Hudson Valley Parent

HVP January 2015

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18 Hudson Valley Parent ■ January 2015 By MALIA JACOBSON E mily Waggoner, a former social worker and mom who runs an in-home daycare, wasn't crazy about the idea of guns in her home — real or fake. But one day last summer, her husband Dustin and 10-year-old stepson Will came home with a cadre of toy Nerf artillery. "Shot gun, sniper, semi-automatic — everything" she says. Waggoner balked at the pile of foam ammunition. Father and son were happily bonding over their new toys, fashioning armor and shields out of cardboard and duct tape, but sharing a home with all those toy guns still made her squirm. She was in a bind — one shared by countless modern parents trying to navigate the world of toys, boys, and pretend guns. When it comes to pretend guns, parents often fi nd themselves at odds with their kids' natural tenden- cies, and without much guidance from science. One study by Malcolm Watson at Brandeis University found that toy guns increase aggressive behaviors, but scores of parents, experts, and researchers heartily disagree. And a growing school of thought around child-led play sug- gests that maybe toy guns a place in early childhood, after all. Pointed play As shootings dominate the news month after month, pretend gun play is has never been more ma- ligned, says Katie Morse, LCSW, a psychotherapist in private. Many school districts have a zero-tolerance policy. In September, an 8-year-old Florida boy was suspended from school for pointing his fi ngers like a handgun. And then there's the ick-factor: gun play just plain makes us uncom- fortable. "It's easy to see violence and ag- gression in society and in the media, and then your sweet, innocent boy is saying 'bang bang' and 'I killed you' and you get overwhelmed with fear about whether he could grow up to be violent," says Morse. "As a parent, those are normal, natural responses." Even so, our collective discomfort over fake artillery doesn't stop kids from turning everything they fi nd into a weapon. After mom Gloria Lunsford realized that Caleb, 4 and Jacob, 3, didn't need actual toy guns to lob pretend gunfi re at each other, she surrendered, as it were. Now, Lunsford allows pretend (Continued on Page 20) 'Bang, bang! You're dead!' Are toy guns OK for our kids?

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