What kind of weapon should parents use

My child prefers to play with weapons and tanks

Why are weapons so fascinating?

It's no secret that when it comes to toys, the tastes of children and their parents are sometimes very different. This topic in particular is like a powder keg. Sooner or later the parents will be disappointed here: Your boy is also interested in weapons! War toys are mainly wanted by boys (even today). Many parents get stomach aches when they buy these kinds of toys for their children and finally give in to them with grudging teeth. Studies show that weapons can be found in every 2nd household with children. Even though most parents reject war toys!

A language test at the University of Graz found that girls are not as well versed in military matters as boys. 60 children were shown a picture of a tank. Among the 7-year-olds, 19 boys were able to say the correct name, compared to only 8 among the girls. The Offenbach psychologist Christian Büttner observed that boys tend to play the role of attacker in war games, girls tend to play the role of defender choose.

But there is a simple explanation why children want rifles, revolvers, and tanks. They want to own what their friends play with in kindergarten, school, sports club, etc. Advertising on television and in toy books has a major impact on them. Of course, what you see in shop windows is also attractive.

You have to keep in mind that children imitate everything they see. And here it cannot be denied that guns, war and violence are present in news and movies on television. They often process these experiences in games. At every costume party there are police officers, cowboys, knights, robbers, pirates, etc. who are armed with weapons.

Incidentally, children don't necessarily need toy guns to play war and shootouts. The children use harmless things like wooden spoons, Lego bricks etc. as weapons! The problem arises when three-year-olds misuse a rubber boot, a banana or something else as a weapon. Even the index finger can still be used as a pistol! Children are able to see all sorts of things in a toy. Your imagination inspires you richly. You can even play something cruel (wicked witch, ogre, etc.) with a cute doll. On the other hand, they reenact normal everyday life with monsters (get up, eat, play, work, live, die, be angry, be happy, sleep, etc.).

Rifles, pistols, swords and knives give feelings of power and strength, obscure feelings of inadequacy. With the weapons they are enabled to defend against imaginary attackers from space, for example. Weapons are so important for children because at some point they notice what a weapon can do: Playmates fall to the ground and adults show violent, negative reactions (or react like playmates). You can understand how great it must be for a child to suddenly have so much power. For 4- or 5-year-old children this is a normal step in child development.

Psychologists consider it normal for children to try guns. After all, attacking and defending can be practiced in this way, without getting physically closer to the other. In the Indian and cowboy game, for example, everyone knows how to behave in which situation. If his teammate shoots at him, he'll have to fall over. Children are able to differentiate between reality and play.

Adults have problems with this. For them, the link dominates: weapons = war, hardship, death, etc.

If the child has a preference for weapons and tanks, etc. shows, one need not despair about it. It is only important that the children come into contact with as different materials as possible. In this context, plastic is no less interesting than untreated wood. It makes sense to give the child lots of ideas: reading aloud, suggestions for handicrafts, sports (soccer, swimming, etc.), board games, music school, exploring and observing nature, coloring books, etc. Everyone will find something suitable. But one must not make the mistake of forcing a full program on the children every day. The point here is that it can be distracted from the war games and discover alternatives on the other side.

What are the dangers of toy guns?

It is not yet possible to conclusively assess whether toy weapons will undoubtedly cause long-term damage to children. What is certain, however, is that war toys promote violence-oriented action concepts more than other toys. What should a child do with a gun but shoot? The imagination is steered one-sidedly in one direction. To go back to the example from above: A Lego brick is useful for many kinds of buildings, can serve as a “meal” in a role-playing game, serve as a painting template, or as a weapon in the worst case; in any case, there are many options here. When it comes to weapons, one cannot imagine anything other than the very obvious. Sooner or later the guns are likely to get boring as the purpose is too clearly defined.

Experiments showed that children who handled toy weapons only behaved more aggressively in the respective game situations (compared to children who played without weapons). In the medium term, however, there was no negative change in behavior.

A real problem arises when the war game dominates in children, they want more and more of it and otherwise behave in an anti-social manner. They may deliberately hurt other children.

Children are ultimately brought up to aggression through the real violence in their living environment, toy weapons are less important. Families that only use violence to solve problems cannot expect their children to learn to get through conflict in other ways (words, negotiations, compromises). The violence and hostility of the entire social milieu is reflected in the play behavior of the children. Such children do not have enough “I-strength”. In addition, they are unable to play properly, i.e. they do not separate game and reality. Your everyday life leads to a high level of aggressiveness. Or to put it another way: If the parents treat each other and their children with care, this usually means that the children also imitate this way of dealing with one another. And so the war game for psychologists is a meaningful indicator of the extent of fear and aggressiveness in the respective child.


Parents show their rejection of the war toy by not buying one. There is still the possibility that the child will play with weapons from friends on loan. Alternatively, very little can be bought for the child.
Friends and relatives are asked not to choose war toys as gifts.
Parents can act consistently by not sitting at the table with an “armed” child, going for a walk, etc. Parents who refuse weapons should make this clear to the children in no uncertain terms. Motto: Guns are nothing useful to me, I only associate them with violence, hardship, cruelty, senselessness, fear, grief, death. It is worth teaching the child early on that a pistol, etc., is not on par with other toys.

What you can remember about this topic

  • When 4- or 5-year-old children play with war toys, it is a normal step in the child's development. Rifles, pistols, etc. give power and strength to what the little ones enjoy.
  • Toy guns are also disadvantageous because the purpose is too clearly defined and creativity cannot develop. On the contrary: “Pippi Longstocking” as a searcher for things (the simplest household items give rise to great ideas for games).
  • The decisive factor for the aggressiveness is the real violence in the living environment, not the toy weapons. Children must be taught that conflicts can be resolved without violence.
  • Counter-strategies are appropriate so as not to let the war toy take center stage. Diverse game alternatives (reading aloud, reading, sports, board games, etc. etc.) should be offered.


  • A. Ernst, V. Herbst etc .: Children's course book, Bertelsmann Club GmbH, Gütersloh, 1993
  • D. Kraus-Prause, J. Kraus etc .: Lexicon Education, Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1995
  • Geo Knowledge: Childhood and Youth, Gruner + Jahr AG & Co, Hamburg, 1995

Further contributions by the author can be found here in our family handbook


Beate Weymann
Employed by the state of Lower Saxony
Diplomatic socialpedhogogic
37586 Dassel

Created on February 25th, 2002, last changed on March 30th, 2010