"Gun" (stick) play at preschool - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 41 Old 09-28-2010, 03:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm checking with other moms to see if I am over-reacting. My son just moved up to the next class (3-5YO) at his preschool, which I've generally been happy with. There has been a lot of turn-over recently. The school has lots of outside time and has a playyard that is over an acre. The Frog class plays at "toad mountain" daily. I went to pick him up at the toad mountain play yard and I spent about 5 minutes playing with my son and interacting with some of the other children.

While I was getting my son ready to leave, I noticed 3 other boys with sticks in their hands, imitating guns and making shooting noises. The teacher (who is very new) was intervening with another situation and didn't see what was going on. There was really no reason for concern, all the boys were activly playing with each other, except that the play was imitating violence.

would you be concerned? This is not something I want my child to learn or play. Would you address it with the teacher or with the director?
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#2 of 41 Old 09-28-2010, 03:55 PM
 
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I wouldn't be concerned at all. It's totally natural, normal play that kids have been playing for ages.

And, while they're playing guns, they don't at all get the meaning behind it that adults see. In their world, they're just playing. Maybe they saw an old Western on TV, maybe they read a book about cowboys - who knows.... but, it's just play. No one is getting hurt so I wouldn't give it a second thought.
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#3 of 41 Old 09-28-2010, 10:37 PM
 
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ITA with the pp. totally normal, totally harmless. There's a big long thread about gun play that was very fascinating to me (though it went into a big long discussion about gun culture), I'll see if I can link to it...

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#4 of 41 Old 09-28-2010, 10:41 PM
 
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Here it is.

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#5 of 41 Old 09-28-2010, 11:07 PM
 
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I wouldnt like it. I HATE gun 'play' b/c to me, guns are not toys and its not something to 'play'
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#6 of 41 Old 09-28-2010, 11:12 PM
 
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If the kids were playing with actual toy guns supplied by the preschool, I would be concerned. Kids picking up sticks to play gun is just a normal thing that most boys do. Just play.
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#7 of 41 Old 09-28-2010, 11:15 PM
 
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I am deeply ambivalent about sticks-as-guns play, but I don't intervene unless someone is being hurt. It is normal, developmentally appropriate and almost impossible to stop.

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#8 of 41 Old 09-28-2010, 11:47 PM
 
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When I was a preschool teacher, the rule about gun play was that children couldn't bring toy guns to school and the school did not supply them, but the children could build guns out of art materials, or legos etc or pretend other objects were guns, and they were allowed to play at shooting as long as the other children were willing participants. We taught the children to ask, "do you want to play a shooting game?" before they started pretending to shoot. Since gun play can be scary for some children we felt is was important to respect their need not to be "shot" at, but we also felt that children should be allowed to participate in gun play if that's what they wanted.

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#9 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 12:21 AM
 
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I felt pretty uncomfortable when I was in a similar situation when my son was 4 in a preschool. I felt like if the kids are imitating guns and violence they should be aware of what the real world effects and consequences are, and that it should be discussed- not just "boys will be boys" perspective. This lead to me having a lot of discussions with my son about gun violence so he was entirely clear of my viewpoint. I expressed how much pain and sadness that gun violence brings to many families and that there are a lot of interesting things that grown ups do, but hurting and killing each other with guns is one of the least interesting and most destructive. He is very clear about how my husband and I feel and that gave him good foundation to judge whether he wanted to take part or not. We told him it was his choice. If he chose to play along, I remained neutral and did not make him feel ashamed but felt better that we had discussed the context of guns in the real world.
As he got older, lego guns made it into our home and he play acts with them a little but most of the time when he is playing with other kids, they do not do shooting games towards each other, but sometimes do.
It's definitely something that doesn't go away, and you may want to discuss with your ds directly when you are comfortable. My ds had a lot of questions so I am glad that I discussed it openly and honestly with him. In my life, I have been witness to a lot of senseless violence so I have a hard time just seeing it as completely harmless. I know of course that they are not being violent but felt that ds should have the chance to talk openly and ask questions. Kids get desensitized to violence pretty easily in this society. I realize that I am in the minority of parents' viewpoints on this issue. Follow your gut instinct.

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#10 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 12:45 AM
 
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We do two things: we say "Oh, is that a water gun? Don't get me wet, don't get me wet!" (taking the violence out of the game) and then we also have conversations with our daughters about "What is a gun/why do people have guns? What would you do if you saw a gun/a friend showed you a gun/you heard something you thought was a gunshot?" Education is going to get the reaction you want ("Oh I don't play with guns, guns can hurt people, they are not funny"), where sheltering/shaming is going to make them realllllllly interested in them. Maybe use this as an opportunity to ask your child about the game, if they've noticed it, if they think it is a fun game. If it is fun, ask why, and then once you know WHY it's a fun game, think of different games they could play that would be fun in the same way. Give him tools, so he can react in a way that lives up to your ideals.

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#11 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 01:31 AM
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I personally wouldn't be concerned. But then again, my five-year-old is currently watching "The World At War".
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#12 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 02:28 AM
 
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I'm mixed up on the issue too. No one has toy guns at our preschool so that is really good. Kids do though pretend to shoot guns. I explained to my son that guns are not for pointing at people and a long time ago, a bad man pointed a gun at mommy so i am very afraid of guns and I do not want him to ever point a gun, even a pretend gun, at me. And that if he's playing with his friends, it's ok, but if someone says they don't like it, he needs to say okay and not play that way anymore if someone else doesn't like it.

one of my closest mom-friends in the class though...we were at her house for a play date and there were enough toy guns in the house for all seven children to have one of their own (including my 2 year old daughter) I knew I could not segregate my kids from the play but when most of the kids stopped the gun chasing, I took the gun from my 2 year old when she was last one playing with it. I told her we were done with this toy and let's find something else to do.

Not really interested in more playdates at their house at least with the combination of the kids that were there. i think we'll stick to the park where toys aren't generally brought.
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#13 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 12:24 PM
 
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There is a Mothering article about this:

http://mothering.com/parenting/bang-bang-youre-dead

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#14 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 12:38 PM
 
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My boys are 3.5 and 5.75. It took me a while to get to the point where I'm not horrified at the sticks-as-guns thing, as it seems it's something kids start to do, no matter what or who they've been exposed to! But I still don't like it. At ds2's new preschool (his first year at preschool) where they start the day with an hour of outside play, I'm actually pleased to see that the teacher asks kids to put down their sticks. She tries to keep a peaceful, comfortable atmosphere for all the kids, and it's a 3-5 class, so although the 5 year olds may be "ready" for that kind of pretending, I agree that I'd want to protect a 3yo from it.
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#15 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 02:02 PM
 
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My first question would be whether or not the school has a rule or policy around gun play. That would inform some of the discussion and thought about the incident.

DS's school has a no-gun play rule. It is based on the families wanting that and also living in a city with a very high gun violence rate. However, one kid brought the idea of "hunting" to school which seems to be "allowed" somewhat although one teacher had a talk with the kids about "hunting" with cameras instead.

The same teacher will often make a "machine" that the kids put their guns into and it turns them into something else (one day it was peaches, and ds kept telling me about "a machine that makes guns into peaches at circle time!" it took me a couple of days to deduce what was going on!)

The teachers usually have a discussion with kids who want to play guns about how guns hurt people, that many people are scared of guns, that the teachers don't like hearing about it, that some kids feel uncomfortable/unsafe and so it isn't something we play at school.
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#16 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 02:10 PM
 
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Originally Posted by SeekingJoy View Post
I am deeply ambivalent about sticks-as-guns play, but I don't intervene unless someone is being hurt. It is normal, developmentally appropriate and almost impossible to stop.
Ditto.
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#17 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 03:50 PM
 
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It wouldn't bother me, and I personally wouldn't be happy with a preschool that tried to control kids' creative play.
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#18 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 03:58 PM
 
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You know, the thing is, I don't think all kids are pretending to shoot bullets and injure/kill other kids. I have listened to my ds and other kids playing these types of games with sticks or their fingers or whatever, and it's almost always been shooting freeze rays, or ice, or fire or webs even (i.e. spiderman). Also they usually shoot at invisible bad guys,which are made up monsters or creatures. not usually each other.

So though it may make you squirm to see it, I don't think it's going to lead to any violent behaviour as youths or adults, it's purely imaginative and actually a good way for kids to act out any aggression. My kids do a lot of things in play that I know they won't do as adults (like carry dolls around by their hair, crash cars, build houses out of blocks and smash them etc).

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#19 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 04:02 PM
 
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It wouldn't bother me, and I personally wouldn't be happy with a preschool that tried to control kids' creative play.
This.

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#20 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 04:22 PM
 
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It wouldn't bother me, and I personally wouldn't be happy with a preschool that tried to control kids' creative play.
Totally. Play is how kids deal with sticky cultural issues, and guns certainly are a sticky cultural issue.

I live where guns are just a part of life. Subsistence hunting (and fishing, and plant gathering) is a HUGE part of life, so many kids come into preschool with a greater knowledge of firearms than I have . I taught a kindergartner who came in on a Monday with the very exciting news that he had gotten his first MOOSE.

As a result, I saw a LOT of gun play. Pencils became guns, Legos became guns, the math manipulative blocks became guns, ripped pieces of construction paper became guns. I let it happen, but would keep an eye on things. Often, the boys especially, would be acting out hunting scenarios. On the rare occasion they were playing shooting-people games, I'd let that happen, because often kids have seen or heard about things that they need to get out, you know? But I'd try to do a little debrief afterward. With the littlest kids, it was in pretty basic terms... Are real guns toys or tools? What do we use guns for? What would happen if we pointed a real gun at someone? Mostly just to help them process. Bigger kids, I'd get a little more in-depth, discussing different social norms for guns (how we see them used on TV for all sorts of things, but how are they used in THEIR culture, etc.).

I had some really interesting conversations with some really young kids. Proof of the power of play, perhaps. They had some pretty advanced thoughts on the matter.

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#21 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 04:24 PM
 
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I wouldn't be concerned at all. It depends on the kids. There is always those few kids who take it too far and someone gets hurt.

But, the actual gun play, I'd ignore. Kids will make guns out of anything. Legos, sticks, sandwiches.

I'd be worried if the preschool bought toy guns for all the kids. But, I wouldn't be overly worried.
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#22 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 04:35 PM
 
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It wouldn't bother me, and I personally wouldn't be happy with a preschool that tried to control kids' creative play.

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#23 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 05:04 PM
 
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I am a Montessori teacher and worked in preschool for 10 years. I agree with not limiting children's creative play. I also feel strongly protective about other children who are frightened when they are unwillingly the target of the shooting. Since it is very hard to monitor who is shooting whom, I have always followed the rule that there is no shooting at real people. Dragons, dinosaurs, imaginary bad guys are all fair game. I would say this worked fairly well.

I have also been at a school that had a strict "no guns" policy. I had to follow this, so I would tell my class that guns are for hunting (we lived for several years in Alaska where I taught and many folks subsistence hunted), for those people who need to hunt for food; and that they are not for people. I would tell them that if they want to play games like that they can use swords, rockets and the like. It seems this was ok, "guns" just made the adults very uncomfortable. I tried to give the children an outlet, because they had the instinct for this type of play--boys and girls--as so many children do.

There were very mixed reactions from parents. Some respected my stance that kids will play these games regardless of what we tell them, so let us give them an outlet that is safe for all. Some parents were appalled that I "let them" play "killing" games. I explained that if it is forbidden they still do it, they just hide it. One parent told me she disagreed because at home her kids would take something like that too far. I don't know what the difference was...at school they used the outlet I gave and had fun with it, but they stayed within my rules.

This certainly is a sticky situation. I can only say that while I respect and and am deeply saddened that we live in a society with rampant gun violence, it is true that many, many children do this type of play and go on to live peaceful lives free of gun violence. I highly recommend the insightful Mothering article linked earlier title "Bang Bang, Your Dead".
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#24 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 05:24 PM
 
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I have yet to work at a daycare that doesn't have a policy against pretending to play with weapons or kill other people so I don't think it is a cause for concern. You should check to see what the policy is so you know what is going on with the center though just in case.
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#25 of 41 Old 09-29-2010, 11:09 PM
 
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I would not be concerned, nor would I address it with the preschool staff. Pretend gun play is a totally normal thing for kids to do.

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#26 of 41 Old 09-30-2010, 03:46 PM
 
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I don't see what the big deal is. Where do you draw the line on what is ok pretend play and what isn't? Are guns off limits but swords ok? Bows and arrows? As long as no child is physically or emotionally being harmed I don't see the harm in pretending a stick is a weapon.

I had a really realistic looking machine gun growing up, it even made machine gun noises, I absolutely loved it. I also took a fencing class when I was younger. As an adult I've never held a real gun, never had the urge to kill or stab anyone. I'm about as peace loving as they come.
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#27 of 41 Old 10-01-2010, 11:30 PM
 
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It wouldn't have occurred to me to be bothered by other kids' gun play. My ds is as non-violent as they come (has never hit anyone or acted in an aggressive manner) and he loves pretending to shoot guns (the guns are usually sticks or bark). He knows that he can't pretend to kill me or his dad while we play, and that real guns are very dangerous. He "shoots" lasers, water, or paint. Actually, if ds and his friends all decided that they wanted to pretend to shoot and kill each other for real, I wouldn't stop that either. I just see it as play, not some demented desire to actually KILL other people, or training each other to be future murderers.

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#28 of 41 Old 10-01-2010, 11:36 PM
 
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Our preschool, which is very free and easy in most respects, has a no weapon policy. The reasoning is that although it is totally normal and healthy for kids to engage in this sort of play, other children can feel intimidated and frightened by it, so it is not friendly play for in the preschool setting. The kids learn the rule pretty quickly, although at first some of them sometimes forget, but are gently redirected and helped to adapt their play. After a while, they become very skilled at finding ways of playing superhero type play minus the aggression and gun aspects.

Personally, I liked the rule as two of my children were frightened and intimidated by groups of kids engaged in that sort of play, and would avoid some areas of a park or playground if they knew it was going on. For a couple of hours a day, I don't think it hurts children to learn to adapt their play to accomodate other people's needs and feelings.

If my kids engage in that sort of play at home or with friends who like it, that's fine. But in some social situations, it is not appropriate and I am happy that they learned that fact through preschool.

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#29 of 41 Old 10-01-2010, 11:38 PM
 
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my son was at a preschool last year that claimed to prohibit gun play, but didn't. He was at a particularly sensitive point, and was very very scared of the play on the playground. I allow him to play with pretend-guns at home or in our backyard where he has more control over the situation, but we don't allow it at the park or around other children. And, the preschool he is now attending does not allow it. I realize it is normal and not a dangerous thing in and of itself, but there are a lot of normal things that are not allowed in certain circumstances, and I want my son to learn the respectful boundary of "we don't do things that might frighten other people in a public place."
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#30 of 41 Old 10-02-2010, 09:52 AM
 
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My dad is a nonviolent man who played war, cowboys and indians, play hunting, and cops and robbers in the 1950s.

My husband is the same.

Play shooting to small kids is not the same as wanting to actually shoot a person in real life (Edited to add: please see my clarification/qualification below in post #32) . In kids games, they shoot you and you die and then you get back up and play again. It's all pretend. Sure it's not a pretty pretend, but it's working out the complex dance of aggression and right and wrong and where they fit in the world around them. My general feeling is that everyone clears the rules of the game with everyone and everyone participating is willing, then let it be. What is NOT OK is involving people who do not want to be involved, or pretendign to involve random strangers not in the group of people playing. I used to have an "only shoot at pretend monsters/scary pretend creatures" rule, but found that in some situations my son and his friend wanted to be on the same team doing that, but sometimes they just wanted to shoot each other and pretend to die and then get back up and let the other have a turn. One time when I got a little upset at one of the things they were doing, one of the first times they were doing it, my son said, "sheesh mom, it's not real, we're not really shooting each other - it's just pretend like the other stuff we do." We ahve had numerous conversations about pretend vs reality, and books and tv and how what happens in those things often couldn't happen in real life, and about actual guns and what they are for and what they do. And this kind of pretend play where one is a storm trooper and the other is a rebel has NOTHING to do with that.

I dunno. I still have mixed feelings about it - However, I am NOT worried that my 6 yo son playing games like this at this age, the way he plays them, means that he's going to be indifferent to people being killed as a teen or adult. Kids have been playing at violence since there were kids in social groups to begin with. So long as there's accompanying, non guilting/shaming conversations about reality vs pretend, and about real safety against actual violence against living people and animals, I don't see a problem with pretend play of this sort so long as all players are in agreement...and I further see how preventing this play entirely could backfire in a forbidden fruit kind of way. And FWIW, I see little different between being dead from a sword and being dead from a gun. Dead is dead. One requires more skill and proximity than the other, but the end result is the same.

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