My toddler boys play with toy guns, swords, axes, and an even wider array of child’s weapons, and you know they aren’t violent, mean or twisted. The first time someone reacted to my nonchalant decision to allow my kids to play with toy weapons with a negative stare and some haughty words, I admit I didn’t fully understand the concern. I shrugged and chanted the mantra, “boys will be boys,” which, of course, only fueled said individuals desire to “educate” me in the realms of raising well adjusted, non-violent young men. I remained unconvinced.
Why is it OK for toddler’s to play with toy weapons?
The stigma of violence around weapons doesn’t come from the weapon itself, it comes from the people that wield the weapons. When toddlers are allowed to play with weapons studies show that they vent aggression and the desire for risk taking in a healthy, safe way, as well as gain a better understand the difference between fantasy violence and the real deal. In addition, at a young age this pretend play opens the door to teach the proper uses for weapons, as well as the dangers of real weapons. Believe it or not, things like guns and knives do have practical real world applications like hunting, self defense, and wilderness survival. Try telling an angry, 8-foot grizzly bear guns are ignorant and we should all live in peace, and you may better understand the benefits of weapons.
Playing it safe with toy weapons:
Just because I don’t think banning toy weapons in the toy room is logical, doesn’t mean I don’t set guidelines for their use. There are some simple steps you can take with toddlers to better absorb the positive aspects of weapon play and avoid the possible negative outcomes.
-Never use realistic looking weapons, and teach the difference between toys and not-toys. My toddlers may think a bright green laser gun with blinking lights is fun to point at people and go, “Shpew, shpew,” but if you put a real weapon in front of them and they’ll say, “No, owie.” This is because we ensure all of their toy weapons are clearly toys, and have shown them the real thing and explained what the real thing can do. You can use cartoons as a great bridge into helping your child understanding the dangers of weapons. “The Iron Giant” is a great choice.
-You never hit people with toy weapons. Next, while we do allow shooting of people with toys in a pretend play way–who didn’t play cow boys and Indians as a kid?–, swords hit other swords not people, and projectiles point away from people, etc. It should be understood that even a toy can hurt someone. Hitting in general is simply not allowed.
-Use every weapon as an educational opportunity. It’s all well and dandy to claim weapons have real life uses, but you also need to teach your toddler those uses. With each new toy be sure to talk about what that weapon is and isn’t used for. These may seem like lofty concepts for a toddler, but they sink in even if they may not be fully grasped until much later.
What are your thoughts on letting toddlers play with toy weapons?