Think about it. As a parent, you need to think about how you feel about guns and gun play? Why are you comfortable/uncomfortable with gun play? Keep in mind that children don’t have the same feelings and knowledge about guns that adults do. What things can you do to empower children who seem to gravitate toward weapons to feel powerful? What can you do to rechannel the energy of children who are vigorously experimenting with weapon play?
Observe the Play
Does the play have any value? Does it hurt any child? Why do the children feel they need to play guns? Are children playing together or alone? What does a child get out of holding a weapon?
If You Decide to Allow Children to Make Targets
If you decide to allow children to experiment with weapon play, structure it around shooting at targets, because it values this aspect of their play by providing a controlled environment for a safe expression of power.
Observe the Play
Let the kids know you are interested in their gun play and you are watching so you can help them. Talk with, and listen to them about their play. If you need more detail, ask them for a specific plan. Tell them it is not OK to shoot at people but they can make a target to shoot at. Go with them to the art shelf to get out paper, markers and tape. Allow them to draw whatever they want (except for a person) as the target. You might want to show them what a bulls eye target looks like.
Designate a specific play area for shooting. Tell them the target needs to hang in a place where other family members will not walk in front of it. One idea is to have them build an aisle to stand in to use the weapon, similar to a target range. For a while, you will need to immediately redirect them to making a target when they start shooting. You have to be consistent! Every time a child is shooting (not at a target), they need to be redirected.
Is everything in your home environment supportive of your decision on weapon play? For example, do you have army planes or toy soldiers and a “no shooting” rule? Do not allow pretend weapons to be taken from home to the child care setting. There is no better time to start reinforcing the idea that weapons should never be brought to school. The toy weapons that are being marketed today look very realistic, which can be upsetting to some children. Remember that young children are working on discriminating reality from fantasy.
Another way to support children’s natural curiosity about weapons is to allow them to make their own weapons from materials found at home. Perhaps a drawing or sculpture with play dough or clay. As soon as a weapon is made or when the topic surfaces, take the opportunity to discuss with your child the purpose of the weapon (i.e., used to hunt, target shooting, etc.). This is also a good time to talk about the importance of gun safety.
Article adapted from an original article entitled "Weapon Play" and provided courtesy of: Nicole Shadduck, Parent Educator, (208) 343-6840, or e-mail NSSHAD@aol.com, and Megan Jones, Parent Educator, (208) 384-5396 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
Gun Safety — Talking with Your Neighbors— Talking with young children about safety.
Power Play: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. National Network for Child Care.
Copyright 2007 by Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
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