I made up a new game for my kids that is now one of their very favorites. My son, not quite 2, all of a sudden started playing “guns” with anything he could carry – sticks, trucks, blocks, water toys, etc. He’s never seen a gun and as far as I know no one has ever taught him to play like that. I think it’s ingrained in boy DNA to do that, just like I think girl DNA contains an affinity toward pink when they’re so little (we tried everything to get her to like blue instead).
Due to this automatic gun-play, we’ve always told him not to shoot at people and instead direct him to objects. He’s always done pretty well about that. However, when he gets bored he also gets a bit destructive and just looks for things to get into. Is it the same with all little boys?
We were inside for a few days straight due to weather not so long ago, and poor little buddy was having a hard time not getting into trouble, so I made up this game & told them the rules.
- I gathered ALL their animal toys (stuffed animals, plastic animals, dinosaurs, My Little Ponies, etc – all sizes from tiny 1″ ones to giant 3′ tall ones). We counted them all to make sure we knew how many we had.
- I then told them to sit on the couch and not move until I was back. I hid the animals all over the house – some in very obvious locations, others hiding totally out of sight.
- The instruction for the game went like this: We don’t shoot people and we don’t shoot animals that we aren’t going to eat. We need to make sure we use everything we get because we don’t want to waste anything. When I say go, you are going hunting – that means you need to be quiet but be ready to shoot animals that you want to eat.
At “Go!” they both eagerly ran room to room in order to kill the animals. As they killed them they had to collect them, they couldn’t leave them where they were shot. They had so much fun “hunting” and decided we were going to have a feast because they shot all but one animal – they didn’t want to eat one of the Care Bears because “she’s nice!”
They collected all the animals on Sweets’ bed, when they were done I heard her say, “Don’t waste any! We have to eat them up!” So she and Iain began “chopping” up the animals so we could cook them. It was slightly more imaginative that I thought it would be!
If my boy is all about playing “guns” even if it’s not an actual toy gun, I need to start teaching him the proper way to play and that means not pointing it at people, not shooting people, and if he shoots anything he needs to be prepared to eat it or use it completely.
In other words, I’m teaching them gun safety before they ever even see a gun. I’m teaching them responsibility in play so that they aren’t confused should they encounter the real thing.
We have friends who have guns, I would like to get a gun someday for my own home for protection, but I also want my kids to know that they need to respect guns and the power of the object – that it can bring devastating harm. Guns are objects used to harm others, but the cause of the harm is how the object is handled – the people behind the trigger need to be safe, smart & responsible. I want to teach my kids well in regard to gun safety.
At 1 & 3 years old, that means teaching through play but it’s at least getting us talking about it so that when they get a little older, there’s a foundation of awareness when we start telling them to never touch a gun without a parent, don’t touch it if it’s not locked up (at friends’ houses), etc. I see too many headlines like this one and I want to ensure that my kids know how to stay safe – even at other people’s houses.