By Kylie Bartholomew and Annie Gaffney.
A south-east Queensland kindergarten has embraced children’s interest in toy guns by issuing them with their own licence.
The director of the Kilkivan Kindergarten, Anne Bicknell, said the toy gun licensing program was activated “as needed” when a child showed an interest in using or playing with guns.
Located in a rural area west of Gympie, she said many children at the centre came from properties where parents had guns, so the centre’s approach was to educate and encourage responsible play rather than ban gun play all together.
Ms Bicknell said the program, which has been in place since 2011, was originally initiated because of a child who was “obsessed” with guns.
“He had lots of toy guns and we just couldn’t find a good reason to say no to him… that’s where it all began,” she said.
“That year in particular, there was a whole group of them and they were all off farms and the girls too, they were all used to Mum and Dad shooting, dare I say, wild dogs and whatever they do shoot on the farm.
“These country kids run the full gamut of what a gun can be used for in a rural setting; it’s just part of their life experience.
“So we set up the gun play here where they could bring it [the toy gun] in and we discuss about responsible play.”
Licence to shoot
The program involved an initial discussion with children, parents and teachers about gun safety and responsibility before a licence would be issued.
“They have a series of questions they have to answer when they apply for their licence, which basically means they say ‘Yes, I would like to bring a gun to kindy and I agree to play by the safe play rules’,” Ms Bicknell said.
“Once they can answer those questions and they know that if they break the rules with the guns, or they shoot at people, the guns will be put away for the day, and once they understand that we actually issue them with a licence with a photo on it.”
The program reinforced to children that just as in real life, a licence still came with rules and limitations.
“We don’t allow projectile guns, I think that is one thing that is a little bit risky, but they have handmade wooden guns that Dad’s made for them or a water squirter gun [with no water],” she said.
Regardless of the type of gun brought in, the rules were similar to an actual gun licence.
“We have a gun cabinet, so we treat them like real guns,” Ms Bicknell said.