109: Gun Play and Boys

Photo by Craig Marren via Flickr 

Is Gun Play Really Okay?

A generation ago, gun play was an acceptable part of childhood. Parents gave their kids toy guns as gifts — yes, even Red Ryder BB guns! (and yes, that’s A Christmas Story reference) — and boys regularly played Cops and Robbers and War both at school and in the neighborhood.

Today, we’re a little more leery of gun play. And no wonder. Mass shootings seem to happen with alarming regularity, and without exception, the shooters so far have been male.

No one wants their son to grow up to be the next school shooter. No one wants their son to kill another human being in anger. So, yeah — we’re understandably nervous when our boys nibble their toast into a gun shape and say, “bang!”

But what’s the best way to respond to boys’ fascination with guns and weapons?

Note ~ Girls play with guns, too.  This is my friend’s daughter playing at the beach with some conveniently shaped sticks just recently:

In this episode, Jen & Janet discuss:

  • Why boys are so attracted to gun play
  • The benefits of gun play (Yes — there ARE benefits!)
  • The risks of gun play, especially for African-American boys (12 year old Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun when he was shot by police.)
  • Common sense guidelines for gun play
  • How teachers and childcare professionals can uphold school rules that ban pretend violence without shaming boys
Links we mentioned (or should have!) in Episode 111:

Gun Play — American Journal of Play article by professor emeritus Jay Mechling

Voices on Gun Play – round-up of parents’ thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding gun play, by Janet

Is Gun Play OK? — article by Jen

Weapons Play is OK — blog post by Jen (apparently answering the question she posed in the above article!)

When it Comes to Toy Guns, Little Black Boys Don’t Have the Luxury of Play — BoysAlive! post by Karlie Johnson

Common Sense Guidelines for Gun Play — blog post by Jen

Guidelines for Gun Play — blog post by Janet

Gun Play at School: What’s a Teacher to Do? – blog post by Janet


Watch the UNCUT version on Youtube here.