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Toy Guns: Just Fun and Games?

As you think about buying your kids toy weapons, consider the following:

  • Every toy we give our children carries the message that we approve of that toy. Kids play with toys, at least in part, to rehearse for real life. As they play store, house, school, and firefighter, they're trying on roles and practicing being an adult by using the tools that adults use. Do we want them to practice using guns?

  • Accidents do happen and toy guns can look a lot like real guns. Every year, kids are killed by real guns they thought were toys. And police officers have mistaken toy guns for real weapons.

  • Refusing to buy toy guns does not prevent your child from playing good guy/bad guy games. Whether they have toy weapons or not, children have always played at games involving violent deaths. Such dramatic play is exciting and provides kids with opportunities to feel powerful and invincible. It's fine for kids to invent these games themselves, as long as no one gets hurt. However, if adults provide them with toys that suggest real weaponry, children are getting the message that we are encouraging them to play at violence.

  • It's hard to say "no" to children. Some parents compromise by allowing water pistols. If you buy your kids water guns, make sure they do not look like real weapons.

  • Talk with your children about the danger of guns. Your kids may receive toy guns from relatives or play with them at other kids' houses. Children who play with toy guns need to understand that there are clear limits about how they should be used. They should not be pointed at anyone who is not actively participating in the agreed-upon game. They should never be used to intimidate. We don't want kids ever to get the message that a gun is safe or something that children should use.

If your child favors violent play over almost everything else or if he repeatedly threatens or points weapons at people who are not part of the game he is playing, then he may be extremely angry and may really want to hurt someone. If this is the case, seek professional help.

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