First Friday Q&A: Weapon Play and Young Children

This Friday’s Q&A is a hot topic.  In response to a reader’s question about handling weapon themed play among preschoolers, I’ll discuss the importance of fantasy play for children and how we can come up with reasonable, enforceable boundaries.  Of course, this is a question with answers that come from a variety of perspectives, so please respectfully share your insights in the comments as well.  Here’s the video (also found here), followed by excerpts and links to some interesting resources on the topic :


Gun Play.  Yes or No?{Picklebums}

“I want my children to be aware and educated about guns. If I believe that children learn best through play (and I do, wholeheartedly) then I need to accept that they will explore the concepts of guns and violence and death through their play and allow them to do so, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel.”

Bang! Bang! You’re Dead! {}

(Great in-depth discussion exploring many viewsFootnotes sourced in article.)

“Research shows that it’s not the kids who are interested in toy weapons who become violent. Rather, it’s the children who are bullied, who grow up in households where guns are used, who live in areas where guns are part of the youth culture, and who feel estranged and alone who are more likely to go on to use real guns.26According to Jones, the antidote to the epidemic of violence is interested, involved adults who affirm a child’s fantasies, model nonaggressive behavior, and mentor a child’s skills and interests.27″

 Kids and Gun Play: Good or Bad{Momversation}

(Video discussion from all sides.)

“My approach is to show my child the alternative to violence.  Otherwise, what’s the point?”

 Gun Play {Teacher Tom}

“And that’s how guns get banned. But just as a real-life gun ban doesn’t mean that there won’t be guns in society, our preschool gun ban doesn’t guarantee there won’t be guns in the classroom. As the executive in charge of enacting legislation, I feel it’s my responsibility to use some discretion in enforcing the ban. I’ll usually look the other way as long as the gunplay stays within a self-contained group of children and doesn’t start involving the children who would rather not be “scared” or “shot.”

“It’s a tightrope that has many pitfalls, both expected and otherwise, as you will see….”

 My Boys Like Shootouts.  What’s Wrong With That? {The Washington Post}

“My wife and I are hardly poster parents for the National Rifle Association. We are social liberals who fret over every detail and danger of child rearing. We do not let our kids watch violent TV shows and do not tolerate rough play. Like most of our friends, we tried early on to avoid any gender stereotypes in our selection of games and toys. However, our effort to avoid guns and swords and other similar toys became a Sisyphean battle. Once, in a fit of exasperation, my wife gathered up all of the swords that the boys had acquired as gifts and threw them into the trash. When she returned to the house, she found that the boys had commandeered the celery from the refrigerator to finish their epic battle. Forced to choose between balanced diets and balanced play, my wife returned the swords with strict guidelines about where and when pirate fights, ninja attacks and Jedi rescues could occur.”

 Bring it: Boys may benefit from aggressive play {Today}

 “It is a very strange thing that is happening in our society,” said Katch, who is the author of “Under Deadman’s Skin: Discovering the Meaning of Children’s Violent Play” (Beacon Press, 2002). “The violence in the media is more and more explicit, and at the same time culture is coming down harder and harder on little boys’ own fantasies, which are actually much less violent than what is in the media.”

Michael Thompson, a psychologist who co-wrote “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys” (Ballantine Books, 2000), rejects even this characterization of boys’ play.

“There is no such thing as violent play,” Thompson told LiveScience. “Violence and aggression are intended to hurt somebody. Play is not intended to hurt somebody. Play, rougher in its themes and rougher physically, is a feature of boyhood in every society on Earth.”

Beyond Banning War and Superhero Play {Diane E. Levin, PhD, via} 

“There is no perfect approach for dealing with children’s play with violence in these times. The best strategy is to vastly reduce the amount of violence children see. This would require adults to create a more peaceful world and limit children’s exposure to media violence and toys marketed with media violence. Given the state of the world, including the war against Iraq, children now more than ever need to find ways to work out the violence they see. For many, play helps them do so. We have a vital role in helping meet their needs through play. We must create an approach that addresses the unique needs of children growing up in the midst of violence as well as concerns of adults about how play with violence contributes to the harmful lessons children learn.”

What are your thoughts?  I’d love to get a variety of perspectives in the comments.  Just remember to please be respectful. 

(Note: I had also planned on including a giveaway today, but considering today’s hot topic, I decided to move it to Monday’s post.  Make sure you come back then so you don’t miss out on one of my favorite time management tools for children!)



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