One of the most popular toys that are often given as birthday gifts or even presents on special occasions like holidays is a toy gun. And when it comes to toy guns, nothing can beat the fun and thrill afforded by Nerf. And while there have been a great debate as to whether these kinds of toys are necessarily fuelling the aggressive tendencies of children leading to violence and aggression later in life, child development experts have already weighed in on the debate. Playing with toy guns do not lead to violence and aggression in adulthood. In fact, it has been shown to be particularly effective in helping kids with dramatic, make-believe, and pretend play. These types of play are important in the development of the kid’s cognitive, social, emotional, language, and physical skills.
In our next set of the top toys for kids, we are sharing with you the 15 best Nerf guns ever. Additionally, we also included herein a very lengthy presentation as to why experts believe that toy guns are safe and that they are beneficial for children’s optimum development.
Our 15 Best Nerf Gun Toys in 2017
- Nerf N-Strike Elite Strongarm Blaster
- Nerf Zombie Strike FlipFury Blaster
- Nerf B5577 Modulus Tri-Strike
- Nerf Zombie Strike Hammershot Blaster
- Nerf N-Strike Mega Series RotoFury Blaster
- Nerf N-Strike Elite Rough Cut 2X4 Blaster
- Nerf Zombie Strike Sledgefire Blaster
- Nerf N-Strike Elite Stryfe Blaster
- N-Strike Elite Retaliator Blaster
- Nerf Zombie Strike Doominator Blaster
- Nerf N-Strike Elite Centurion Blaster
- Nerf N-Strike Elite Triad EX-3 Blaster
- Nerf N-Strike Elite Rampage Blaster
- Nerf Rival Apollo XV-700
- Nerf N-Strike Elite Rhino-Fire Blaster
How We Chose the Nerf Guns in Our List
Because we are essentially talking about a single product line of one particular toy manufacturer, we needed to modify our approach to coming up with our list of the top 15. We had to look at the overall design of the Nerf gun as well as the inherent features that it has. Consequently, we had to examine these features in terms of what it can do for children’s development. We then considered what other parents are saying about these toys. With these, we were able to come up with the top 12 Nerf guns we are optimistic that kids will surely have countless hours playing with.
Safety / Tips
Just as adults are debating as to the rightful place of guns in modern society, with the nation clearly divided between pro- and anti- gun advocates, there is a little revolution that is occurring elsewhere perhaps stemming from the same debate. Parents everywhere are also divided as to the nature of toy guns. On one side of the equation are parents who view toy guns, even Nerf blasters, to be instruments of violence, and that these should not be included or categorized as a toy. On the other side of the equation are those who see Nerf guns as essential toys to a child’s development particularly in terms of providing them with opportunities for dramatic and fantasy play.
Toy Guns and Pretend Play
Child development experts agree that pretend play is a very important aspect of children’s development and learning. Such types of play helps children master the use of their imagination while at the same time enhances their creativity. This, in turn, helps harness their ability to solve problems and to think out of the box. Many critical thinkers as well as strategists utilize pretend play as a means of exploring what-if scenarios so they get a better understanding of possible outcomes.
Pretend play is not only ideal for helping children develop their cognitive skill abilities, many gun play activities also require role playing which means they have to develop and enhance their social interaction skills. And this is where the main point of child development psychologists lies. It is generally observed that children who play with toy guns do not necessarily grow up to become violent, trigger-happy individuals. In like manner, not all convicted felons had the chance to play with toy guns when they were still children.
Tips to Ensuring Kids’ Safety While Playing with Nerf Products
Choosing to allow your kids to play with Nerf guns or any toy gun for that matter is an intensely personal decision. Nevertheless, here are some tips you may want to consider to help make sure that your child is playing with his or her toys in a safe manner.
- Always choose a non-realistic looking toy gun.
Children must learn that Nerf guns are toys and like any other toy should be used as instruments of imagination and creativity. If you give them ultra-realistic toy guns, they will no longer be able to use their imagination to the fullest simply because you are giving them an exact replica of the real thing. That is why child development psychologists prefer giving kids sticks with which to pretend and make-believe as guns or even light sabers. This is where Nerf guns are highly valuable since they really do look more like toys than they are gun replicas.
- Take time to talk to your children about gun safety.
It is equally important to sit down and talk to your kid about gun safety. You may be surprised to learn that many kids don’t necessarily equate guns with killing, violence, and death. For many kids, guns project power and control – the power to take full control of their fantasies and imaginations.
You may want to start by gaining an understanding of how your kids look at guns and what does it mean to play with toy guns. You may join him or her in one of his or her playtime activities and remark how he or she is having fun. The point is for you to be consistent in underscoring the difference between a real gun and a toy Nerf gun. You will also have to emphasize that Nerf guns are excellent for pretend play.
- Limit your kid’s exposure to violent video or TV programming.
Many parents believe that if there is one thing we should be particularly be concerned about, that would be the increasing number of children’s shows and video games that exposes them to violence. For example, another toy category that is hotly debated are video games especially those that espouse gore and violence. Compared to playing with toy guns, this is where child developmental psychologists clearly draw the line further saying that the amount of exposure to violence in television shows and video games can adversely affect the emotional and social development of children. If your kid is going to play with his these types of toys, make sure he or she limits his or her exposure to violent video or TV programming.
- Always monitor your kid’s gun play; but, don’t prohibit.
We all know that play is a child’s way of learning more about himself or herself as well as the world around him or her. This is also true when playing with Nerf guns. However, it is crucial that we keep an eye on their playtime activities so that they are within the limits of what can be generally considered as safe. This simply means that children should be able to observe appropriate times for play. Anything in excess should always be managed accordingly.
For example, if all your kid wants to do is to play with his or her Nerf gun without doing his or her homework or even already sipping meals, then you know that gun-play is getting out of hand. In such cases, you may need to withhold the plaything for the meantime and set some rules for your kid to regain access to his or her playthings.
- Play target practice with the whole family.
What better way to teach kids about the value of toy guns than joining them for an afternoon of target practice session? You don’t need a fancy target. You can just draw a figure of a bull’s eye on an ordinary paper, hang it outside, and then compete on how can shoot closest to the center. Or, you can prop some empty plastic jars or cups on your fence and start shooting. You can then introduce the concept of gun safety to your kids and reinforce the idea that toy guns like Nerf blasters are very useful instruments for pretend or make-believe play.
Just like owning a gun entails a great sense of responsibility and accountability, so does letting our kids play with toy guns. It is therefore our job to guide them to the best of our abilities so they grow up respecting the awesome power of guns.
Toy Guns and Children – Encouraging Violence or Merely an Instrument of Pretend, Dramatic, or Fantasy Play?
With the ever growing concern on violence, it would be quite understandable to say that playing with toy guns at such an early age can lead to aggression and gun violence in adulthood. We don’t condone violence and while we do respect the provisions of the Second Amendment, we also recognize the fact that it is our sole responsibility as parents and as guardians of our children to teach them about how to properly use their toy guns. Owning a firearm, even if it was only a toy, requires a great sense of responsibility. This should be the focus of our attention whenever we see our kids playing with toy guns.
Contrary to what we may believe in, studies now show that children who play with toy guns do not necessarily grow up to become violent individuals or commit violent crimes. Research now shows that there is clearly no scientific evidence that suggests playing with toy guns and role-playing war games during childhood can lead to real-life violence and aggression in adulthood.
This was also echoed by other authors and experts in child development psychology. To back up their claim, they have cited studies wherein felons and other individuals who have committed violent crimes have never played with toy guns in childhood or even participated in a war game fantasy play. Likewise, there were plenty of individuals who have remained law-abiding members of society even though they did play with toy guns in childhood.
Again, for those who think that toys that depict violence or are used as instruments of aggression and violence, we respect your views. In fact, there is a very clear divide between those who see toy guns as encouraging violence and those who see these toys for what they truly are – as toys that help stimulate and enhance the optimum growth and development of children. Whether you are on one side of this debate, it is quite important to look at how kids actually play. This should give us an understanding of what toy guns and other similar toys can do for children of a particular age.
Experts agree that 60 to 80 percent of young boys prefer aggressive play while only 30 percent of young girls do. This is why many of the toys that are geared for young boys are inherently action-packed and full of adventure. They love pretending to be knights who kill dragons, the Jedi master who defeats the Empire, and the marksman who hunts down his prey. They also love action figures from Transformers to GI Joes to WWE and WWF action figures. On the other hand, young girls prefer to play with home-related and beauty-related toys. That’s why they love dolls as well as other playthings that will allow them to role-play the family. Since time immemorial, it has always been this way. Unfortunately, scientists, sociologists, and child experts alike cannot explain whether this phenomenon is inherently wired to genetics or is it a form of a socially learned behavior?
We all know that play is needed by every child to help him or her to grow and develop optimally. This means that it is through play that children learn about the different things around them including their bodies, the different people and the associated relationships established with these people, and every other aspect of daily living. It is also through play that they are able to develop their psychomotor skills which becomes the foundation for the continued development of their coordination, proprioception, sensorimotor, and balance. In many respects, their spatial intelligence is also developed. It is also through play that children develop and enhance their cognitive abilities, their social skills, and their emotional wellbeing.
But just how are toy guns helpful in the overall growth and development of children?
Toy guns are considered to be excellent instruments or tools for dramatic, fantasy, or pretend play. These kinds of play have been shown to be highly beneficial in the developing at least 6 different skills among children, both boys and girls. These include the following:
- Role playing skills – When kids play with their toy guns, they always assume the role of their favorite character. For instance, they can play the role of the gun-slinging Bugs Bunny or even the laser-shooting fighters of the Resistance in the Star Wars saga. Role-playing allow kids to imitate the actions and even the speech of the character. This helps in the development of kids’ cognitive abilities.
- Make-believe skills – Akin to imagination, children playing with toy guns can take on the role of a particular character. With continued play, children can slowly expand the roles of their characters. For example, while Bugs Bunny is not really known to use guns, that distinction being attributed to Yosemite Sam, children can use their imagination to think that Bugs Bunny is the rabbit-incarnate of a sharpshooting Transformer. This particular skill requires role-playing as its foundation.
- Social interaction skills – When dramatic play is involved, children have to learn how to interact with other children as well as adults. Pretend play helps children progress from independent play to one of cooperative play. Playing with toy guns essentially is more fun if kids have something, or someone, to shoot at.
- Communication skills – Part of social interaction and role playing is communication, both listening and speaking. Social interactions help enhance children’s ability to listen and comprehend what other children or adults are saying. Additionally, they will also learn how to express themselves a lot better. They will also learn different words and phrases as a result of their role play and make-believe play. This can widen their vocabulary enabling them to communicate even more.
- Attention span – Young children have very short attention span. However, as game play expands to include additional roles and make-believe superpowers, then children are able to significantly increase their attention span. This allows them to focus more intently on their roles.
- Use of props and/or materials – Do we really know how to use a gun? Today’s toy guns, especially those from Nerf, have a variety of features that children will really love manipulating. Add to this light and sound effects and you have just provided the best sensory experience for your kids. More importantly, though, is the fact that they will learn to use different props or materials that came with their toys. For example, there are toy guns that have targets as well as holsters and other accessories. Children will be able to learn the actual use of these items while at the same time exhibiting great success in their use.
Aside from the development and enhancement of these skills, children can also benefit from playing with toy guns in the following aspects.
- Social and emotional development – Children who play with toy guns in a pretend war game have to decide which side they are and what roles they have to play. For example, they may decide to role play the battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons. In such a play, children will have to talk about who will play who as well as decide on the rules of the game. They then have to play it and attempt to remain true to the original objectives of the game. They learn cooperation and teamwork. More importantly, they will learn to control or manage their impulses which can help them to tone down their aggression. This leads to healthier self-concept, boosting self-esteem and fostering emotional development.
- Cognitive development – Role playing or pretend play requires the processing of a variety of information. The brain needs to process experiences, feelings, images, scents, and other pieces of information so that it knows what it needs to do. For example, before shooting away at a make-believe enemy, the brain needs to process the distance to the target, whether there are obstructions, and whether there are other shooters in the area that might shoot the child back. All of these encourage complex problem solving skills, counterfactual reasoning, and divergent thinking. In some cases, it can also help facilitate critical thinking. Playing with toy guns, especially in the act of shooting also helps enhance children’s focus and concentration which can, again, help in the continued development of the child’s cognitive abilities.
- Language development – Playing shooting games require knowledge of a particular lingo that is unique to those in this particular field. Children in make-believe war games have to come up with secret codes to confuse the “enemy”. All of these may sound chatter to most of us but for kids these are beneficial in enhancing their language skills.
- Physical development – Have you seen a shooter walking casually from cover to cover? Playing with toy guns help encourage children to be more physically active. They have to run, crawl, and even jump over obstacles to avoid getting hit. This helps strengthen their muscles and improve overall stamina. Toy guns also help improve fine motor skills, spatial intelligence, and, more importantly, hand-eye coordination especially in the timing of the shot.
Clearly, toy guns are beneficial in ensuring the optimum growth and development of children. However, we do recognize the apprehension and fear of many parents regarding the use of these toys. Like we said earlier, we don’t necessarily believe that playing with toy guns will create a very aggressive, trigger-happy, and very violent adult. We firmly believe that toy guns are instruments of child development. We also believe that it is our responsibility to make sure that these toy guns are used in a positive and developmentally-appropriate way. Hence, we have come up with several tips for parents to help guide their children in playing responsibly with toy guns.
- Always talk with your child about guns. Don’t talk about guns at your kid. It is important to have an idea about what he or she knows about toy guns and understand their application. You have to be consistent in underscoring the difference between your child’s toy gun and the real thing. You can do this by emphasizing the fun in pretend play.
- Limit your kid’s exposure to violent movies, TV shows, and most importantly video games. Child development experts agree that if there is one thing you need to be concerned about, that would be your kid’s desensitization to violence as depicted in movies, films, and video games.
- Don’t discourage your kids to play with toy guns. However, it is important to keep an eye on his or her gun play. If your child’s entire playtime activity is centered on gun play, maybe you need to introduce something new to spark his or her interest.
- Always buy toy guns that really look like a toy. Never ever buy a toy gun that is designed as a toy replica of a real gun. It is also a lot better to buy toy guns that have a variety of colors. Remember that a toy gun is an instrument for make-believe or pretend play. The closer it is to the real thing, the less likely will children will have to make-believe.
- Always encourage your kid to practice target shooting. You don’t have to have an expensive target. An empty plastic jug or container can be an easy target. You can even draw a target on a piece of paper. Instead of shooting at each other, kids can compete on who can shoot closest to the bull’s eye.
Toy guns are important instruments to a kid’s optimum development. What is equally important, however, is that parents should guide children on how they can play with these kinds of toys in a safer, more appropriate, and more responsible manner. Hopefully, our lengthy post on the value of these toys can help encourage parents to consider giving their kids a safe toy gun. And when safe toy guns are considered, we are positive that our list of the top 12 Nerf toy guns can help.
Where To Buy
When buying online and sourcing new nerf guns for sale, we recommend Amazon, however you can also purchase from Walmart, Target or Toys R Us.
Check out this great guide on the fun of making your own modded nerf gun.
About The Brand
NERF is one of the leading manufacturers of foam-based toy weaponry although it did aim to diversify in its product offerings to include sports and athletics. It’s a toy brand that was created in 1969 by the Parker Brothers and is now one of the most productive divisions of Hasbro with an annual revenue of more than US$ 400 million. Its secret is its highly patented foam, a spongy, solid cellular material that is primarily made of polyester resin that is introduced with carbon dioxide to give it its distinct soft and light appearance.
The World’s First Indoor Ball
The polyurethane foam ball was initially designed by the Parker Brothers in 1969 after the indoor volleyball game invented by Reyn Guyer from Minnesota. The team eliminated everything else except for the foam ball. The popular Nerf ball was marketed as the perfect plaything for indoor activities as it was so soft and light that it won’t break windows or damage lamps or even hurt older people or younger children. By 1972, NERF already developed its very first Nerfoop using the Nerf ball to play basketball. Not long after, Nerf football made its debut and the company has been known for its soft and lightweight balls ever since.
In 1991, the company was handed control over to Kenner Products and throughout the greater part of the new millennia has seen movement of management control from Kenner to OddzOn to Larami before finally settling under the direct supervision and management of Hasbro. In response to the growing clamor for a female line of foam-based weaponry, the company launched its Nerf Rebelle series in February 2013 with the Heartbreaker bow and arrow. Ten months later in November 2013, Nathaniel Marunas released The Ultimate Nerf Blaster Book, a resource book for anything and everything Nerf including their N-Strike, Vortex, and Dart Tag series.
More than Just a Lightweight Ball
Today Nerf is a designer and manufacturer of developmentally appropriate children’s toys of the foam-based weaponry, sports, adventure, and athletics genre. It is well known for the following products:
- N-Force – This includes foam swords and melee weapons such as Thor’s Hammer and Sword Snake Eyes’ katana, the Blade of justice.
- Blasters – These are the most popular Nerf products. They come with Velcro-tipped and suction-tipped darts to be loaded onto a variety of firing mechanisms including N-Strike, N-Strike Elite, Vortex, Rebelle, and Zombie Strike.
- Super Soakers – It’s the company’s complete line of water guns for pure absolute summer time fun.
- Lazer Tags – First introduced in the middle of the 1980s, Nerf’s Lazer Tags now take full advantage of mobile devices such as iPhones and iPod Touches to enhance the player experience.
- Sports – These include foam balls that accurately represent ball games such as football, soccer, and basketball.
- Nerf Dog – Designed primarily for the training of canine retrievers.
- Video Games – In 1999, Nerf released the FPS game Nerf Arena Blast on PS2 and Nintendo DSi, 3DS, and DS Lite. In 2008, it released Nerf N-Strike and Nerf N-Strike Elite a year later.
NERF has been around for more than half a century and it is not showing any signs of slowing down. If any, the challenges of tomorrow are being met with much enthusiasm and commitment to develop better toys for children to enjoy.