At Stratford's Avon Kindergarten kids can pick up a "gun" and shoot a possum any time they want - if they have a licence.
Head teacher Lynsi Latham-Saunders has introduced the gun-use policy after some of the 3- to 5-year-olds began using sticks as guns and pointing them at each other.
"They were using guns for what they see guns used for on cartoons and television. Children weren't too keen on guns being pushed in their faces," she said.
Now, if any of the kindergarten's 73 pupils want to play with "guns" they must first attain a licence. Getting one is as simple as knowing they must never point their gun at a person, point it at the ground when walking around with it and can shoot only at targets and only once they have clearly identified what it is.
Some of those targets are pictures of possums, pigs and deer taped to trees and fences around the kindergarten.
Latham-Saunders said the licence was part of a wider lesson on how to treat people properly.
As many as half the children at the kindergarten were from farms where gun use was often part of life, she said. About 15 students had successfully sat the licence exam and so far none have been revoked.
"Forbidden fruit is often much more tempting. I think making rules and normalising it, it no longer has that mystique," Latham-Saunders said.
"We have guns and they have a purpose and they are all right for that purpose. It's when people use them in an unsafe way that is becomes an issue. It's important for kids to learn when we use things in a safe and purposeful way it's okay."
The gun policy has been in place for one month and kicked off with a visit from Stratford Police Community Constable Jono Erwood who talked about gun safety.
Avon Kindergarten is not the first to introduce gun licences. In 2011m Wellington's Ngaio Kindergarten and Auckland's Te Atatu Village Kindergarten instituted similar schemes.
- © Fairfax NZ News