“In a society where obesity is on the increase we need to engage with children and offer them toys which stimulate energetic role play.” Greg Lane, manager of the Soho Family Centre, part of the London Early Years Foundation, said it is not appropriate or realistic to ban toy weapons.He said that at his nurseries, such toys are not banned, but they are not encouraged either. “So I wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, tomorrow what are you going to bring in? Please bring in your pretend gun.’ But they are not banned,” he said.The survey also found that one in 20 of the nursery workers polled said their nursery has banned superhero costumes, with the majority saying they are allowed.David Wright, co-owner of the Paintpots nursery group based in Southampton, said that adults often project their own prejudices, thoughts and fears on to children’s play.”If children are engaged in role play, which involves guns, weapons, superhero play or whatever, they are not going through the same processes related to what we see in the media, and what we perceive,” he said.”I think we have to make that distinction between children’s imagination and what goes on in the real world.” It was once regarded a harmless children’s game but “cops and robbers” may become a thing of the past as parents are no longer buying toy guns and swords for their children over fears that it encourages violence, experts have said. Most nurseries are now banning toddlers from bringing in and playing with toy weapons, according to a poll of over 1,000 nursery owners, managers and staff. Sue Learner, editor of daynurseries.co.uk, which published the poll, said there is a fear among mothers and fathers that toy guns and swords can stir up aggression in toddlers. The survey found that around four in five of those questioned said that toy weapons are not allowed in their nursery, while about a fifth said they were permitted.“There is this fear toy guns and swords encourage aggression and violence and create a noisy, chaotic atmosphere,” Ms Learner said. “I realise many nurseries are under pressure from parents due to these perceptions. Yet if we ban toy weapons, we are controlling children’s imaginative play. Playing cops and robbers or baddies vs goodies are physical games involving running, crouching and hiding.” One in 20 of the nursery workers polled said their nursery has banned superhero costumesCredit:SNAP / Rex Features Ms Learner said that nurseries should be encouraging “open-ended physical play” rather than limiting it and shutting it down. “I have three sons who all played with toy guns and swords and they haven’t turned into aggressive, gun-toting teenagers,” she said. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.