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Gun Play Amongst Boys


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Hello all,

 

Just wondered what people's thoughts were on gun play in nursery... I do not allow my boys to play guns or to make them out of lego or anything else they get their hands on. My son has come home from nursery today and told us that he has been playing "power gunnies" outside with the lego and went into great detail about how they played it and what the guns did "They squash them. And they can't get up. And they're dead"

 

I'm not sure i want my 3 year old playing games that involve killing people and i intend to take it up with his nursery staff....

 

What do others think?

 

Thanks,

 

Tink! :D x

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I have to be honest, we do allow gun play - but within a controlled enviroment and we do have set rules.

Children playing cannot go around randomly 'shooting at ' just anyone,......only the other children directly involved in the game. We try and take time to talk about what and why they are playing to help us understand the context of their play.

We also try and direct the play if possible...we might set up a target practice- getting children to write down scores etc.

In the past we've tried banning but they always find ways around it.

 

I would talk to your setting, but listen to their side too.

 

xx

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We had this discussion today. First of all I don't think 3 and 4 year olds understand what dead is, I think understand that someone is sleeping when they are dead.

 

As a mother I did not like my children playing with guns, and as a woman I find them frightening but now as an early years practitioner with the benefit of experience, and reading around the issue, I see it as an opportunity to talk to children about issues surrounding guns. It is very difficult to stop children, they will make them out of anything. And what about the child who's parent is a soldier, can we say it is wrong to shoot people?

 

If you do a forum search you will find several topics on gun play and weapons, have a read and see what you think.

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I have never had a problem with it for my own boys or for any children at playgroup. I see gun play as a normal type of play for most children, I played it with all the other kids around our area, the last time I think I was 14 and we crawled through the long grass with sticks as guns...!!!

Gun play is usually joined with lots of volabulary, team work, leadership and decision making "you do this 'cause I'm hurt", "now I do that cause your guns broke", "now lets go there and hide"...There is usually very little violence attached to this kind of play, its more actions with a running narriative on what they are doing and why.

The only rules I had were only children who wanted to play could be shot at and they werent to mess up anyone elses games/activities along the way.

I looked for anything that backed up this constant banning of gun play but found nothing. All I found came from America and surprisingly what I read backed up gun play.

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I am also in the "you just can't stop it, so let's try to manage it" camp. At my setting, we actively discourage children from building guns from lego etc, but find that instead they'll contunue their play with any item (spoon, chopstick, fingers etc.) We are very vigilant when it comes to any form of "agressive" play, and do ask children to think about their vocabulary. That said that's all at the setting.....

 

..as a parent I was adament that my son would not play with guns and for years and years held a tough line on this one. However, eventually I just went with it, and he is now allowed guns, military clothing etc. For him, this is just immaginative play that interests him. Do little girls that dress up as nurses have a more caring side in later life than those who don't? Do children who dress up in princess costumes really end up with "princess" attitudes (or kiss frogs) in later life? Do boys who dress up as firemen become firefighters (or indeed pyromaniacs)?

 

I do understand your concerns, but I have to say that I think immaginative play is really important for boys, and often, this is their preferred medium for that play. Do ask at the setting how they handle agressive play, and speak to your child about the language that is being used and how he feels about it, and if you still feel strongly , invite him to channel his play into other role play secenarios such as heros, firefighters etc. However, be prepared to work very hard to dissuade your child from this sort of play. If you manage it, hat's off to you. I did try, but failed.

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If you tell me not to do it, that is good enough reason for me to want to do it...... :o

 

Gun play is an important part of fantasy play, there has been extensive research into this type of play and some excellent books written on the subject.

 

http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/news/latest-new...th-toy-guns.cfm

 

If we have this sort of play in my setting it tends towards hero play and we support and extend the children's learning whilst monitoring carefully the aggression........

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I believe we should value all types of play, gun play included so long as it is not violent, stereotypical, racist etc. and then of course we should intervene. It's really common in preschool because 3-4years is often an age when children begin grappling with concepts such as life/death, good/bad, right/wrong, fair/not fair, powerful and powerless. Gun play is one way for children to assimilate their understanding of such huge and emotive issues.

A couple of years ago I had a group of boys for whom this was really important - my own son included, I was just beginning to embrace child led play and valuing children's interests and it felt wrong for me as an adult to impose which interests it was ok to value and which it wasn't. I had to question myself why it felt easier for me to value another child's interest in caring for animals/making homes for them than it did to join in with a battle. I had one parent who had very strong views that she did not want her child to engage in any sort of rough play/gun play/superhero play as she felt it was inherently violent so I held a parents discussion evening around the issue of play and gender and from this wrote a policy which clearly set out my beliefs and values but took on board this parents reservations by clearly stating how the play would be managed to keep all children safe both physically and emotionally.

It must be really hard for you to know that your son has been allowed to access things that don't fit with your views so I empathise even though I don't agree with your viewpoint.

Maybe you should speak to his nursery and find out what their policy is on gun play - and if they don't have one, why not?

Find out how it is supported so that children learn from the experience, if adults play alongside boys can really develop their imagination and language - in my sons nursery reluctant mark makers drew the most fantastic representations of their weapons whilst a member of staff scribed all the intricate details of how it worked. In my group of boys their weapons rarely "killed" each other but made you invisible or splatted you with tomatoes or got rid of your powers etc., I didn't have a gun when I played alongside but a magic staff

sorry I'm rambling now so will stop

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Thank you for all your comments. Much appreciated. I reckon i will have to look at the research for myself. I do understand the whole role play / imagination for boys but i also worry.

 

The boys in my nursery generally just go round shooting each other with no conversation - obviously something i need to work on but at the moment we do not allow it in our school... possibly partly because of the area i teach in... hmmm.... food for thought i guess... Still dont really want my little boy thinking he can go round 'shooting' people and it be ok... My partner feels the same. Maybe we are being too protectvive, i dunno... it was just when i asked him what happened to the naughty people that he was shooting and he said they were dead i was quite shocked!

 

Grrrr...

 

Thanks!

 

Tink! :D x

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Just been reading this post from a while ago

 

http://www.foundation-stage.info/forums/in...11179&st=15

 

and it has made me feel better about my thoughts on gun play... I started to feel like i was stifling the children a bit but actually i dont think i am. I know for a fact that the boys who play guns in my nursery are at home on their play stations at home at 3yrs old (i personally think is wrong) more than likely playing violent games. I also think that if he was not at nursery, my little boy would not know what a gun is because he is not exposed to that kind of thing at home and he is just trying to fit in with the other boys who obviously have been exposed at home.. which i also think is wrong for such young children. There are plenty of other ways to explore the feelings of wrong and right, good and bad, fair and not fair. As for the child who's father is a solider... there are loads more aspects to the job which would be good to role play for boys that dont involve guns or violence... soldiers dont use guns that often anyway, do we then allow them to role play using bombs? All stuff to think about... i now know what i will be doing over half term!! Hee hee!

 

Thanks again,

 

Tink! :D x

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I do agree we have responsibility to protect our youngest children from exposure to unsuitable themes but where this has already happened in home environments you can't just ban them from acting that out - it then becomes our responsibility to work alongside them and add different perspectives to the way they play.

The child I looked after who was always the instigator of this sort of play didn't even have access to a television let alone computer games. His interest came from the "olden days" and stories of knights and castles and battles - he learnt so much about history and time by playing alongside and extending his interest through visits, stories etc. SO I think it's a little dangerous to assume that it is always telly that provides the source of gun play.

What about fairy tales - they are a huge source of violent ideas for young children.

We are all afraid of influences on our children but I can't help but feel that its more about meeting a need in themselves than trying to fit in. Children play in a way that meets a need and I think children engage in gun play - in the same way that certain children explore within different schemas - to come to a greater understanding of a concept. And yes, there are many more 'respectable' ways to come to an understanding of right/wrong, good/evil etc but who are we to tell children that their chosen methods of exploration are wrong or unacceptable.

I think this is avery emotive subject and one in which there is plenty of disagreement. I hope i have managed to get my views across in a way that is respectful of yours - I certainly intended to but I do feel very strongly about this issue.

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Of course it is respectful. I don't expect everyone to agree with my thoughts. Which is what this is for me, a way of rambling my thoughts! Which at the moment are a bit muddled anyway as i am trying to work out what i believe to be right, as parent and a teacher.

 

As teachers we have a moral obligation towards the children we teach. First off, if these children are being exposed to this kind of thing is it not our responsibility to ensure that they know that killing people is wrong? Therefore in the role play, would we not need to make sure there was a policeman to arrest those who were "shooting" other children, stopping them from doing it because they would have to be pt in prison for a crime?!

 

Also some parents will be dead against it and will not agree with other children playing gun games whilst their child is in the same classroom, if they have chosen not to expose their child to guns at all. They will not want their child seeing others playing these games so we have an obligation there as well.

 

Then there is the worry of those children who are allowed to play guns and misunderstand, get hold of their big brothers gun at home and shoot them in the eye because they think they are still just playing...

 

Still thinking!

 

Tink! :D x

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If you tell me not to do it, that is good enough reason for me to want to do it...... :o

 

Gun play is an important part of fantasy play, there has been extensive research into this type of play and some excellent books written on the subject.

 

http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/news/latest-new...th-toy-guns.cfm

 

If we have this sort of play in my setting it tends towards hero play and we support and extend the children's learning whilst monitoring carefully the aggression........

 

Just read the article... I think some people are confusing the banning of guns with the banning of role play...

 

It's fine to role play pirates and soldiers etc, of course it is! Thats part of being a little boy... but i don't think we should be actively encouraging children to pretend to kill each other with guns!

 

Tink! :D x

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I just wanted to add to this topic a thought......

 

We need to be careful that we are not putting our adult perspective of what we know of as guns, killing, death....

 

But that we understand and empathise that the children are exploring their concept/schema/understanding of what this means.....

 

For some children guns are an everyday part of life.....that is a reality of their lives.

 

Gosh, not sure if my thought process is coming across or not..... :o

 

I don't think anyone on here is advocating actively encouraging children to shoot each other with guns but perhaps some sensitive guidance into a more constructive play scenario is called for. Of course that could be another whole can of worms....

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I think that young children are not old enough to understand the nuances of killing, death, war etc... and i believe it is wrong to teach them that it is a black and white issue of goodies and baddies.

 

And for those children who have guns as part of their everyday life, surely it is them who need more special attention, care, consideration and sensitivity around this issue if they are seeing this kind of thing everyday, thinking it is ok because they see it everyday, when it is not ok, and it is not right?

 

Tink! :D x

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There's a lot to thrash out I suppose - and I must admit I do not live in an area where a child is likely to find a gun under their brothers bed!!

I think we both agree on our moral responsibilty but I think when a child pretends to shoot you it's exactly that - pretend, they don't wish you dead and are not breaking the law, it's a game. all they want is for an adult to join in the fun, the look of joy and surprise on my little boys faces when I pretended to fall down dead after another boy shot me with a "peoow, peoow". They all came rushing over to see who had the magic potion that would wake me. One little boy always wanted me to be the princess that needed rescuing so I worked hard to turn that on it's head by being a very clever and cunning princess who didnt want to be rescued by the knight but wanted to trap him and eat him - some people may be horrified by this approach but I believe what I did, by playing alongside at times and following a child's lead but when I judged it appropriate to begin to lead it in a different direction, was to alter some very ingrained stereotypes

 

As for parents responses to it, as i said in my previous post I held a discusion evening - not to change views necessarily but just to give a different perspective. What would we say to a parent who said they did not want their daughter playing in the home corner or with dolls because they don't want to pre define her role as a mother or home maker?

The mother that I described did not even want her son to play pirates becuse they are thieves and it would be giving him a message that there is something heroic about stealing!?!. For a child that is not what playing pirates is about is it?

 

I should have gone to bed a long time ago :oxD

but i'll be interested to hear what others think

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Yup you're right - tons to thrash out and i definitely have food for thought! I just cant seem to get past the whole thing of advocating the killing of others... also with the children being so so little and having no understanding of the real world and the real issues surrounding guns and why they are not just for killing baddies... i know that children a bit older will start to play guns and cowboys blah blah blah but you can hen sit them down and explain these nuances to them a bit better.

 

As i said in a previous post, if we are allowing role play which is role play and play based on experiences where guns are allowed we surely should ensure there is the role of a police officer to come along and allow justice to prevail!

 

Also the issue of the area in which i teach where abuse, violence and drug use is fairly prevalent i just feel that allowing such things to be acted out is not particularly sensitive to those children who are suffering or who are already traumatised by seeing these kinds of things... not that i am suggesting for one minute that my children role play drug use, but you hopefully you know what it is i am trying to say!

 

Bed time for me too - i'll also be interested it what others have to say...

 

Night for now

 

Tink! :D x

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/stoke/content/article...n_feature.shtml

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_west/8280916.stm

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/7710161.stm

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cumbria/8215363.stm

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicest...ire/8264581.stm

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgo...est/6977856.stm

 

Joining in with gun games surely can lead to children not taking it seriously... these were air guns, not even real guns and they still killed... Yes it is obviously a game when they pretend to shoot you, but its a risky game to play i think.

 

Playing pirates is obviously fantasy.... being on a pirate ship wielding a sword is fantasy. And i agree we should allow boys to imagine and create roles that feed their interests but guns are real and they are dangerous. I really think we should not be telling children it is ok to pretend to use them, as pretending to use them could lead to pretending to use a real one some day and having a tragic accident.

 

I just think as teachers we should to distinguish between the harsh realities and fantasy role-play.

 

Bed!

 

Tink! :D x

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I have had a conversation with my three year olds - one of whom said " My Mummy doesn't like guns", I told them I didn't like real guns because they are used to hurt people and animals for real but when we play a game, it's a game and nobody here wants to hurt anybody for real so I am ok with that. Alongside this, obviously, you have to teach children respect for themselves, each other and property.

In the home corner 2 year olds are beinning to use their imagination to make cups of tea, yet they are beginning to understand that real kettles are hot and could burn them

I can't see that role playing gun games is any different - why do we feel it's ok to roleplay swords but not guns, knife crime is much more current in our country than gun crime isn't it?

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I have to say that children will understand how to point and shoot a gun whether they are allowed gun play in an early years setting or not. It is a very simple skill which they will see employed somewhere at some point anyway.

 

If we look at in terms of risky play perhaps our role is to allow the play within certain guidelines (not imposing the play on others, etc) and take opportunities, when they arise, to educate the children about the dangers of real guns and how to keep themselves safe. Then if they do find a gun under a brother's bed they may use the skills we have taught them to make a better decision.

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What a fascinating discussion!

 

A couple of thoughts to add ...

 

To my mind, there's a lot of cultural and gender stuff mixed up in this. Because the vast majority of practitioners are women, we tend to take a feminine view on these things. Personally I don't like Barbie and all that pink dumb girly stuff but my daughter loves it and it's part of the culture she lives in, so that's just life. Similarly I don't particularly like gun play and shooting and stuff, but my children have a friend who loves it and I'm perfectly happy for them to do the whole swords or firing at each other stuff.

 

What I mean by it being a cultural thing - my children have Portuguese family, and over there it is seen as perfectly normal to have guns, go hunting with dogs, etc. etc. They don't go around shooting each other, but guns are seen as more of a day to day thing. It's quite usual for families to have air guns and to teach their children safety around these.

 

In some ways, where we live in a society where there are guns (on TV if not on the streets, depending where you live), perhaps we owe it to children not to just shuffle it under the carpet.

 

I'm not sure I have an answer but I do think we can over intellectualise these things. Children will play fantasy games and I don't think it has some bigger meaning, it's just what you do at this stage in your life. I can remember us playing Blake's Seven as children and forcing our poor younger cousin to play all the victim roles. I don't think it has somehow scarred any of us in later life.

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Tinkalink, I've read the articles and can see why you might be alarmed but I still dont see how they are conected to fantasy play with guns. Honestly, I'm not trying to disrespect your views, I just really dont understand the fears around this, from society as a whole.

 

Obviously you have very strong feelings and anxieties but I truely dont know what they are. My whole life, from a child to a mother and now an aunt, has involved gun play of some sort, shooting, rolling around, shouting, hiding and making up stories. So when I hear its not allowed I really do struggle to understand why. Maybe I've had a sheltered life?

 

I hope if you chat to your little boys nursery they can put your mind at rest a little and be able to challenge his energies into something else but even then, if gun play is allowed he'll be able to hear and see it. I suppose thats where you need to hope the nursery work alongside the children playing so he can hear the adults interventions, suggestions and rules of play. Like I said, I'm not trying to disrespect your views, I totally understand we all have our own opinions on all sorts of matters. xD

 

Dcn..I wasnt horrified by your approach :o

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I think that young children are not old enough to understand the nuances of killing, death, war etc... and i believe it is wrong to teach them that it is a black and white issue of goodies and baddies.

 

And for those children who have guns as part of their everyday life, surely it is them who need more special attention, care, consideration and sensitivity around this issue if they are seeing this kind of thing everyday, thinking it is ok because they see it everyday, when it is not ok, and it is not right?

 

Tink! :D x

 

I believe that is exactly what I was trying to get across - that they are not taking part in these games with an adult perspective that they do not understand killing and death but are role playing with a childs perspective and that is what we must be sensitive of.

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We have had a rash of gun play at our setting in the last few weeks but I had already discussed some of the research with staff at earlier staff meetings and we had come to a sort of consensus between us that we would allow it if it occurred and, like all other games and activities, did not distress or disrupt the play of others. We have let it play out during the last few weeks, explaining our stance to parents as we went along, and it has resulted in some fantastic co-operative play between a group of boys who otherwise would not play together at all. The imagination and involvement demonstrated has been high and they have spontaneously moved the ply into other areas like a starter gun for races outside.

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I just don't think we should be advocating the use of guns. Not when they are so little. I know they will play it out of school, I know some of them will be exposed to it for whatever reason but I just don't think there is a need for us as teachers with moral obligations to say that it is ok to use them. Loads of my kids are exposed to drug use and violence, does that mean we should let them role play that? I'm not saying don't let them role play boy topics but there are other ways of doing this without telling them it's ok to shoot, even if it is pretend. If they want to do it at home that's up to the parents, but as teachers I think we should be teaching them that shooting / killing is wrong.

 

I'm not trying to disrespect anyones views either by they way, just organising and verbalising my own new views as I have never really thought about it properly until now

 

thank you all for joining in in helping me to formulate my opinions by the way!

 

Tink! :D x

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I just don't think we should be advocating the use of guns. Not when they are so little. I know they will play it out of school, I know some of them will be exposed to it for whatever reason but I just don't think there is a need for us as teachers with moral obligations to say that it is ok to use them. Loads of my kids are exposed to drug use and violence, does that mean we should let them role play that? I'm not saying don't let them role play boy topics but there are other ways of doing this without telling them it's ok to shoot, even if it is pretend. If they want to do it at home that's up to the parents, but as teachers I think we should be teaching them that shooting / killing is wrong.

 

I'm not trying to disrespect anyones views either by they way, just organising and verbalising my own new views as I have never really thought about it properly until now

 

thank you all for joining in in helping me to formulate my opinions by the way!

 

Tink! :D x

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I was also quite unhappy about the guns and shooting going on at my Pre-school.... it was continuous with some boys and if they were asked to stop would just do it some other way!

 

So I got out the book 'we don't play with guns here' thinking it would help us with our 'no guns' policy and it made me change my whole view!

 

We have to be careful that we don't suggest that using guns is wrong... what about the child who's dad is fighting in Afghanistan? Is Daddy wrong? We just need to learn to manage it in the correct way - it's just another form of fantasy play, and I agree with an earlier poster - they shouldn't shoot at other children not directly involved in the play!

 

Very intersting topic!

 

We're never going to stop this type of play - I think it's genetically inbred!!

 

One boy at Pre-school was making guns out of the lego and I gave him 'that look' then he shouted to me 'it's not a gun it's a boat' then he whispered to his friend (but I'm going to put a gun on it, it's a fighting submarine!

 

There really is not answer to that!! :o

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Regards role playing drugs and violence:

I've worked in some very tough inner city areas and these realities featured heavily in the home corner role play. When I saw a child shouting at the 'baby' or pretending to have a very aggressive phone call I didn't stay 'stop!' but instead saw it as a great way to start some discussion and therapeutic play work, modeling alternatives.

 

After a heavy morning of gun play I would inform the parents of my plans and then run a circle time session perhaps lying a toy gun in the middle of the circle and using it as a discussion starter. What is it? Is it real? How do you know? What does it do and what can that mean? What should you do if you find one? Also a great opportunity for a child who is confused by what they see at home or on television to talk to an adult outside the family circle.

 

We've all heard stories about the child who rang 999 in an emergency because they had done some talking about 'calling the emergency services' at nursery.

 

I think children become exposed to gun play mainly from older brothers and sisters bringing that type of play home from school. You can't fight it I'm afraid.

 

Children of this age have a very poor understanding of 'dead' and I'm afraid I never miss an opportunity to show the children a dead spider, bird, etc.

 

I was walking with my son last week when we found a dead cat. This was the catalyst for a huge amount of talking and seeing a large pet animal lying still like that really helped him to understand the concept. I feel this is so important for when the children have to try and comprehend adults in their life who die.

 

Please don't think I spend my time hunting out dead creatures! I just really believe that talking about things with young children helps enormously. They ask a question, I provide the answer and then wait to see if they ask a slightly deeper question. I don't give them any more information than they ask for and apply the same principles of open discussion to subjects such as periods, sex, cancer, the afterlife, God etc with my 6 year old. It works for us!

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