When I was a kid, my parents, being progressive forward-thinking types, wouldn’t buy me toy guns. My grandmother was untroubled by such scruples and gave me a huge, shiny, cap-firin’ six-shooter. We do things differently now.

Whenever you indulge in gender stereotyping, you’re apt to be wrong; having acknowledged that, it seems to me that little boys’ urge to fire things at each other is part of them, as much as their knees or noses.

At some early birthday party my son, now 11, got a Nerf gun; now he has a substantial collection. There may be some who don’t know about these large brightly-colored plastic objects, which shoot little soft-tipped nerf darts with remarkable zip and accuracy.

Some of the guns are very impressive; they come with a variety of barrel configurations and propulsion mechanisms. There’s even one that comes with a Nintendo Wii game; not just a throwaway, either, the kids played it for hours.

My feelings are complex; there’s uncomfortable baggage that goes with the notion of the kids pointing mock firearms at each other and pulling the trigger. On the other hand, well, it’s a blast. Yep, I play too. Whereas I can’t quite match the boys’ lightning dodge-behind-the-bookcase technique, I have unequaled sniper skillz; have been known to thread the needle between the bedpost and the mattress to nail my quarry.

Nerf... I hope it’s a good thing.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Flip (Oct 17 2010, at 19:47)

You and your kids need to experience the joy that is LaserTag!

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From: Kevin Lipe (Oct 17 2010, at 20:05)

In high school, a friend of mine had the keys to a church gymnasium. We would go in there on weekends and make big battlefields with all kinds of obstacles made of folding chairs and whatever else we could find. We shot each other with foam darts for hours on end.

I wholeheartedly approve of Nerf. I'd even go so far as to say shooting real people with Nerf darts is less troublesome than shooting fake "real people" with real guns in a video game.

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From: Davi Pires (Oct 17 2010, at 20:26)

I share these feelings with you.

I saw one of these gigantic plastic guns on the toy store yesterday. While part of me was thinking "wow, children are getting so much cooler toys now", the other worried about the safety and the ideas kids get from such potentially dangerous toys.

Well, yeah, let's hope.

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From: Derek K. Miller (Oct 18 2010, at 00:18)

How many generations of kids (yes, mostly boys) grew up in mock weapon battles with each other, whether using toy guns, sticks shaped like guns, household paper trash taped together to look like guns, fake bows and arrows, snowballs, elastic bands, and the like? How many of us over the past several decades grew up blasting Space Invaders, or asteroids, or Goombas and tortoises, or frighteningly realistic Call of Duty or Doom opponents?

Has the proportion of violent psychos gotten any higher? It doesn't seem to. Indeed (and I don't propose a causal link here -- I think there are other demographic and societal reasons), violent crime is declining in general in North America at least.

The very realistic toy guns I had as a kid would be a bad idea now, not because they are inherently evil for kids, but because now a bystander or neighbour might think they're real and call the police, leading to actual danger. But Nerf guns? Have fun. Your kids will learn some good hand-eye coordination and real-world ballistics too, and get exercise.

By the way, I recall a commercial from the '70s for Nerf airplanes, sung to the tune of "The U.S. Air Force" song. It began:

Off we go

Into the wild blue sofa

Flying high

Into the sink

Alas, even YouTube doesn't seem to have a copy. I loved that ad.

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From: Harriet May (Oct 18 2010, at 05:30)

We always had Nerf water guns as kids. Everyone had one: siblings, classmates, all the neighborhood kids. It was a very unifying experience, and I think it went beyond gender stereotypes. Us girls didn't view those guns any differently than the boys, we still hankered after the biggest guns that held the most water and were the most powerful.

I can see so many benefits to this kind of play: it brings kids together, which in the day and age of computer generated everything is becoming increasingly important. Games often teach teamwork, problem solving and perseverance, they encourage exercise, and of course provide great memories for years to come.

And anyway, kids should be taught how to separate fiction (Nerf guns) from reality (real guns) from an early age; it's when you shelter kids from every little thing, things often misconstrued only by adults who read too far into the matter, that trouble starts.

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From: Nathan (Oct 18 2010, at 11:17)

We have Nerf guns here at the office and fire them at each other quite a lot. Given the amount of apologies whenever a Nerf dart hits a face instead of a torso I'm not sure there's a viable causal link between people who enjoy shooting co-workers with foam darts and people who enjoy shooting co-workers with metal bullets. This may just be convenient rationalization, however,.

Nerf also provides an outlet for engineering passion; I don't think any of our guns are stock, and I have one where nearly every internal component has been replaced with an industrial-strength substitute. It exists mostly for show and to impress newbies; in addition to the potential damage it could inflict if the dart hit an eyeball or other sensitive area, I'm fairly certain that regular firing would cause the plastic to stress fracture.

Still, I consider Nerf one of the good guys. Children will likely shoot and/or throw things at each-other, so providing a fun but relatively safe set of equipment for this purpose seems healthy.

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From: Robert Young (Oct 18 2010, at 13:51)

Can paint ball combat be far behind?

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From: cloggins (Oct 19 2010, at 09:18)

Kids need to be kids. Toys are toys. It's okay to play. Pretty sure the good that comes from you playing with your kids far outweighs any consequence *toy* guns might incur.

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From: Tony Fisk (Oct 20 2010, at 05:18)

So long as they don't start using the gun butts...

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