Toy guns for kids are a fraught issue for many parents. The guns in question run the gamut from ever-popular Nerf guns, to laser tag guns, to water guns. And while pretend battles can be fun, there’s a fine line between running around and playing with big, bright, modular plastic guns that are oversized and look rather ridiculous, and the fetishization of gun culture by giving children realistic toy guns.
The reason is fairly eye-opening: According to a 2018 study presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 41 percent of children between ages 7 and 17 could tell the difference between toy and real guns, when photos were placed side by side.
So be smart. Talk to your kids about guns and the harm they can inflict and avoid buying any that look like they belong in Lone Survivor. The guns on our list let kids engage in pretend play, but still look like toys.
The Nerf Lazer Tag Phoenix tagger gun is part of a complete system of blasters. Get more taggers, and you can battle more players. There are different settings, based on difficulty levels, and the guns have lights, sounds and vibrations, as well as a recoil when fired.
If you have spare rolls lying around, this blaster shoots toilet paper 50 feet and turns it into spit balls. Score.
This is a hefty beast of a Nerf blaster. As the first motorized blaster in the Mega line, the Mastodon fires a payload of 24 Mega Whistler darts from a rotating chamber via an electric motor powered by six (!) D batteries instead of the pump-action mechanisms of manual blasters.
This could either be a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view, but this laser tag set stands out for the ultra-realistic shooting sounds that accompany each setting. Kids choose from one four settings: Pistol shotgun, machine gun, and rocket. And then, they attack each other. Each laser tag gun lights up and vibrates while shooting as far as 130 feet.
Your kids will be dancing the Orange Justice when they get their hands on this Fornite blaster gun. The blaster has an internal clip with a three-dart capacity letting kids fire three darts in a row. It has a detachable barrel to customize for different ways to play, and doesn't need batteries. And it looks more like a lemon than an actual piece of firepower.
It’s unlikely that a child will lose an eye with the larger projectile size of a tennis ball. The safety alone is worth the price, but there’s a lot more to love. Accommodating any standard-sized ball, it launches them with a rubber band (read: no batteries) up to 50 feet. Reload by racking back the bright orange charging handle on the barrel’s top and placing the front over the ball. This hands-free loading design makes handling slobbery balls a thing of the past. Bonus: It includes four orbs to get you started—two for your child and two for your dog.
The Water Sports stream machine gun disregards all the silly and potentially dangerous firearm silhouettes in exchange for pure water-projecting power. The 29-inch barrel acts as a launch ramp for a high-pressure water stream that can tag a fly from 70 feet. While it has to be reloaded after each pump-action projection, the benefit is that is chains your child to a large source of water, ensuring that as long as the battle rages, he or she won’t be straying far from the pool. The polymer shell is impregnated with its color, which ensures that it won’t chip or peel while handling bumps with ease.
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