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July 30, 2007


Alicia Reynolds

This article comes as a big relief to me, but also mirrors what I have seen in my life as well. Growing up with all boys and now a mother of two boys, one more to come in November, it seems as though gun play came so naturally to them. My two boy cousins and I would create elaborate make believe stories in which guns were a part of, but more of a side note. I remember at a very early age my twin brothers at age three pretending they had guns with whatever they had, sticks, legos, etc. Now that my son is just turning two, he pretends with the garden hose and has no real idea obviously of what real guns do since I don't believe he has even seen the older kids pretend playing with guns, but at a small age, his need for pointing this gun shaped object seems so necessary to him. His need I think comes from his sense of humor, thinking about squirting someone is hilarious, but even when we went to a yard sale, he gravitated towards squirt guns and cap guns. I'm really trying to not make a big deal out of it, it doesn't seem like one and he's the type of child that likes to do things just because you don't want him to do them. I'm curious to see what others think about this article because as a past teacher in mainstream child development, it is a hot topic, very controversial and the beliefs and ideas of whether this is harmful changes every few years.

donna simmons

Hi Alicia,

Not sure you'll get much of a conversation going here (though one is welcome if it starts!) because most people who want to work with me on parenting and education issues join my discussion forum.... you are most welcome to join us if you like!

The other thing you can go is go to my old yahoo group Waldorf_At_Home and comb through the archives. The group no longer accepts posts (because all my energy is on the forum) but anyone can join it and have access to the archives. And there is a lot of wonderful information in there - there were certainly a number of conversations about sword and gun play.

Have you looked at my earlier blogs in the "play" section or "parenting" section? You might find more there that interests you as well.

Thanks for your comments!


We grew up near a major city often awarded the dubious title of "murder capitol of the USA", the majority of which murders were by gun use. Intentional use of guns aside, the number of accidental gun deaths, especially by children to children, is apalling. In addition, when one considers the metal detectors & security systems used in public schools and other public arenas to protect us from the very real dangers of gun massacres by adults and children (Virginia Tech, Columbine, etc.)I have to heartily disagree with your statement that "violent play (specifically gun play) does not beget violent young men...It does not beget violence."

This is not Halloween candy we're talking about, here. Giving your child a plastic gun is more than a mere childhood indulgence. You are sending a clear message about gun use in a culture saturated with & obsessed by guns. If we are to stem the rising tide of violence in this country, I urge all parents to consider the "gun culture" in which we live and try to raise their young accordingly. My children are aware that guns are dangerous weapons, NEVER TOYS, and we do not encourage play that resolves issues with gun violence.


Donna - I agree with your post for the most part, AND with Torun in part. I would like to offer the following as a way to combine the truths of each.

Research has identified some fairly stable human developmental stages (Kolberg, Piaget, Lovinger, Graves, etc.) One of the stages occurs around ages 4-7 which is when the "fascination" with weapons usually starts. Graves decribes this egocentric stage as "There is a flood of free energy in his system released from considered and continuous attention to maintaining physiological life. At this time, he becomes a human awakened to inner man – physiological self and the external world. He is a human who becomes frightened by an influx of inner and outer stimulation he can neither comprehend nor control. He is in a state of frightened existence. Since he now perceives himself caught in a world of unpredictability and chaos, he strives with all at his command to achieve safety and security in this world. To attain safety and security, he seeks to create an orderly, predictable, stable, unchanging world – one in which the unexpected does not happen. As he sees it, only complete denial of this inner world and complete control of the outer world can keep him safe from the many stimuli of which he has just become aware."

The problem lies when that child grows up in a family/culture that does not promote development to the next stage, but rather keeps one stuck at this level of development and the only solution is using guns and violence to control their world. Which is what Torun described.

Continued development supported by family and culture, as decribed by Donna, overcomes this tendency and moves on to stages of development where one recognizes alternatives to guns and violence to control one's world and becomes as Graves decribes, a "sociocentric being. He believes in belonging, adjusting, togetherness. He is other-directed. Incentives stem from others and directiveness comes from the power of group opinion." This stage emerges somewhere around ages 9-10.

IMHO when one is able to contextualize the issue of guns, weapons, and violence within a developmental perspective, one is able to see why there seems to be an almost "in born" tendency to create a gun or sword out of anything available when one reaches this stage.

I became interested in this as well because I have 6yo son and wanted to know why with no encouragement or family culture and limited media exposure, he began to create guns and swords for play. Now with this developmental perspective, I can calm down, and concentrate on providing the parenting guidance and wider cultural experiences that will help him develop to that next stage of development. By providing the safety and security in his perceived chaotic world, he will then, as did I, move on to play that is less egocentric and more ethnocentricly focused.

Homeschooling Dad

donna simmons

Thanks, Tony for sharing! You have brought much food for thought for us to consider regarding this subject.

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