Political leanings aside, seeing small children engage in weapons play just plain disturbs me. Acting out violence seems to contrary to what we are trying to teach them about conflict-resolution and respect for others. In spite of years of, "Hands are for helping, not for hurting," and, "Use your words!" reiterated over and over again, they can make "guns" and "swords" out of twigs and Lego and, well, anything.
It's persistent, in spite of my efforts
While the boys have never once expressed an interest in a GI Joe, they set up battle scenes with Playmobil figures – and this after I go so far as to take the tiny toy guns out of certain Playmobil sets! Even Sunshine joins in, making little sound effects to go with whatever her figures are using to battle. Then there's the battle raging in me: do I let it go or do I stop it?
And still, I'm not quite sure where it all comes from.
When the boys were younger, I didn't allow weapons play at all. I'd stop it if I saw it happening. Yet, still, it came back. While I didn't assume my daughter wouldn't have the desire to engage in weapons play, I thought it would play a much more minor roll. Initially I stopped her play just as I did the boys, and yet it's still there. By banning it, did I just make it more appealing?
Using play to talk real life
I've talked to the kids extensively about my concerns - age-appropriately, of course. While I keep it simple with Sunshine, I can be more philosophical with Alfs and somewhere in between with Woody. The boys say they understand; Sunshine, I don't know. They all do know that their parents don't take weapons lightly. Along with the concerns about the play, we've talked about weapons safety in regards to real weapons and make sure they know what to do if they ever encounter a real weapon at someone else's house (and even if they are unsure whether the weapon is "real" or not).
After years of consideration and various approaches, I still don't have a great answer. While I wouldn't say I have accepted the weapons play, I'm not as rigid about it as I once was. I still don't like it, and it still happens. I'll just keep talking to them about it, I guess.