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Should Kids Be Allowed To Play With NERF Guns?

Updated on May 29, 2013

Why it's ok to play with NERF guns

When I was a kid growing up, my parents did not allow me to play with toy guns. My parents were pacifists and did not think it was right for children to play violent games. The effect of this ban was simple. Us kids would still play war in the park near our house, but we'd use sticks as guns or borrow toy guns from our friends.

As you can see, my parents' ban on toy guns and war games was completely ineffective. I think what made it worse is that we were hiding our games from our parents and therefore, they had no opportunity to provide essential guidance about guns and violence. Also I noticed that my son started building guns out of lego before he even had a toy gun. We don't watch a lot of TV, but somehow he picked up the idea of guns anyway.

As a parent with kids myself, I allow my young kids to play with NERF guns, but with oversight and guidance. I want them to learn about guns and violence through this toy rather than later with a real gun. Too many accidents happen that way.

Some Potential Benefits Of Playing With NERF guns

I think there are some potential benefits of playing with NERF guns. They are:

  1. Physical Exercise: Toys like this help them get off the sofa, away from the TV or Xbox and onto their feet for some much needed exercise. Kids need at least two hours a day of physical activity to stay healthy, school is not giving them that, but games like this can help
  2. Competitiveness: It's a competitive world. If you want something, you need to go and compete for it. NERF games teach children to compete, it is a counterpart to the 'you have to be nice' feedback they get the rest of the time for sake of family harmony and peace.
  3. Resilience to pressure: Competition induces some stress, it is good for children to learn how to cope with small amounts of stress in a gaming environment.
  4. Concentration: especially target practice games require some concentration and patience.

Guidance For Kids Playing With NERF Guns

With my 6-year old, we started with the 6-shot Strongarm Blaster he got for his birthday from one of his classmates. First I taught him proper gun handling techniques, not because I think NERF guns are dangerous (I don't), but rather to use them as a vehicle for teaching proper technique for when they handle a real gun.

  1. Don't look down the barrel
  2. Keep the NERF gun pointed at the ground until you are ready to take aim
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are aiming at your target
  4. Don't leave it laying around ready to fire
  5. Never point the NERF gun at anyone, don't shoot at anyone

Now that last point may seem contrary to the idea of NERF guns doesn't it? Well, so far he hasn't had the urge to shoot at anyone yet. When that day arrives, I will add the following rules:

  1. You may only shoot at people for fun with NERF guns, NEVER with a real gun
  2. You may only shoot your NERF gun at people who are ok with it.

With that I hope to prevent accidents in the future.

What Kind of Games To Play

There are a number of games that can be played with NERF guns. It is a good idea to wear safety glasses with the game as the darts can potentially hurt your eyes in case of direct hit.

  1. Target practice: This is a good game to teach kids proper gun handling techniques. It requires concentration and motor skills from them. Aim at toys that can be knocked over from 5 to 8 feet away.
  2. NERF war: More suitable for older kids. Establish an objective of the game. Can be played with or without re-admission of struck players.

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