still right on track.

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  3. Gun safety will definitely be something my country boys will have to learn about one day, but I don't have any set thoughts on toy guns quite yet! Braden just pretends and uses his fingers right now, but I always tell him to NEVER point his "gun" at people animals.

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  4. I actually had a chat about this with a friend earlier this week whose son is really, REALLY into toy guns (he's 3), to the point that he turns everything into a gun. It occurred to me that we don't have any toy guns, which hasn't been a conscious decision. My 4 year old son (or 2 year old daughter, for that matter) have not ever asked for one and no one has bought one for them yet. Honestly, I was kind of shocked when I realized that; my husband has many guns and my son has even watched his Daddy clean his guns after a day of shooting or hunting. So far, our 'rule' has been to answer his questions, safely store all firearms and ammunition, ensure that our son understands to always assume a gun is loaded and to find Momma or Daddy immediately if he sees a gun around the house (highly unlikely, but just in case), but not to touch it or allow his sisters/friends to touch it. When he is playing 'shooting' games with his friends, like holding his fingers like a gun, our family rule is you never, ever, point a weapon at a person, even if that weapon is pretend. He's pretty good with that rule and I've even heard him instruct other friends who are 'shooting' their fingers not to shoot at people. Our next steps are similar to yours, in terms of education, and his/their maturity will dictate the timeline. Thanks for food for thought! :-)

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  5. Interesting. My 4 year old picked up on guns and shooting from seemingly innocent movies - The Incredibles, Toy Story, etc. And he also turns everything into a gun. Sticks, crackers, his fingers, etc. We are not a hunting family and he's had no exposure to real guns whatsoever. It's just something he's picked up on from disney movies and has latched on to. We asked his Montessori teacher (a peace-promoting person/school) if we should be worried and she said that EVERY single boy there does it. They just discourage it and offer an alternative activity. We did buy Theo a zurg "blaster" at Disney world because he loves Toy Story so much and begged for it but he hardly ever plays with it.

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  6. I am a pretty staunch anti-gun kinda gal - my son won't have them, won't play with them. We don't let him watch TV or movies where they are featured either. Of course as he gets older he will learn about them, but with lots of other toys and such out there I am not sure the value.

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