H has three furry friends that go by the name of Alvin, Simon and Theodore (I’m sure you know them).  I brought them for him last Christmas because he loved the chipmunk movie and the songs that went with it.  To be honest it was just a little present that I thought would be forgotten about after 5 minutes.  That wasn’t the case.  Those three little toys have become a permanent fixture in H’s childhood.  They are his ‘boys’ and they are as real to him as Father Christmas is.  My husband and I have had hours of amusement listening to him talking to them about his day, telling them off, putting them to bed.  Alvin has gotten the blame (by H of course) for many a mishap in our house.  We get so much joy from watching him play with those toys and seeing his imagination in action.  He even tells them to ‘Go Soft’ when I walk into the room because I am not allowed to see them when they are ‘alive’!  It is exactly this kind of imaginative play why we have restricted his use of technology.


They look so innocent!

My husband is a gadget geek.  He has an iPad, an iPhone, Apple TV and a remote control helicopter (every man needs one, right?).  He has always been a gadget geek.  Back when we lived in sin in our cosy (aka minuscule) flat he had this all singing, all dancing, remote control that worked every gadget in the house.  I never knew how to work the thing.   It ate batteries like it was taking on an all you can eat challenge, and it constantly emitted a buzzing noise that had me searching for a fly for a month before I realised it was the remote.  I wasn’t a fan!

Nowadays our money is spent on toys of a different kind.  I think we could have actually bought 3 iPad’s with what we have spent on Disney Cars over the last few years.  The PlayStation and Wii were once nestled in the TV cabinet alongside the DVD player, but I can honestly say I don’t even know where they are now.  I know the last time it got used was on my 30th birthday for a rap battle to Ice Ice Baby on Sing Star!


Technology is so much more fun with alcohol!

Right now our lives are about building Lego, playing with cars and pretending to be superheros.  I’m not anti-technology but at 5 years old I do not let H play on our phones or the iPad.  He doesn’t have a Leap Pad or Leap Reader.  He is happy to learn the old-fashioned way and doing brilliantly.  He watches TV and we have ‘Movie Day’ on a Friday.  He uses the computer at the library and uses technology at school.  I think that’s enough for his age.

Perhaps as a parent our standpoint comes from our own childhood.  My memories of my bedroom are always listening to music.  Normally with a hairbrush in my hand and dreaming about being on Top of the Pops.  H has a CD player in his room and he loves listening to his CD’s.  Yes I know it’s very retro but iPod’s are a lot more expensive than his little CD player!  Sadly he will never know the joy that was Top of the Pops.  I wasn’t allowed a TV in my room until I went to secondary school and I plan the same for my boys.

I know more will come and quite frankly it scares me.  The things he could see on the internet, playing games that are not age appropriate, cyber bullying, more credit needed for his phone.  There are so many things we will have to control as parents, and no doubt many battles will be fought.  I can’t ask my parents how they handled it because they didn’t have to.  I know I will have to bend on some things, and I know there are others I will not be flexible over, and I know I have a steep learning curve to come.

The longer I can put off those battles the better.  I’m not saying there is a right way or a wrong way.  It’s just that this is my way.  I am happy right now to drink the pretend smoothies he has made me, watch the stunts he makes his cars do, and listen to him tell me about Alvin’s latest adventure.

Maybe I’m more afraid of teenagers than I am technology!



A.K.A Batman

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Claire Kirby

7 Comments on Toys vs Tech

  1. I know my standpoint will change and probably quickly. At the moment we are taking the view that tech toys are out for his first year of school so we can see how he gets on. I’m all for learning support. He uses the computer at the library once a week, and the portable DVD player is a must for long journeys. He uses tech at school and has no fear of it. I guess it will be a case of gradually introducing things when I feel it is needed or he is ready. I do feel like it’s a minefield I’m entering. Mainly from the safety perspective and bullying. Just feels like new territory as I can’t take any instincts from my own experiences as I have none! I was 18 when I got my first phone!

  2. You know we have lots of tech for our girls – C and A have their ipods, a portable dvd player, a leap pad, vetch walkie talkies that text and C now has a kindle. They can access the ipad too. (Of course, it wasn’t helped that when I was childminding a major part of EYFS was to “subject the children to a variety of ICT equipment and experiences”…. it was something that I started and then couldn’t move away from once I started to see its benefits). However, we’ve been quite firm on how much time they can use them and how they use them. The ipods are plugged into the dock in the lounge for their princess balls when they dress up in their Disney Princess outfits and do the whole ball scene often followed by a marriage (!), otherwise they are used in the car to keep them happy on long journeys up north to visit family. The DVD players are again used mostly for long car journeys although on the weekends they will sometimes get up early and watch a film to start their morning off “lazily” before some playtime. The leap pad games they have were ones I chose and had either literacy or maths games attached to them, the walkie talkies are used for fab games of hide and seek in the woods and they text each other “presents” and the kindle has locks on it so C has to read for 15mins before she can “play”, then she has to play her maths game for 5 mins (which has hugely increased her mental maths abilities in class) before she can play minecraft and the max time is 30mins so not much time. They respect this. Ask them what their favourite toy is though – Lego Friends – they have LOADS of sets (its mainly the big stupidly priced ones they don’t) and will play all sorts of games with them. They like to play board games and we do this as a family. However, this week I’ve been recovering from surgery and as the weather was nice I sent them outside to play with their bike, scooter, skipping rope and some chalk. They drew on the path, played hopscotch, cycled (A now happily on 2 wheels), scooted and skipped for over 3 hours…. They have a balance but are not scared of technology nor do they over use it. We reinforce the e-safety rules that they’re taught at school, I’ve allowed Connie internet access for help with her homework, if they have a question about something these days we suggest they “google it” and we sit with them to make sure they don’t open something inappropriate. As you say, different things for different people but my take is that we live in a techie world and I want my girls to feel confident in its use and their abilities. This was made all the more “real” for me when I started to work in a school and saw children who only use ICT at school, I have seen fear of how to best use it as well as abuse by trying to play instead of learn. Its about balance and what suits each family to some degree but its also about recognising what will help the child in school – the curriculum changed this year and children from Year 1 will start learning basic programming in order to give them a fighting chance in a techie world – as parents we need to find a way to work with that but still allow our kids to be kids…. The true recognition of how the ipad could benefit the girls was as a result of a maths game called squeebles – C was in bottom group of maths at start of Year 1 so I researched methods (despite being good at maths she wouldn’t listen to me so an alternative was needed) and found a review abou Squeebles – a short series of maths questions which result in awarding points, the points then lead to a game (very short) which is mathematical in itself. By the end of that school year she’d gained confidence and moved up 2 groups. Now in Year 3 she’s in top group, still plays squeebles (and other maths apps) to help her and the teacher tells me he can see it in her thirst to learn. ‘A’ now uses this app and is doing really well.
    I’m not saying your choices are wrong, I don’t think they are at all and in many ways I commend your for sticking to them. However, for me and my girls a balance was needed. When I “measure” tech time vs toy time the balance is definitely weighted much more to the latter but the former is sufficient that there is neither fear nor loathing from either party. That makes me a happy mummy and the girls both happy and proud – I can’t ask for much more than that.

  3. I have been there unfortunately having a computer mad husband made it difficult to keep tech away form my child. At 13 she is tech mad and when you are the one trying control it does become a battle. I have been through the cyber bullying ( my daughter was the perpetrator) and her father just brushed all bad behaviour aside his words this their generation. Make sure that both yourself and your husband are both singing from the same song sheet. If not mum becomes the big bad wolf.

    • It’s so hard. Especially when they just want to do what mum or dad are doing. We dont have a tv anywhere other than the lounge so hoping that will help. I guess we just have to try to lead by example. I also think safe internet use should be taught at school more as well as in the home.

  4. Thankyou. I sometimes think I sound old before my time, but I just think I learnt to read without gadgets and I have always loved getting lost in a book. We have read to H everyday since he was born and now he is loving learning to read himself. It’s an amazing thing to witness.

  5. What a handsome little man you have there! And you’re bringing him up the way I brought up my own boys…..we spent so much on wooden train pieces with our first one I considered buying stock in the company! The second boy was addicted to wooden blocks which led into LEGO (most expensive toys ever!) as he got older. Yes, you’ll bend and yes, he’ll be as enamoured of the techie stuff as his father down the line, but the way I always saw it was every single day/year I can give him with just good old-fashioned toys and days of imaging new worlds, is probably one more day/year than alot of other kids are given. It’s my belief that the jobs of the future are going to be the ones that can’t be done by machines and imagination is going to be a huge asset right up there with enjoying personal interactions between real people and not via phones and other devices.

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