There are many situations where it is desirable for your toddler to have an idea of how to talk on the phone. When you or others are away from your toddler, it is way to keep in touch. Helping your toddler learn simple telephone conversations also provides her with practice in everyday chat, including how to start and end a conversation. Remember that your toddler’s attention span will probably not withstand a phone call with long-winded Great-Aunt Bea.
Here are some steps to follow to make the process enjoyable for you and your toddler:
1) Know your toddler’s abilities. She does not sit still and may not understand why using the phone is important. Prepare your toddler in advance by telling her that she will be talking to her favourite uncle on the telephone this afternoon. She will probably be excited to try out a new skill, especially if she enjoys the person on the other end of the phone.
2) If possible, use a hands-free speaker phone. There are a few benefits to this: one is that your toddler will be less likely to become fascinated with hanging up the handheld phone or pressing the buttons. Another is that she won’t feel like she has to sit still in one spot. Also, you will be able to prompt your toddler with answers to the caller’s questions.
3) Don’t expect a two-way conversation. When talking face-to-face with your toddler, which happens regularly, she is learning the art of conversation. Introducing the telephone is a whole new concept. She might not know how to react to the voice on the other end, but it is okay for her to just listen.
4) Try to have a plan. When you or others spend time with your toddler, it is safe to say that you are not always asking questions, so this is not necessary on the phone. Some toddlers may respond well to a number of questions; others may not. When you are the one who is away from your toddler, think of the activities that you usually do with your toddler in person. It may feel awkward at first, but it is okay to read stories, sing songs or play games over the phone. The main reason for talking to your toddler on the phone is for her to hear your voice and feel close to you. Here are some ideas:
- sing the alphabet
- pretend to play peek-a-boo
- tell a story
- make funny sounds
- count by ones
- play Simon Says
5) Practice with a toy phone. Using a pretend phone gives your toddler a chance to mimic the conversations around her, which helps develop her speech and social skills. While she is imagining talking to Auntie, she is also practicing the phone-appropriate words she has learned from listening to you. Toy phones are available in all shapes and sizes with lots of fun features. If you’re on a budget, you can use an old wall or cell phone; just remember to remove long cords.