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Much ado about nothing: There is NO gun play ban at NSW childcare centres

The ACA NSW survey is not a ban on toy guns and gun play at childcare centres

Yesterday Australia's media was awash with claims that Australian childcare centres would be banning toy guns and gun play games.

Sensational claims that the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) NSW was proposing a ban on toy guns and similar after being inspired by proposed action in the UK which might see gun play and even superhero play banned in childcare centres.

This, of course, riled up public interest with outrage ensuing as parents and experts chimed in with opinion that such a ban was detrimental to a child's imagination and was purely a case of 'nanny stating' gone too far, while others claimed that it was about time.

However, the entire conversation is a storm in a teacup, because there is no such proposal for any ban.

There is no ban, there is no plan for a ban

ACA NSW CEO, Chiang Lim spoke with Now To Love saying talk of a ban is "categorically untrue".

"Even if we wanted to, which we don't, we don't have the power to make such a ban," says Lim.

"Following the conversations in the UK, we do plan on surveying our members, simply to get the wisdom of them as a collective so that we can gather useful data for centres who are looking at what to do in a situation where gun play might be an issue."

Prince George and the gun play conversation

After images were released showing Prince George and his friends playing with a toy gun at Beaufort Polo Club last month, conversations began around how appropriate it was for children to be playing with guns at all.

Prince George playing with a toy gun at Beaufort Polo Club last month sparked discussions on gun play. Image: Getty Images.
Prince George playing with a toy gun at Beaufort Polo Club last month sparked discussions on gun play. Image: Getty Images.

Opinion was divided. There were those on camp 'good for the imagination' and those who found the images confronting, suggesting that given gun crime in the news, it was not appropriate for royal child – or any child for that matter - to be playing a game with such violent imagery.

It's not really a huge issue

"I believe that culturally, we have a natural aversion to guns anyway," says Lim.

"Given the training that childcare educators receive, and a cultural predisposition to childcare being a place of nurture and positivity, gun play doesn't really come into the equation that much.

"It's quite likely that there are centres where violent gun play has never been a problem, and that's why we considered the survey, so that we can look at some best practice that other centres have developed for dealing with those issues, then redistribute those ideas as a resource."

ACA NSW has posted a response on their site to yesterday's media attention, clearly outlining how the information gathered in their proposed survey could be useful to a childcare facility. For example, how do childcare services deal with situations like:

• on dress up days where some children wear police or soldiers uniforms complete with pretend sidearms and other equipment – how do educators/teachers celebrate our men and women in uniform?
• toy guns, bows and arrows, swords and light sabres – how do educators/teachers ensure safety from projectiles and accidental blows?
• for some children who have a family history of domestic violence – how do educators/teachers balance play with the potential sensitivity for vulnerable children?
• software and apps that children bring into the childcare services – how do educators/teachers vet their content?
• different parents associated in the same childcare service can often have opposing views about their children playing with other children – how do educators/teachers balance what may be contradictory expectations?

"We're not even talking about behavioural management," says Lim. "What this will cover comes way before that.

"For example, a water pistol is innocuous enough, but having water all over the floor could lead to many problems in a childcare centre, as you can imagine.

"But there is no blanket ban. What individual centres do is completely up to them," says Lim.

"They have to do what is best for them for the families that use their service and for their local communities"

So gun play: yay, or nay?

Child Psychologist and mum of three, Dr Sasha Lynn says common sense needs to prevail.

"While you don't want little ones running around pretending to shoot others and normalising that kind of stuff, banning isn't going to stop the behaviour. Not while kids are exposed to other kids, to shows and cartoons and news and movies and society," she says.

"There has to be healthy discussion around gun play and differentiating between pretend play and the reality of it all.

"Kids are concrete thinkers- they don't see the full spectrum of it like we do."