What’s wrong with kids playing war games?

January 24, 2012

On Sunday we had the godparents round and their kids, and I was a bit surprised when one of the dads announced that their boy (aged 10) isn’t allowed to play with toy guns, soldiers, or certain video games.

Of course I can understand the video games thing – you have to exercise your best judgement, use parental controls, and take the age of kids (and the game certificate) into account).

But I’ve never really got the toy guns and soldiers thing.

No 1 Son always loved playing with toy soldiers and guns when he was little; he went through a brief Cowboys and Pirates fascination too. Now he plays video games that I’d rather he didn’t but can he separate fantasy from reality? Of course he can. (Put it this way, he lasted one whole term in the CCF before declaring that army life wasn’t for him). Like many boys he is also fascinated by military history, but he shows nothing but respect for those who have given their lives.

Conversely, my sister has always been strict with toy guns, with the result that whenever my eight-year-old nephew comes to play, the first thing he does is grab a cowboy hat and a rifle from the toy box. (He’s also been known to dress up as a nurse.)

What do you think? Do you let your kids play with toy guns and soldiers? And if you do, does it really mean your child will be desenstised to violence?

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  • mum of all trades January 24, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    As someone who grew up in Northern Ireland I’ve seen enough guns to last me a life time. But I also know it is not guns that are the problem, its the person holding it. With 4 boys in the house we have every sort of toy gun imaginable. It doesn’t bother me at all when they play with them, I would rather put my effort into developing my children’s tolerance and understanding. As soon as they were old enough I’ve educated them as much as possible about the past and the country they live in, what led to people using guns to hurt others.

  • Emily January 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    My sister is 23 and in the army. She’s been in Iraq twice. My kids have seen her in her uniform regularly and been to pass out parades. They’ve seen guns for real and understand why the country has an army and what it means to be a soldier. They understand it’s not about glorified violence, but often about making a decision which can mean life or death for your team.

    When my children (a boy and a girl) play goodies and baddies, cowboys, pirates, witches or Scooby Doo, it often involve intricate role playing, imagination and dressing up. A gun or sword, plastic or made from a toilet roll or lego is just part of the “dressing” up as the character.

    We don’t bat an eyelid at a wand or broomstick and I think most children playing with guns and swords use them in a similar way – to make someone disappear in the game.

  • Heather Maskill January 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    I have 2 boys 9 & 4 years and I don’t think I could stop them playing guns if I tried. They have potato zappers (spud guns in my day!), Nerf and they have loads of fun running around and hiding. We don’t have a Play Station or Wii but they do understand that its pretend & imaganitive play. They of course play lots of other things too so all in moderation.

  • Tattie Weasle January 24, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Both boys love playing with toy guns and swords and fighting sticks. The games they play the stories they make up never ceases to amaze. So many heros!

  • HerMelness Speaks January 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    While I don’t remember making any big, political statement about it, I didn’t allow the children toy guns growing up and it was just accepted as one of those things. Guns didn’t sit well as they are designed to wound or kill so it was just a thing we didn’t do. As has been said before, though, parents parent to their differing sensibilities, none of which has to turn into a ‘right and wrong’ hand grenade!

  • Crystal Jigsaw January 24, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Oooh, great question! As a country bumpkin and, dare I say it for fear of being flogged, someone who owns many guns (real ones!), in my area a gun isn’t really classed as a violent weapon – I say that in the broadest possible way because we all know what damage they can do. However, we have several shooting syndicates round here so I imagine most young boys are brought up not to think of guns as an aggressive item, but more as a *ahem* neccessity. But please remember that I’m a farmer and you won’t find many farmers who don’t own a gun. Cue the activists!!

    CJ x

  • Kat January 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    My aunt tried her best to keep her son unexposed to guns. Wouldn’t you know it, he would pick up sticks, french fries and toy cars and say “bang bang”. Now, he is an enlisted US Marine. Boys will be boys.

  • Kara January 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    My boys love playing with guns and war games, but I see no harm in it. Infact my 11 year old is studying the World Wars in History and I think he is far more interested because of it.
    My 14 year old tried ACF and hated the discipline of it all (and the early mornings in camp), but now he has a good respect for soldiers and the work they do.
    We regularly go to the tank museum and tank Fest as they all love to see the giant tanks and their guns, but are equally interested in the mechanics. We also have a board and a tub of plastic soldiers which they also enjoy and it’s great to see them working out tactics etc….they’re learning through play and that’s exactly how it should be!!

  • If I Could Escape January 24, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I have to admit that this was something I struggled with when I had my first son. But, then I realised it’s all part and parcel to raising boys. Great post my friend. x

  • Louise Edwards January 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I have two boys also aged 5 and almost 3. The 5yo loves playing with toy guns, swords, light sabers – you name it! We even have a dedicated toy box for “weaponry”! He also has a Playmobil castle and the associated arsenal that comes with the soldiers there which he playacts goodies and badies fights. My younger son does along with it as little brothers do. I admit I have had concerns but think it is a normal part of their development.

  • Musings from a mum January 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    My son loves war games and the like. He’s just turned five but from the age of three loved toy soldiers, action man and so on. He’s fascinated by the history of war so we took him to the Imperial War Museum and in a gentle fashion explain why ‘real’ war isn’t a fun game and use it as an opportunity for a history chat. He also likes knights etc and has foam swords. I find it strange when people ban guns but not other weapons…

    I don’t think it encourages him to be violent but allows him lots of imaginative play where he is safe and can try out different roles. He also loves books, animals, soft toys etc. I think if I tried to stop him playing army it wouldn’t really work – at pre-schl where toy guns were banned the boys made them out of Lego….

  • marisa harrison January 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    The imagination and ideas that my son has when he is playing with his solidiers is just great fun. Sure, there is a lot of shooting and ‘goodie v baddie’ ‘he’s dead’ talk (shouting!) but he is nearly 7 and it is only playing & a game. The questions that arise from it, interest in history is amazing! But he is not all consumed by it when he is not playing with them – let boys be boys! (he also spent a lot of time at nursery aged 3 dressed in the fairy costume!)

  • Karen January 24, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I have 2 little boys who are 3 & nearly 6. They play with toy guns and we regularly charge around the house playing goodies and baddies! The eldest was also given a Nerf gun for Christmas although this has to be used in the garden for target practice.
    I see it as typical, harmless fun although I don’t let them take their guns out of the house to play. Don’t want them scaring the neighbours!

  • Mrs B @ crankymonkeys in london January 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    I have two boys, they play with guns made from duplo or lego all the time. It’s all about baddies and goodies, police and robbers… At first it bothered me but now I just let boys be boys… (the only thing I don’t let them do is take guns out of the home and point them at strangers on the street! :|)