Toddlers With Toy Guns Scare Me

April Peveteaux

toddlers and gunsKids and toy guns: Hate them or don't really think about them, it's an issue that can stop a play date in its tracks.

I've always taken the stance that we don't play with guns in our house, but now that I have a little boy in addition to my tiara-loving girl, I'm thinking things could change around these parts.

Without belittling the fact that the United States has a dramatically higher incident per person of gun-related deaths than any other country in the entire civilized world, I find myself wondering if my anxiety is misplaced when I think about the inevitability of my son picking up a toy gun in the near future.

While we wouldn't actually buy a toy gun (or would we? do water guns count?) the image of him grabbing a toy or using a stick to kill me dead is jarring for a peace-loving, anti-gun mom. Even though I know his playtime does not mean he will be joining a gang as soon as he can buy his own droopy pants.

But what does it mean?

Most studies agree that gun play is fantasy, and even a good way to allow children to exert some control and not feel vulnerable. Additionally, making anything -- gun, princess dresses, or marshmallows -- forbidden only increases the allure.

Although one study in 1992 at Brandeis University did allow that gun play could lead to aggressive behavior.

Researcher Malcolm Watson, chairman of the school's psychology department, wrote, "The more a child plays with toy guns, the more real aggression and the less pretend aggression will be exhibited."

So maybe the anti-toy gun parents are on to something.

My daughter was 3 when she started turning her fairy wands into guns, and around her 4th birthday, they turned back into fairy wands. I like to think she realized she could only do one thing with a pretend gun, while the wand opened a world of possibilities. But that's some serious projection.

When my son picks up a stick and goes bang, maybe I'll just remind him of all the magical things a stick can do. Like, um, dig? Poke his eye out? Clearly there are plenty of dangers, and even more ways to overreact -- all over a toddler's landscape.

Do you let your kids play with toy guns?

Image via penguinmonkey/Flickr

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