Prince George was pictured playing alongside Princess Charlotte and The Duchess of Cambridge yesterday, but not everyone was happy about the four-year-old’s choice of toy – a pretend gun.
The Duke of Cambridge was playing in the Maserati Royal Charity Polo Trophy at Beaufort Polo Club in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, on Sunday afternoon.
And, while Prince William took part, Kate and their children – minus Prince Louis – had fun in the sun.
Images from the event captured Prince George playing with a toy gun, knife and handcuffs which, given the youngster’s known interest in the police, came as no surprise to some.
On a visit to Finland last November, William presented Father Christmas with a Christmas list from George, which featured one request – a toy police car.
Similarly, at a reception in March celebrating the Metropolitan Police, one officer joked that William’s children could join the police cadets, to which the Duke is said to have replied: “Well he does like the police at the moment.”
Despite this, the images have subsequently sparked a debate on Twitter with many calling the decision to let Prince George play with a toy gun “disappointing.”
“Sad to see George playing with a gun when the whole country has a gun/knife crime situation,” one person wrote.
“Thought he was a sensitive child. Better if he was seen playing with a toy car or football. Sadly the royals will never change.”
Another added: “This isn’t okay anymore… My American side here, biased maybe b/c of everyday #gunviolence in USA but my British side agrees.
“No child in this day and age should look at any gun as a fun toy. This looks far too real.”
Other Twitter users came to George’s defence claiming that it was simply a case of “kids being kids.”
Someone wrote: “Can’t believe people are booting off about Prince George playing with a toy gun and handcuffs!
“He’s a child most likely playing cops and robbers! People are so dramatic.”
It’s not uncommon for children to play with pretend pistols and western shooters, but is a fascination with military hardware damaging to little ones?
And, should we be letting them play with toy guns in the first place?
According to some experts, this type of creative play is necessary and can even prove helpful in terms of child development.
“I understand why gun play worries parents, however research shows that any aggression demonstrated while engaging in ‘war play’ is not carried over into real life. ie: kids who play with guns become no more violent than those who don’t,” Sarah Ockwell-Smith, parenting expert and author of
The Gentle Discipline Book told The Independent.
“Pretend play is an important way for children to make sense of the world; in an age where guns are becoming more prevalent, gun-play helps them to process what they may see on the news, or indeed be subject to in real-life in a safe way.
“That said, even if parents restrict gun-toys, it incredibly likely that children will fashion their own, from a stick for instance. For this reason, combined with the evidence, I see no issue with letting children play with guns and happily allowed my own children to do so.”
Parenting coach Bea Marshall agrees, adding: “In my experience of raising my own sons, and also working with families around the world, one thing I have learned is that many children will find a way to create a gun no matter how hard you try to keep guns out of their world. Sticks, lego, wooden spoons and more are often turned into a gun and the intention behind it is completely innocent.
“As guns are a very real aspect of the world we live in today, whether the military, online gaming, movies or sport, I encourage parents to be part of their child’s exploration of guns.
“Guns only become ‘bad’ when we give them that meaning. In doing so we introduce fear and control into our relationship with our children rather than focusing on connection and joy.
“As your child grows up they will naturally learn more about the various uses and consequences of guns and the connection you have created with your child will allow for deep and insightful conversations about this knowledge.“