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Welcome to Train Table School!

Please read these fine articles written to educate parents on the importance of play and toy selection!

The National Toy Council


Understanding Aggressive Toys

Play is exciting - its fun and it stimulates imagination. It also teaches children social skills such as co-operation and self-control, something all parents are keen to see. Toys help develop mental and physical skills by stimulating and prolonging play.

Mothers are sometimes shocked when their sons, or even their daughters - some as young as two years old - ask for a toy gun or action figure. Action Man. Ninja Turtles. Power Rangers. Masters of the Universe. Video games with martial arts themes. These toys are popular; about 70 percent of boys and 35 percent of girls play with toy weapons at home. These toys are also controversial.

Some parents worry about children playing aggressive games or playing with toy weapons. Others say that aggressive play and pretend fighting with toys are all part and parcel of children learning appropriate behaviour. The debate will no doubt go on. Perhaps the following information will help you, as a parent, to make up your mind about what is best for your child.


Pretending to be aggressive is not the same as being aggressive. Aggressive behaviour is the intention to harm another person. Aggressive play includes make-believe fighting and rough-and-tumble, which has no intention to injure anyone. Aggressive toys or war toys are those that children use in play fighting and fantasy aggression. These include toys that resemble weapons and action figures.

According to the latest research, toy weapons and violent video games stimulate aggressive play but have no effect on aggressive behaviour. There is no evidence linking aggressive toys to childrens attitudes toward war or violence. For nearly all children who engage in it, aggressive play is exciting, active, and fun, full of fantasy and imagination.

While adults may sometimes confuse real and pretend fighting, research shows that children as young as five are able to tell the difference between real aggression, which frightens them, and aggressive play, which they see as harmless fun. Childrens experience of actual aggression in the home has much more influence on them than a toy - however fond of the toy they may be.

Contrary to what you may think, only a small minority of toys are action figures and toy weapons (8.1% and 1% respectively) and video games with violent themes (6%).

Toy weapons today look increasingly life-like and this is a worry to some parents. The toy industry in Britain has adopted a policy of identifying toy guns with a brightly coloured plug in the gun barrel, so they will not be mistaken for real weapons.


By age two, and sometimes evident as early as one year of age, boys and girls tend to play differently and prefer different playthings. Boys prefer traditional "boys toys" and girls tend to prefer "girls toys" (although girls are more flexible about this). .

Although elaborate efforts are sometimes made to prevent children from playing with war toys, nevertheless a sizeable percentage of boys and a surprising number of girls play with aggressive toys. Studies in Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the USA all report that about 60-75% of boys and about one-third of girls play with aggressive toys at home.


No one is really sure whether the differences between boys and girls play are learned or inborn. Aggressive play has a biological basis, and is also influenced by the childs experiences. Activity levels tend to be higher in boys. As a result they prefer toys that lend themselves to highly active play. One undeniable feature of aggressive play is its high level of activity, with running, chasing, and make-believe fighting, complete with sound effects.

The childs surroundings also influence aggressive play. Children in war zones often play war games, not only in imitation of the adults around them, but also as a means of coping with anxiety, fear and loss. Parents and grandparents who have traditional attitudes about sex-roles tend to buy boys toys for boys and traditional girls toys for girls. The toys purchased for children and grandchildren reflect the attitudes and prejudices of the adults who purchase them and not necessarily those of the children who receive them. Adults who purchase so-called violent toys do not see them as violent, but as toys.

The toy is an intermediary between the child and the world. It is the family environment far more than the toy that is the key factor in the childs character. Children become aggressive when their parents are aggressive or when they allow aggression to go unpunished.


Kids need active rough and tumble play. Ensure that play is safe by providing a suitable place and plenty of time for active play. Provide children with a range of toys intended for active play - not just toys for fantasy aggressive play, but also playground equipment, slides, swings, balls, skates.

Some parents let their children play with brightly coloured water guns, but not more realistic toy guns. Some restrict toy gun play at home but permit it outdoors or whilst playing at friends houses. Other parents (or grandparents) allow children any kind of toy guns, feeling that what is important is how the child uses the toy, not what it looks like. If you disapprove of a particular toy, dont buy it. A flat refusal might make a toy seem even more attractive to a child, so be careful to explain your reasons for refusing.

The value of play, its importance for human survival, is that it allows for the creation of imaginary worlds and the enactment of fantasy roles without having to bring them about.

Encourage your children to play with a wide range of toys and dont worry if some of their games appear aggressive. If you feel the need to compromise, you might allow your child to earn the toy either by doing chores or by paying for it from an allowance.

Real fighting is something else altogether, and should not be praised or encouraged.

Set clear guidelines for the use of toys and video games. Be consistent and firm - but not aggressive - in your disapproval of aggressive behaviour.

Participate in your childrens rough and tumble play from time to time. Play is one way children have of understanding the world of adults. Be constructive, use it as an opportunity to discuss violence, guns, war and peace.

Children growing up in a warm, loving environment, with parents who discuss violence and war, have nothing to fear from toys or video games.

The National Toy Council is concerned with child welfare. Its members include Its members include representatives of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, British Toy & Hobby Association, National Association of Toy & Leisure Libraries, Institute of Trading Standards Administration, BBC Childrens Television, national press, renowned academics and a toy safety expert.

Compiled with the assistance of Professor Jeffrey Goldstein BA MS PhD (of the University of Utrecht), member of the National Toy Council.


National Toy Council, 80 Camberwell Road London SE5 0EG

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