Ask the Moms: Do Your Boys Play with Toy Guns?

This weeks question comes from two moms, Amanda and Amy, who have opposite views on this topic. They want to know, do you let your kids (boys) play with toy guns?

This is something I’ve thought about but I’m not sure where I stand on the issue yet- I go back and forth between a few things. Where do we draw the line as parents? Can’t we let our children play with toys as long as we’re teaching them what’s right and wrong? Then again, is a fake plastic toy gun a good idea? Do we want our children playing with a gun, even if it is fake? What is going through their mind when they’re playing with these toys?

Obviously a lot of thoughts here and points to be made. 

I couldn’t even find a picture online to go with this post that I thought was appropriate. Just the image of seeing little boys playing with these things is sort of disturbing.
What about squirt guns? Are these toys harmful or dangerous?
This is a great topic for discussion. What does your family do? Do you let your kids play with toy guns? Why or why not?

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

33 thoughts on “Ask the Moms: Do Your Boys Play with Toy Guns?

  1. I'm very interested in reading the discussion on this topic! I was dead set against any toy guns in our house when my now five year old son started pretending things were guns when he was four and a half.

    We talked to him about what guns do, we told him that we weren't going to have toy guns in our house. But here's the catch…..he turned everything into a gun.

    I started to question our decision because he started to get fixated on them – the whole forbidden fruit scenario…

    So, this past week I purchased a set of army guys (you know that Bucket of Army Guys from Toy Story??) Not an actual gun, but figures that carry guns, so it's really not that much different.

    Did I make a mistake? Should I have kept my foot down and said absolutely no violent 'pretend' play? I don't care if we are the only ones with strict rules about toys and media influence. I want to do what's right for our family and that reflects our beliefs. I'm the mother of a 3 year old girl who doesn't know the name of a single Disney Princesses for Pete's sake, but that's another topic for another day…..

  2. We let the boys have squirt guns…and they had a nerf gun one time, but they kept hurting each other so it went in the trash. Other than that, we just don't like them. We are not anti-gun (dh has one for an emergency) but I don't like seeing little boys going around shooting each other like it's a fun game.

  3. Hmmm… I guess I'm sort of wishy-washy on the topic.

    Hubby got Logan some GI Joe guys a couple years ago and I confiscated the little guns. I didn't care if he played with the guys, but not the guns.

    I have, however, purchased him water guns and we have fun water gun fights in the back yard, but I don't allow any “bang bang you're dead” kind of talk.

    I also got a couple Nerf ball shooters for Logan for Christmas, and they can be considered guns.

    So, I can't take any kind of stance because it would feel hypocritical. I guess I don't care if it's “fun” guns, but I don't really advocate “killing” play. And I expect Logan to know the difference. I explained to him that we don't kill people for fun, etc. But then again, when Hubby was a kid, he was big into playing “Army guy,” including guns, and he's not messed up.

    I guess I feel like if the kid knows what is acceptable and what isn't, it's sort of OK.

  4. While I prefer that he play with bows and arrows, we certainly let our son play with toy guns. However, we are very strict in that they aren't supposed to be used to act like he's shooting people or to say he's “killing” someone.

    Our family has a proud heritage of hunting and using guns for sport (hunting, target practice, trap shooting, etc.) and I want to pass that on to our kids as the right age. I don't want them to think that guns are evil or wrong. I want him to understand the appropriate use of guns and why I own several.

  5. Here are my feelings on the subject. I will try to be as brief as I can. God has called my son to be a man that will lead and provide for his family one day. And while my husband and I do not allow in any way for our son to point guns at people to “kill” them, we allow him to play with toy guns to defend against “bad guys” and to hunt animals.
    I truly believe that my children could very easily see a day and age in this country that they will have to hunt for meat to be able to survive and they might also have to protect the ones that they love, or their faith from the “bad guys”.
    My husband and I have instilled within our children a very deep respect for guns and the damage that they can do. But I don't want my children to grow up afraid of them or to see them as sinful or wrong. We believe that with a healthy respect of them they can be tools to fulfill my son's God given role as a follower of Christ.
    So, that is why we allow our children to have toy guns. Because if one day they are forced to, or choose to (hunting, sport, etc), use them I don't want them to be so afraid of them that they aren't able to use them at all.

    Can't wait to hear other's thoughts on this as this is a topic I have had a hard time with.

  6. I started off fully with the no guns policy. But that limited 99% of the television shows, cartoons, movies and toys that my boys were going to be able to associate with.

    We have had the talk and explained to them the truth behind guns and why they aren't really play things. My boys are 12 (almost 13) and 7 (almost 8) and they seem to understand.

    I don't buy actual toy guns, but they do have toys (legos, star wars, g.i. joe figures, etc) that have guns.

    My opinion is that you can't limit them or even keep them out of your child's life. Once they get to school, they will run into other children who are allowed to play with guns or know about guns and will introduce them, maybe in the wrong way.

  7. these are all really good points. I forgot to think about the fact that my husband, like you were mentioning Dustin, hunts so I'm sure one day they will hunt together!

    Ugh.. I'm just scared of guns, in a way. But I suppose its good to know how to kill animals.. I don't know..

  8. Lucas is only 9 months, but I think I'll allow guns with many of the stipulations posted above. Both sides of our family hunt and own guns, and we grew up playing with toy guns. It never gave me the urge to get a real gun and shoot someone I was mad at. Children need to know that appropriate use of guns for hunting or by the military or law enforcement is okay.

  9. Absolutely not.

    That said, my husband grew up in a third world country and they always made tigs or materials they could find into guns. If our boys do this I will only intervene to have an age appropriate discussion how guns are play items and they can hurt someone. II'm not comfortable with the act of pointing it at someone- what if he came across a real gun and picked it up thinking it was a toy? Children have died this way.

    I think teaching children that guns are made for specific reasons like hunting or protecting the police will hopefully allow them to build a respect for them. If they decided to use a gun in the future I hope it will be in an appropriate manner with respect and reverence for the power it has.

  10. We do not have boys; but I don't see this as relevant only to families with boys, so I'll throw in my two cents.

    Our daughter plays with toy guns. I have no problem with it. The rule is that she cannot point the gun at any person or animal. She must shoot at targets.

    My hubby started taking her to the range just before she turned 8. So, she also shoots real guns, under close supervision. We want her to respect them and we want her to not be curious enough to investigate without adult supervision. Not that she can get to them at our house, but she could encounter one elsewhere.

    It was not our intent to develop an interest in firearms. She expressed the interest and we've allowed her to pursue it.

  11. I do not have a problem with gun play.

    Obviously, this is anecdotal, but I participated in violent play as a little girl but I still grew up to be a non-violent person.

    Children play at many things that we wouldn't want them doing for real {at least at their age, such as play weddings}. It is part of how they explore their world. I think the key is to teach them the impact of the real thing in age appropriate ways, not to forbid the play.

  12. I've always said “No, I do not think guns should be toys” but have had a hard time taking them away from my kids when we are at someone else's house. Then my son got one for Christmas and he loves it. Its a Power Ranger rifle that makes sounds. I'm letting him keep it until he looses interest then it will be donated.

  13. I not only played with toy guys as a kid but played gun based games and shot real guns growing up. I am a happy, content SAHM who has no violent tendancies. I even have my preferences of types I like to shoot. Like some of the above have said, it is all about how we raise our kids. If we teach them right and wrong it makes a different. We also need to make sure our kids know that they are loved and accepted. It is when kids feel like nothing else will work, or that it is alright to do, or that no one cares that they resort to voilence.

  14. Obviously my 6 month old daughter isnt old enough to play with toy guns but my husband and I have discussed this topic over and over. We have come to a conclusion.

    When the time comes that we have a son or Brook gets old enough. Yes we will let her play with guns. My husband has atleast 5 guns (locked up,key hidden of course).

    We wont allow them to point their fake gun at another person or pretended to shoot someone, even with their finger. This is not ok with us.

    Even with a fake gun my husband and I will teach our children how to properly and safely handle a toy gun as if it were a real gun.

    My dad has found a child who was playing with a gun. He heard the gunshot next door and found the little boy. Disturbing/sad, YES! but deffinately made me open my eyes.

    Even with toy guns children need to be taught proper safety and handling. That way, if they ever were around a real gun (say at a friends house) they would be educated enough on what NOT to do and to go find an adult immediately.

    Just my take.

  15. I do let my son play with toy guns. However he is not allowed to aim at people. If he does they get taken away. I have mixed feelings on this issue. I do believe if you teach your child right they will know right from wrong. We have NO real guns in our house what so ever. I hate them and don't want them here.

  16. I really don't like my kid playing with any kind of guns. It's more me personally really, my best friend shot and killed himself so it just makes me very uneasy. I've talked about it and everyone understands. I don't mine swords though, we even have a few replicas. I also don't mind bow and arrows, things of that nature. But guns not so much.

  17. My boys also turn everything into guns (or swords, or cannons, or catapults…) I finally concluded that rather than try to outlaw weaponry, we would focus instead on appropriate times/places to use it.
    We are religious so we looked to scripture for times when war was appropriate (in defense of life/family/land/freedoms). We also looked to the 'law of the jungle' which is that you may kill only to eat or to avoid being eaten… (We do hunt, so daddy has a rifle and I felt like a hypocrite if I told my boys that guns were bad when daddy had one.)

    So, yeah, that's what we came up with–and yes, now we do have a few toy weapons in the house, but at least most of the time they don't direct things at each other, instead it's at imaginary bad guys or moose. 🙂

  18. Oh, in regards to water guns…we call them 'water squirters' (not 'guns') and we only get ones that look like space zappers or other non-gunnish things. We do have those.

    We don't allow any kind of first person shooter video games, and we're very careful of other media too.

    I'm extremely non-violent myself, but I remember turning sticks and fingers into guns as a kid…I think it's just a natural thing to do. So like I said before, rather than make taboos, I try to teach healthy directions for the play.

  19. As a military family, it is important for us to teach our kids to respect guns and to teach them how to use them properly. I grew up in a family where we did not have any toy guns but if we did play with something similar to a gun, we were not allowed to point at anyone. I feel this is one way to allow freedom of play, but still teach that it is never ok to point a gun at someone, even while pretending.

    My husband is very good at teaching gun safety and the importance of respecting the danger that they can do. Kids need to not be sheltered from the reality but taught what is right.

  20. I haven't read all the replies, but I'll share what has happened in our family.

    When I started out, I vowed that I wouldn't let my kids play with toy guns. I don't like guns. I don't like the idea of my kids playing with them, even toy ones.

    This was easy with my little girl, she didnt care.

    Then I had a boy.

    He's only almost two but it was very apparent early on that he was ALL boy. He would find any toy he could that looked like a gun, or use his fingers and point them at you and go POW POW. I don't know where he learned it, or how he knew to do it, but he did. The kid now has toy guns to play with because he loved playing like that so much we wanted him to enjoy the real thing. But we're also taking the time to teach him not to aim them at other people and what they are really used for.

    I guess for me, it really depends on the kid too. if elijah ever shows signs of being agressive with them, they'll be gone in a heartbeat, but for now it's just fun. He just thinks its funny to say pow pow and watch daddy or sissy fall down. LOL

  21. It will either be a toy gun or a little hand in “gun position.” Boys will be boys. Obviously if my son displayed violent characteristics I would disallow such behavior, but in most little boys I think its perfectly fine and natural.

    We will also be teaching our kids (at an appropriate age) proper use of firearms and firearm safety.

  22. I have 2 boys. As long as they are not violent with them and pointing them at each other I let them play with them.

  23. First of all, great question/topic! I never had much experience or given much thought to this until a friend of mine, (2 boys, 5 and 3) mentioned to her boys that no they could not play with water guns at their house after having played with them at my place – I thought it was harmless fun on a summer day. They aren't allowed to have any weapon play at all (not even pretend swords). Although I do respect her decisions, I don't agree. (this isn't an issue in our friendship)

    I like a lot of things that have been said here. It has been mentioned several times about boys taking sticks or their fingers to pretend they have a gun – that sort of thing is a natural part of being a boy. Boys have the instinct to defend or fight for what's important – it is important that we allow this to develope as they become men, not to stifle it! I do want to teach my kids proper respect and rules about guns. Both my and my husband's parents have guns in the house – for hunting, this is something that my husband wants to pass on at the age appropriate time. What do I do now with my son (4yr)? What a lot of you are doing, no pointing at people, no inappropriate 'killing/shooting' talk – that sort of thing.

  24. I don't have any boys yet only girls but I always thought toy guns were a terrible idea. However my husband is a huge star wars fan and my daughter is following in his footsteps. She has light sabers. They play fight with them. I guess I can't say one weapon is ok and another is not. I think whats most important is what you teach them and what images they see.

  25. I guess I am wondering why we would let our kids have guns and then instill in them that it is not right to shoot people because after all (other than hunting) isn't that what guns are for? I mean I want my sons to know that guns are for protection, I don't want them to be afraid to raise a gun to someone if they had to to protect themsleves or someone else. Under no circumstances would I ever want them shooting out of anger or hatred, it seems like such a fine line or hard thing for a small child to know. That is why I think it unwise to let toddlers or preschoolers play with them but think it would be perfectly appropriate for older children to learn how to use one.

    Also I would welcome my son going to a firing range with a responsible adult. I want him to have a respect for guns and I feel that at 4 years old he cannot have that proper respect yet, of course that age would be different with each child and thier exposure to guns.I will soon be able to sit and talk with him about it seriously and perhaps when he can know, understand and respect the weapon then he would be allowed to play with it properly.

    Currently he is intriuged with police officers and soldiers and know that they are very brave and protect other people, I think that is a very healthy start.

    I cannot think of any shows or movies we have let the kids watch that have guns in them and it really wasn't that long ago that they first asked me what a a gun was when they saw one, sadly I cannot remember the context of which they saw it.

    SO I am not against letting children play with guns as long as they are able to see the balance and understand the serious damage that guns can do/have done.

  26. We let our children play with toy guns, but we do have rules – basically, rules of respect.

    They can't shoot Mama. Especially if Mom is telling them to do their chores or something.

    They can only shoot people who are playing the game with them. i.e., they can't start shooting at Sister who is trying to color and bug her to death.

    And any shooting behaviors that I think are bad, I talk to them about.

  27. Being a military family and married to a gun nut (he worked at a gun store when I met him, proposed to me on the shootig range and made me shoot a target for my ring), guns are a big part of our life. We shoot together as a family and our kids 2 girls and a boy all play with toy guns. Our son is disabled but he still loves his guns. His favorite thing to do is to go shooting with daddy. My favorite picture of him he is all bundld up with his ear protection on and sound asleep. Gunshots are like a lullaby to him. Takes after dad. I think you can teach your children to respect guns and to know what is appropriate behavior. Each of our children knows they are not to ever touch a gun without an adult saying it is okay and standing right next to them. It is a parents responsability to teach a child to respect the gun after all guns don't kill people people do.

  28. This is a thought provoking topic. One that I haven't thought much about really, to be honest…yet.

    I don't imagine I'll let Caleb play with toy guns, as in the look-alike toy guns that look like a M16 or AK47, rocket-launcher, bazooka, whatever…

    But, I think that squirt guns are on a totally different level. I grew up with squirt guns and super soakers and they were all in good fun and it seemed more light play that went along with running threw the sprinkler on a hot summer day.

    But, as for the hard metal toy guns or the cap guns that make load noises, absolutely not. Anything that resembles a real life gun to me is just plain scary. 🙂

    We'll see about the water play guns, maybe…maybe not?

  29. This is a very good topic to discuss and I sat here and read all the comments!

    There was little guy, 2 years old, here in our area that was in a home that had guns. There were adults in another room and this child in the room with guns. He shot and killed himself because these guns were not locked up and he wasnt being watched.

    I personally hate guns. Water, play you name it I hate it! I do not have children yet. However, I already have my mind made up. No guns in our house. For some families they may be ok. I think as long as there's parental control with it. Kids need to be told that guns are not for play and that they are dangerous and should not ever been pointed at anyone ever.
    I've often thought about how we will handle this situation if it were to come up when we have kids. Which, I'm sure it will.

    Parental guidence and control with everything is key.

  30. When I first read your title, I thought “guns aren't just for boys!!” DH and I have some sweet Nerf guns, and DD gets a huge kick out of us playing with them.
    Then I was reading along in the comments, and came across the idea of letting your kids play with play guns, but not aim at people. “What a great idea!” I thought. Then I thought about it some MORE and realized that DH and I shoot at each other with DD around and have a blast.
    I just finished talking about this with DH, and we agree that play guns and such are fine for our kids, and when they're old enough, we'll make sure and instill in them a healthy respect. We don't want them to be terrified of them, but we don't want them to take them too lightly, either. And I like the idea of making sure there is an adult around when a real gun is present.
    All that being said, I think this is one of those decisions that every family makes on its own, and we should respect each other's decision.

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