Janet wrote:
How should we respond to children bringing their toy gun look-alikes to school and then playing war or fighting games with these? It is not that they are playing the games, but the use of the look alike weapons that I am interested in. Does this in some way do some damage to children because guns/weapons are seen as signifying violence (or protection depending on who you talk to! ) in our culture? Or do adults just end up projecting their fear of these weapons onto the children and a child playing with a look alike weapon is in fact no different from a child picking up a stick and saying bang, bang. I recognize that there may be a range of answers to this depending on the child's background and the culture of the home.
Some of our parents are concerned at what they deem to be aggressive behavior. I am confident in how I can respond to their concerns about this type of play, but would like more info about the impact of certain types of toys. Can you direct me to research, articles, your own personal opinion etc.

I can only offer opinion. Violence is defined as an unnecessary use of force. Placing a book on the table is not an act of violence. Forcefully slamming the book on the table is. Play is learning. Through play children are exploring and developing capacities – for imagination, social relationships and many other things. They are also mirroring what the adult culture models. Toy stores and video and TV are filled with violent images and violent pretend experiences. As is Barbie a stereotype and not for mothering.

We tend to look at the child’s behavior and try to modify it which most often makes them wrong. They are not wrong. It is normal and natural to modes what they see and experience. And television, Star Wars, the evening corporate-news and much of what they see is what they will mirror. A deeper question and opportunity is to model another way of being and relating. Not as a lesson, which is corny, but in your natural response to them and the world. Model empathy. Explore death and how it feels to be shot. Explore nonviolent communication (by Marshall Rosenberg) with your parents.

The root cause of violence is what I call a Betrayal of Intimacy. It is a fundamental failure of feeling safe, close and connected (empathy). The opposite is isolated, me against the world rather than me with the world. If someone gets pretend shot with a pretend gun assume the shaman skill and capacity to heal through connection and empathy. Join in the play and model, as Gandhi said, be the change you would like to see. Heal the victim with your deep connection and magic empathy.

Joseph Chilton Pearce said it perfectly.
Play on the surface and learning takes play beneath our level of awareness.
That goes for you and your parents regarding toy guns.