Should You Buy Toy Guns for Your Child?

Find out whether toy guns are right for your child.

Child development experts say few kids younger than 8 can reliably distinguish between real guns and toy guns. And they can't fully understand the consequence of their actions. Little wonder, then, that the natural inclination of a child who encounters a real gun that's loaded is to imitate what he has seen on television.

Families' personal values differ on whether they want their kids to have toy guns. Admittedly, it's hard to ban them when everybody else on the block has one, but some parents do. If you let your child have a toy gun, buy one that looks very different from a real one—a brightly colored water pistol, for example. While it doesn't happen often, there have been times when a child has gotten into trouble or has been injured because someone, sometimes even a police officer, thought the toy he was carrying was the real thing.

Safety Savvy

The Lion and Lamb Project offers a Parent Action Kit to help parents choose alternatives to violent toys. You can reach the group at 301-654-3091, or visit the Web site at www.lionlamb.org.

Lions and Lambs

A grassroots initiative called The Lion and Lamb Project is campaigning against the mixed messages kids are getting about violence. Children are told violence is bad, but they also see violence being glorified on television, in videos, and in computer and arcade games.

To counter that, the project helps parents talk to their children about how to have fun in nonviolent ways. To reinforce the message, the project helps community groups hold toy trade-ins where kids turn in one of their violent toys so that it can join other such toys and be transformed into a peace sculpture. Participants get a Lionhearted Certificate and gifts or discounts from local merchants selling nonviolent toys.

Toy Gun Dangers

Toy guns that fire projectiles (such as plastic) are responsible for several hundred injuries each year, particularly ones to eyes and faces. Although there are industry-produced voluntary standards covering projectile-type toys, this is no guarantee that an eye, for example, won't be hurt by them. It's best not to take chances; don't let your child play with these toys.

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