Kilkivan Kindergarten has embraced reality and interest shown in toy guns by issuing its children with their own gun licences. The kindergarten, located west of Gympie in Queensland, looks after primarily country kids who have parents that frequently use guns as legitimate tools. Of course like all kids, they see their parents do something and want to do it themselves.
According to ABC Sunshine Coast, instead of shying away from gun use, the centre’s approach was to educate and encourage responsible play. “These country kids run the full gamut of what a gun can be used for in a rural setting; it’s just part of their life experience,” said Kilkivan Kindergarten director, Anne Bicknell. “So we set up the gun play here where they could bring it [the toy gun] in and we discuss about responsible play.”
In order to obtain their licence the children, parents and teachers have an initial discussion about firearm safety. Then when the child applies for their licence, they must answer questions that show they understand the safety rules. One of the conditions on the licence is: “I know that if I point my gun at other people or pretend to shoot them I will lose my gun licence for the day.”
The ‘guns’ are locked away until a child asks to play with one and presents their licence. “When they’ve finished playing with it or if they’ve lost interest, they bring it back to us and we lock it up,” said Ms Bicknell.
Parents have been very supportive of the approach given the centre’s rural location. However, there are reservations about running the same program in city kindergartens. Early childhood academic Dr Jennifer Hart says the centre’s licensing process is a very responsible way to teach children the importance of gun safety, but says city children might not fully understand the purpose of guns as country children do.
As for whether exposure to guns could lead to an unhealthy obsession with them later in life, Dr Hart said: “I’ve heard this time and time again, this concern from parents saying that we don’t want our kids playing with guns because we don’t want them growing up to be violent, but the research does not have any evidence to show that that will be the case.”
Also backing the program is Queensland’s Education Minister Kate Jones. “My understanding from C&K (parent company) is that parents endorse the program at that kindergarten because they think it is a safe way for young people to understand how you must be safe when you’re playing with guns,” she said.