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Boys Playing with Guns

WHY does he turn EVERYTHING into a gun?!

What parent-of-a-boy hasn’t asked this question and made this complaint?!

Understanding what drives his desire for gun play may help you to accept it – and guide their play into other avenues.

“They’ll Make a Gun Out of Anything! ”  

Do you allow it – or not?
Parents and teachers constantly struggle with this moral dilemma.

Early childhood teacher, author of Heaven on Earth, A Handbook for Parents of Young Children and mother of three boys, Sharifa Oppenheimer, believes that while we can recognize the desire for the “grand adventure, for the drive and daring energy that gun play involves,” we can still discourage the violence.” She believes “it is the excitement and the energy behind gun play that is so compelling for many children, not the violence.

You may find the following ways in which Ms. Oppenheimer handles gun play in large groups and at home helpful as you decide how to handle this ‘loaded’ topic. (yes, I did just say that, didn’t I?)

Kids Playing With Guns in Large Groups

In large groups of children, Ms. Oppenheimer maintains the policy of no weapons.

If children use fingers or sticks, she reminds them, “no pointing.” She then offers children who want to play with guns alternative ideas that are “filled with the adventure and excitement, with the hiding and intrigue that gun play involves…encouraging them to be arctic explorers, caught in a blizzard, or paddling down the Amazon in a boat with huge pythons slithering by, or even firefighters saving dozens of people.”

She says that “usually this kind of suggestion sparks ideas of their own, and they are off and running.”

Playing With Guns at Home

At home, Ms. Oppenheimer handles the gun play issue differently.

Her natural inclination was to forbid gun play but feared the “forbidden fruit syndrome.” She found a compromise by giving her three sons a small dose, with very specific parameters, allowing them to play with little wooden rifles on Saturday mornings.

Playing With Guns – Ground Rules

Her ground rules:

  • Everyone has to be on the same team
  • It is absolutely forbidden to point the guns at each other
  • Everyone has to be having fun

She continues, “If any of these ground rules were broken, the game ended, the guns were put away and they could try again next Saturday.”

Ms. Oppenheimer found that because her sons “had so much experience playing games that were thrilling and intricate without the use of guns, many Saturdays came and went without their rifles, because they simply forgot about them!”  She does say that if they remembered later in the week, she would allow one hour of gun play and then they were put away until the following Saturday.

Are you challenged to find enticing alternatives to their play that involves guns?  Find ideas here: “Adventure Games instead of Gun Play.”


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