Dear Parentworks,

My husband thinks our kids (3,5 & 9) will be behind the learning curves if we're not getting and making them use all the latest computer tools. Even the 3 year old! For Christmas I want to give them some board games, soft toys and even art supplies. But he says the programs can essentially provide all these skills for them. This keeps coming up for every gift giving occasion so we have a house full of tech stuff but it doesn't seem as fun to me.

- Tired of Tech

Dear Tired,

As in most things, compromise can be key to solving concerns. It sounds like your family has been having all-or-none issues. Whenever we're driven by fear, we tend to make fairly irrational arguments and decisions. It is a "fear" that many parents today share that if their child isn't computer literate from the get go, they will be left in the dust (of nano chips) by their higher functioning peers. I say "balance in all things". Exposing your children for limited time to a variety of computer programs and devices will be plenty of opportunity to develop those areas of their brain and skills. (1-2 hours Maximum for younger children for TV plus computer time is one standard guideline)

While widely known in the education and medical fields but less widely know to the general population is that children absolutely still need the kinds of toys you described. Young children learn 3 dimensionally. They learn with all of their senses. This actually more fully stimulates their brain in multiple areas and creates greater pathways providing increase range of learning and problem solving abilities as they grow older (translation - can make them very smart). Children need to touch, smell, hear, taste and see in detail that which they are experiencing. It also stimulates their creativity, provides open ended play where the child can create the experience and therefore feel powerful to affect their environment. It's why so many of the "basic" toys have stood the test of time. Any why many of us get big grins when we see these toys or have the opportunity to play with them as adults. The timeless toys created positive and lasting memories of how, when, where and with whom we played.

So armed with this information now you and your husband can play "debate" and come to some conclusions. An added benefit is that how you and your husband resolve this issue will also give your children a good example of how give and take problem solving works. And "playing" with those concepts are also very important lessons for your children to learn. They can see that everyone has their own opinion but in a family you have to work out how you'll "share" and resolve your differences.