Then, for my son’s last birthday, one of his friends bought him a toy gun set. I was surprised by how much he loved it. Foam bullets started whizzing through the house.
But the recent gun protests in the US made me stop and think. There were kids, some of them traumatised, getting up to speak, or standing out in the cold holding signs, trying to change laws, because they genuinely feared other kids firing at them with real guns.
Should we really be giving our kids toy guns to play with? Is it a bit wrong? Or is it all just harmless fun?
Principal child psychologist Dr Kimberley O’Brien from the Quirky Kid Clinic has never bought toy weapons for her kids.
In fact, she doesn’t want her kids playing with them at all.
“I cringe if they get given a weapon as a present because I think, ‘I’m going to have to get rid of that, subtly,’” she tells Mamamia.
O’Brien thinks parents should avoid giving their kids toy guns.
“I think any sort of weapon gets kids excited and they generally want to put it to use, which means that they might be shooting a parent with a Nerf gun or slicing a sibling with a sword. So I think you’re probably best to go for toys that help them to get rid of their energy but without doing any damage.”
She believes getting kids to jump on trampolines, kick a soccer ball or catch a Frisbee is better.
“It doesn’t have to be about that physical combat,” she says.
O’Brien says not all kids like gun play, especially in a group situation.
Holly and Andrew talk about toy guns and whether they will lead to your kid being violent, on our podcast for imperfect parents. Post continues after audio.
“Put a weapon in kids’ hands and things can get a little bit chaotic. You can see that they get into character and then might not make the best decisions. For kids that are not comfortable in that setting, it can be quite anxiety-provoking.”
She believes it’s better to give kids toys that will challenge them, rather than a gun that “doesn’t really stimulate their cognitive ability”.
“I think buying a weapon is really underestimating your kid’s intelligence, because the majority of kids love to be stimulated. It could be that they want to do a 1000-piece Lego model. They might have a science kit and want to be scientists one day.”
O’Brien thinks parents make judgements about other parents who give their kids toy guns.
“There’s a lot of education out there for parents to know that if you give your kids guns or weapons that it’s pretty likely they’ll want to use them and someone’s going to get hurt. So I think if you see another parent handing out weapons to their kids, you do make a judgement call and think, ‘Okay, maybe we won’t do playdates at Jamie’s house, because they’ve always got guns. It’s probably not going to end well.’”
Do you let your kids play with toy guns? Tell us below.