Are Nerf Guns Too Realistic?

In an article posted Thursday on Slate, Farhad Manjoo called Nerf blasters “a pretty scary toy” and referred to them as “ultrarealistic weapons.” This is like saying that a child riding in a grocery cart that is fashioned to resemble a race-car is prepared to compete in the Indy 500. As a soon-to-be father who routinely plays with three godsons (in addition to just being a big kid at heart) I’m very well versed in the art of Nerf war, and the only thing that children learn about real weapons from these eye-distractingly neon guns is how to pull a trigger. While I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, children learn far more about real weapon operations from movies, hyper-realistic television shows, and video games.

Sure, some of the toys look impressive. But it’s absurd to look at these monstrosities of plastic with only a passing resemblance to firearms and think the children who play with them are any more prone to violence than the child sitting in the corner reading a book while his friends play. Nerf “weapons” encourage social play among peers because, lets face it, it’s ridiculous (and not very fun) to shoot your shadow on the wall over and over again. It’s also a great way to teach a child the fundamentals of safe play and responsibility (don’t shoot anyone in the face because it hurts, pick up your darts after yourself or you won’t have them to play with anymore, etc). If you’re really hyper-sensitive about firearms, Nerf blasters are a great way to train a child in observing the fundamentals of firearm safety without utilizing real firearms.

Your children will engage in war-type play with or without your approval. From the beginning of time there were children picking up sticks to beat on each other, and Nerf foam darts are a heck of a lot safer than the dirt clods my brother and I used as approved ammunition when the neighborhood kids would get together to play war. Your child will never pick up an M-60 machine gun after playing with a Nerf Vulcan and astound you with his aptitude for its use. The trick is not to fear your child playing with plastic guns, but to join in the fun! I mean, use it as a teachable moment while bonding with your children and getting a little exercise.

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