I have never considered toy guns suitable for young children. So what changed my mind? Check out the events that led to our first family shoot-out day.
How Our Family Bought a Toy Nerf Gun
It was my daughter's much awaited shopping day and Munchkin En, my older girl, can buy something she likes that is within the budget.
After what felt like was a long time, she decided on a "pretend gun" —a Nerf dart-firing blaster. I automatically dissuaded her, but she was pretty firm about her choice and we had a short debate over it.
En: "Is this within budget?"
Me: "Yes, but..."
En: "And you say I can choose right?"
Me: "Yes, but guns are to be handled with care. It is not a suitable toy for young children and we have a toddler at home you know, she won't know be able to tell what is a real gun or pretend gun. If she shoots it around, she may injure herself, break something or hurt someone."
En: "But this is a pretend gun right. We can just be careful and tell her that. She can listen well you know."
That was when it struck me - the manner and words she used to address our disagreements showed that she has matured in her thinking yet again and I had to agree that she was quite right. Toddler L can listen pretty well to instructions and be reasoned with for her age (a 2 year old).
Pretend Guns: A Good Way to Introduce Responsible Shooting Etiquette
The Nerf gun (orange/white with blue darts) did not bear any resemblance to a real gun at all so it seemed like a safe way to introduce responsible shooting etiquette and practice our hand-eye coordination skills.
I reminded myself that every family is different and felt like my family was ready for this (so did my husband). We bought the pretend gun with Munchkin En's understanding that we will play with it another day, after setting some ground rules.
Setting the Rules When Playing With Pretend Guns
On our way back, we discussed and settled for 3 ground rules:-
- Shooting will be a family activity;
- We will only shoot at pre-determined stationary object(s); and
- We will take turns to shoot
We took the opportunity to explain that safety is important in any shooting game, pretend or otherwise. It is important to have adult supervision when children are involved, especially daddies or mommies if young children are around.
Our First Shoot-out Day
One random evening, we decided to have a family shoot-out with the grandparents.
The munchkins gathered around Daddy as he took the pretend gun out of the box. Daddy patiently explained the 'parts of a gun', the darts (bullets) and shared a little bit of his past army days. It warmed my heart that we are sharing this experience together and had a glimpse of (or should I say, hear about) Daddy's military life. We referred the Nerf blaster as 'pretend gun', and the darts as 'bullets' or 'ammo' (in short for ammunition). The target was a plastic toy bottle from the munchkins' toy box.
We told Toddler L that she was not of age to play but she could watch and help pick the ammo up after shooting. I was pleasantly surprised that she understood. In fact, she was most excited when it was her turn to pick up the 'ammo'.
Daddy designated a shooting area and the safe zones (any area not part of the shooting zone) before he demonstrated a shot and emphasized again on the safety rules:-
1) The shooter takes aim only when the shooting area is cleared.
2) Never look into the barrel of the pretend gun or point it at people.
3) Point the pretend gun downwards to the floor when not taking aim or passing it to someone.
4) When someone says "HOLD FIRE", the shooter brings the gun pointing downwards to the floor.
For a good hour, the family took turns to shoot and the grandparents enjoyed themselves thoroughly.
Pretend guns are not just for boys
Then another thought came into my mind: "Shooting games are not just for boys." I was glad my girl insisted on this. We will probably move outdoors after a few more sessions at home. :)