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Playgroups and Toys

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 
There has recently been some division in our playgroup over toy weapons and I'd like to get some outside opinions. We have a very diverse group of home/unschoolers- some allow gun play, some allow gun play with restrictions, some ban gun play all together. Some children have been bringing toy guns to playgroup and it is making some parents and children very uncomfortable. (I should add that we know it is making some of the children uncomfortable b/c they have expressed their displeasure at being shot in the head with foam darts.) Our group has a message board and it was suggested that toy weapons be left at home for the few hours a week that we meet in order to allow everyone to be comfortable at our gatherings.

I really am not sure I understand what happened after, because now things seem to have gotten out of hand. Definite tension and division has occurred amongst the group. People do not think it is fair to ask that these toys be left home. It was even suggested that the parents that did not like this type of play were "demonizing" the parents and children who did. Is it okay to ask that toy weapons are not brought to playgroup? I realize that not everyone will feel the same, but I guess I'm having trouble with the idea that this group does not seem to want to make an effort to find a "happy medium".

Any thoughts? Ideas? Anyone from the "let them bring guns" camp that can give me a different perspective?
post #2 of 42
Im from the 'lets try to make everyone COMFORTABLE' camp and if family a b and c request no gun/weapons play then the group just doesnt play that game. Its really quite simple.
Its not about stepping on toes, its not about restricting, its about making the group comfortable and standing on the side of caution.
post #3 of 42
We've had this issue in our playgroup and have unofficially adopted a no gun/weapons policy. Mamas who feel strongly will put it in the weekly reminder when they host. The people who aren't on board (and they aren't vocal or offended as far as I can tell) tend to have playdates where the anti-gun people don't attend. So far it's working. I agree, no one should feel uncomfortable, that defeats the wholepoint of playdates!
post #4 of 42
I actually wouldn't bring toy weapons to a playgroup gathering like that, especially one that shoots foam darts(!), but I also don't understand parents who get all worked up over kids playing a game (using nothing more than their body and imagination) which many of those same parents played when they were kids.
So while I do think that leaving toy weapons at home is a reasonable request, both sides need to make an effort if you don't want to end up splitting off into separate groups. I know I'd be very uncomfortable if I had to worry about a parent freaking out if my DS made his hand into a gun shape, so if that would bother people too, perhaps they need to be less uptight about it. If neither side is at one extreme or the other I am sure a solution can be worked out.
post #5 of 42
Where do these play groups take place? (In someone's home? The park? A public indoor space?) I don't have a problem with toy weapons, but if I was visiting the home of someone who didn't want them around, we wouldn't bring them.

If the group meets in a public space though, then I'd think everyone could do what they're comfortable with. Maybe ask the group with weapons to play away from the kids without, and definitely respect those who don't want to be involved in the play.

"...it was suggested that toy weapons be left at home for the few hours a week that we meet in order to allow everyone to be comfortable at our gatherings."

This solution lets the anti-weapon people be comfortable, but not the kids who want to play these games with their friends.

If it was me, I'd probably organize a park day or host a separate playdate at my house where weapons would be okay, if people couldn't come to a conclusion that makes everyone happy.
post #6 of 42
If the only options are "leave the toy weapons home" or "shoot other kids in the head", I'd vote for leaving them home. But I'd try to figure out if it were possible to make up some ground rules so the kids who don't want to be part of toy weapon play don't have to be.

FWIW, I'm not anti-play gun, but I think they need to be used in a way that doesn't upset people around you. Some kids are very very aggressive in their weapon-play. But for other kids, it can be much more lighthearted. I wouldn't be comfortable around really aggressive weapon-play, especially if there were little ones underfoot.

I also agree that if you are meeting in someone's home, the host should have the right to ask people not to bring whatever category of toy they dislike, and that request should be respected.

post #7 of 42
The time we brought squirt guns to parkday, it worked very well to establish the rule that only people holding guns could be shot. I also told everyone to "shoot shirts." That's easy to remember, fun to say, and helps with the natural tendency to aim at heads.

I usually try to discourage ds from bringing guns because the group isn't that tight (I don't know everyone well enough to know their views but it is mostly mainstream) but ds occasionally feels really strongly about bringing something so he does. I just don't like bringing toys unless we have enough to share and it is something that does well in a group, like bubbles.
post #8 of 42
Originally Posted by SagMom View Post

"...it was suggested that toy weapons be left at home for the few hours a week that we meet in order to allow everyone to be comfortable at our gatherings."

This solution lets the anti-weapon people be comfortable, but not the kids who want to play these games with their friends.
That's what I was thinking, too. I was also figuring this is an in-the-home or otherwise small-space gathering of pretty young kids. I agree that at park days and things kids should be able to play the games they enjoy as long as they are respectful of others (such as being careful not to run into people, especially little kids and leave kids who don't want to play alone). It can't only be about those who don't want to have any gun play around their kids ever.
post #9 of 42
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post
The time we brought squirt guns to parkday, it worked very well to establish the rule that only people holding guns could be shot. I also told everyone to "shoot shirts." That's easy to remember, fun to say, and helps with the natural tendency to aim at heads.
Great ground rules, I'll have to remember these.
post #10 of 42
I pretty much dislike gun play. At one point swore I'd never let my son do such play. Then, one day at the park, he saw older kids chasing each other with guns and he was smitten. So, my son has a couple toy guns.

I have thought long and hard about how I feel and why. I think the only reason I really became anti-weapon play, to be honest, is because of all the parents around us who are so adamantly against them. When I read in parenting books like Playful Parenting, though, I am reassured that gun/weapon play is not only harmless, it very well may be beneficial to those children who desire such games. And when I think back fondly to chasing my four brothers with play gun in hand and watching them roll on the floor and writhe in agony when they got "hit," a smile always comes to my face. It is also then that I must admit that none of us turned into violent, weapon-toting people. So, I'm trying to enjoy my son's gun play (it is adorable to watch him hunt down the imaginary bad guy in the back yard with his pop gun and throw the bum in jail!)

So, for the playgroup issue, would it be possible for the parents to pick selected books/readings on the topic and meet to discuss concerns, limits, etc., instead of just banning all gun play? Maybe just even an open discussion where both groups get heard? I tend to agree with the pp, too, who suggested that private homes is different from public meeting spaces.

I'll through one last thought into the mix. What about other toys that could potentially make other parents uncomfortable? Bratz dolls, for instance or other licensed materials/toys that go against a family's comfort level? I know people always say that such comparisons are comparing apples to oranges, but I disagree. Because when we boil it all down to why certain toys are off limits in our homes, I believe the bottom line is because of what we fear it will teach our children. Anti-gun folks fear that such play will teach that violence and harming others is acceptable/fun/to be joked about. Those in the anti-Bratz camp fear it will teach that materialism and phyical appearances (unrealistic ones at that) are the norm/to be aspired to achieve and will result in their children having negative self-images.
post #11 of 42
This seems like an issue that might be better discussed in person than on your group's message board. Could you perhaps suggest a planning meeting (perhaps first an adults-only meeting, and then a meeting with everyone) to look for solutions?

post #12 of 42
At soccer the other day a roup of moms were discussing this very issue. We al agreed that kids will have weapons whether we ban them or not. My son will never own a toy gun while he is under my roof. But he has many "guns". He has sticks that are shaped like guns, he has his fingers, he can usually make lego guns, even a banana will work as a gun. Little boys play with weapons and there is not much we can do about it. While we were discussing the issue, one little boy came running up to his mom to ask her to hold his gun. He had found a stick that almost looked like a real gun. We have set rules for playing with weapons. Guns are not to be pointed at people. You point at the ground or over their heads. Swords don't touch people, they only touch other swords. Light sobers also only touch other light sabers. Other than that I think we have to accept the fact that our children will play with "weapons" that they find or fashion. If I am going to someone's home who I know has a no weapon policy I will tell my son that he can not bring his light saber or sword. They don't allow weapons at their house. But at a park, he brings his light saber or sword on a regular basis. At home they are rarely away from his side. This is hard for me as a pacifist to deal with. But I have to allow him to be a little boy so I deal with his weapons. I do stick to the no gun rule. But I find as long as he has a light saber or a sword, he doesn't really need a gun.

post #13 of 42
Originally Posted by Dar View Post
This seems like an issue that might be better discussed in person than on your group's message board. Could you perhaps suggest a planning meeting (perhaps first an adults-only meeting, and then a meeting with everyone) to look for solutions?


This is something that needs to be discussed in person. I would be careful to ban gun play altogether....I think that gun play has a useful purpose as long as everyone involved is enjoying the play. You mentioned a few of the children have been bothered by the gun play.....how about designating a certain area for the gun play and explaining to the children how it is making the other children feel? Maybe ask the children for input. I think this could be a constructive, learning experience for all involved. Life is all about compromise, finding a middle ground that works for everybody. I think banning guns altogether or allowing them with no guidelines would not respect the needs of everyone in the group. maybe somewhere in the middle is best?

post #14 of 42
I agree with Dar...I have to say that in the groups I've been in, what people tend to do is just stop coming rather than seek to work out something that everyone is comfortable with.

Kudos to your group for an open discussion.
post #15 of 42
We've dealt with this a lot in a few different playgroups.

I think its reasonable to ask people not to bring toy weapons to someone's house.

I think its completely unfair to ask people not to bring toy weapons to the park.

Ground rules is the way to go, as well as asking the parents of the weapon players to be really aware and keeping a close eye out so their children are adhering to the ground rules.

Its like saying "Some people in the playgroup are uncomfortable with meat eating so everyone must leave the meat at home." That's not problem solving, that's one group of people getting what they want.
post #16 of 42
I would go for a compromise in the form of designated "gun okay days" and "no gun days". Split 50/50. Those who really don't want to be around gun play in the group can skip the gun okay days. Those who want gun play can deal with leaving them at home half the time. Toy guns are not appropriate to bring everywhere and it's reasonable to have some gun-free playtimes scheduled.
post #17 of 42
Hmmm...I think it's completely reasonable for kids to go without gun-play for a couple hours a week. I think it's part of teaching them to acknowledge other parents rules and beliefs. I personally don't have a problem with gun play (within reason), but I have friends who don't allow it at all. Their kids aren't allowed to pretend that sticks or bananas are guns. I disagree with their thinking (their son obviously is very interested and I think it'd be better to help direct his play than ban it), but regardless I won't be bringing guns around when we set up playdates. I don't want to make it more difficult for their boys to follow their parents rules. I think as parents we should try to help each other out, rather than deliberately doing things that undermine each other. Just like with snacks...I can't stand it when people deliberately offer my child candy and sweets when I ask them not to. Or when we go to a play group and the other moms all have junk food for their kids - of course, it's totally my responsibility to teach my daughter that she can't always have what the other kids are eating, but wouldn't it be nice if parents could work together so there wouldn't HAVE to be the temptation of junk food every week?
post #18 of 42
There's a wide range of acceptable limits in varying circumstances. It really just depends on the situation.

In a playgroup at someone's house, it should be left up to the host. In a playgroup at the park, ground rules should be established (only shoot shirts, only shoot people who have guns, possibly restricting the locale of gun play). But even with those subdivisions, you can divide it up even more.. my boys have toy guns and swords, and when it's a regular playgroup in my home, I don't mind leaving them out. But if we have an activity planned, I put them away ahead of time because it's harder to get the kids to focus on an activity when they're in the middle of an epic battle. Likewise.. if you're just meeting one person at the park, I'd be more inclined to accomodate them if they were anti-gun, but if it was a large group, I'd do what my kids wanted.

In all situations, though, there has to be an atmosphere of respect and cooperation. Gun play is fine in my book so long as everyone follows the rules and it's all done with a sense of fun.

I do think that outright banning toy weapons is not fair.. restrictions should be set with everyone's rights in mind, not just those who are anti-weapon.
post #19 of 42
This same issue was brought up by our local homeschool group too. I don't attend often but heard about the conflict over what to do. Since I don't attend the group but a handful times of year I didn't voice my opinion but I"ll give you mine here.

I think it is totally reasonable to say no guns/weapons at the playgroup especially if the playgroup only meets once a week. But also in our group in seemed to be not just the no bring guns/weapons but also not play guns/weapons with imaginary gun fingers/sticks etc. To me this part is harder to regulate and stifles normal imaginary play. I would not want the rule of no imaginary gun/war play. But I would be comfortable with letting the kids know not to play this way with kid a and kid b since they don't like it. And the reverse of course if I was the parent not wanting my child to play guns I would tell them my values---"I know other children may be playing this type of game but I don't want you to play that way." Just like I would do if the children wanted to climb trees or some other activity I didn't want them to do. It is my responsibility to tell my children our values or what certain limits they have. And respond to the moments they encounter that may be different than what we believe. That is what is great about homeschooling. If they had been in school on the playground I would not be able to respond to what they see and explain things. So to me being able to be right there and explain things is great because I am not totally shielding them from the world but they can be in the world and I can guide them.

I think it is hard sometimes with these topics since every parent is coming froma different point and their children are different. I have 4 boys (with another boy on the way!) and 1 girl (she was the 5th born). 3 of my boys are boys boys in all ways. My girl is such a girl. During this conflict at our playgroup I thought I would probably would have a different response if she had been my first and only child since she doesn't want to play that way and she is so gentle and kind. (This is not to say girls don't like to play guns or that only boys like to play this and aren't kind and gentle.) I am trying to say is who your children are influence your thoughts. I didn't encourage my boys to play this way, I actually discourage them at times in favor of doing something different but they do play it at times. My daughter just on her own decides not to play that way, I didn't do anything to say don't play that way, it is just how she is.
post #20 of 42
Gun play is only acceptable when the kids can maintain control and if they're shooting people who don't want to play they aren't maintaining control. Actually, speaking as someone who likes to shoot real guns on a range, if they're *pointing* the guns at people who don't want to play with guns they don't have enough control.

Shooting unarmed people, shooting bystanders, those are things the *bad* guys do in movies. If the kids with guns wanted to run around shooting at each other, I'd say go ahead and give them a space to do that as long as it doesn't make another activity impossible. But as soon as anything leaves the area designated for gun play--they have to put the guns away. I'd also put a prohibition on words like "hate" "kill". Let them talk about "scoring" "good shot". Make it about pretending to have paintball guns or laser-tag guns, not about pretending to have real guns.

Ideally, the area would have boxes to duck behind. You could get them so involved in ducking and dodging that they hardly ever fire the guns.

And as a kid we had targets set up on the side of the house, made pretend guns of our fingers exactly once, and used rinsed out cleaning supply spray bottles for spraying water at each other. All the fun of running around trying to hit a moving target with no association that we were using guns to shoot people--guns were for shooting targets only.
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