I remember the first time my son made a gun out of Legos. I don’t recall his exact age but I do know we were still in the land of Caillou, Diego, and Dora. We didn’t even own any play guns and at that time, I had no interest in fostering that sort of play.
But it happened. As this kind of play often does, particularly among boys.
They play cops and robbers.
They make pretend guns out of sticks, Legos, their hands…you name it.
And it’s not bad. It’s not dangerous.
It’s play. Full of the creative imagination that only 4, 5, and 6 year olds can beautifully create.
Yes I said beautiful.
It used to make me uncomfortable too. The pretend gun play. Because real guns are dangerous. They can kill and should be handled with great care and responsibility.
But we are talking about play and imagination here. Not real guns.
When I first saw my son running around with his friends pretending to shoot each other and catching the “bad guys”….I winced.
Why must they engage in this type of play?
Because they’re kids. Boys. They’re learning about right and wrong and perhaps a little about life and death.
Sure I may have interjected later that day with a talk about how dangerous real guns are and how they can kill people and how we would never want to play with or shoot a gun at somebody else. I felt a little ridiculous lecturing my 5 year old on such things. But I felt compelled as a parent to temper that sort of play with reality.
For better or for worse I’m still not sure.
I think it’s hard for us adults to see the innocence in that sort of play. We watch the news. We see the devastation guns can do.
But when it comes to 4-8 year old boys…we cannot forget…this type of play is natural and innocent. And it’s a stage. They won’t forever be running around pretending to shoot each other. They move on, unscathed, if we don’t freak out about it.
For goodness sake…say NO to violent video games and violent movies. Aim to keep those out of your child’s life. Realize that for the most part, pretend gun play is a developmental stage…and it’s pretend. Made up. Sure, temper it if you must and redirect when that sort of play is not appropriate at the time.
But also remember that most of these children who are playing are quite oblivious (and rightly so) to the recent horrible acts of real violence in our country. When we automatically shut down that sort of play, we are essentially projecting our fears upon them. We envision our sweet little boys as future criminals…for making a gun out of Legos.
When it comes to our boys and pretend gun play, we really do need to calm down and call on our common sense and perspective.
After all, amid the occasional pretend gun play, our boys are construction workers digging a hole the size of your backyard, super heroes saving the day, firemen coming to the rescue with their entourage of 15 emergency vehicles, or explorers digging for worms/gold/snakes/you name it.
So for goodness sake….let the boys play.
Have you ever worried about pretend gun play and your child? What are your thoughts?
More reading about boys and gun play: