Dummy phones keep toddlers busy

My two year-old has no interest in phones that don’t beep or dial or display numbers on the screen as she mashes the buttons. I just keep my cell phone locked, and she quickly loses interest and moves on.

Here’s how Jim in Chicago deals with toddler cell phone obsession:

Every toddler I’ve met (including ours) loves cell phones.  Adult cell phones, that is: they have amazing discriminatory powers that allow them to detect and immediately become bored by kiddie-phones that are actually branded and sold as such.  Trouble is, when they grab your real cell phone they can get it messy, make random calls, lose it or even break it.  To say nothing of the dangers of putting high voltage electronics in their mouths or getting a shock from submerging the thing in a cup of milk, the sink or toilet.

Solution:  Go to EBay and run a search for "dummy phone".  You’ll get hundreds of hits for nonfunctional store display mock-ups like the ones you often see in your local cell phone shop, Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.  They look much like the real thing (incl. tactile buttons), but they lack potentially dangerous internal electronics.  Cost starts from $10-15 for most models, after shipping.  That’s cheaper than some stores charge for toys that the toddler will tire of more quickly.

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  1. says

    Oh, so true about kids detecting the fakes. Another, cheaper, source for a “real” kid phone, though, is an old phone you’ve bounced off the curb one time too often. (If you’ve never done this, chances are someone you know has.)

    And save the old remotes from non-working TVs, DVDs, etc. (or remotes you’ve replaced with a universal). These are equally attractive. If your kids suspect that the batteryless weight is different, you can pack the cavity with kid-safe Play Doh.

  2. says

    I have an old cordless phone that is still pretty solid, I just couldn’t get replacement batteries for it, so I yanked out the old battery, and now it is a toy for my daughter.

    Although she always prefers the working cordless when she can get her hands on it. She is reasonably satisfied putting the toy one up to her ear and saying, “ah-oh!”

  3. says

    Oh, it’s so, so true. We even got a toy phone that’s colored and shaped like a real phone, and our 11-month-old can _tell_. Oh, sure, she’ll hold it up to her ear for a little bit — very cute and all — but it only holds her interest for a few seconds. A real cell phone, and we’re good for half an hour at least.

  4. says

    As toys go, plastic toy phones are a big hit with my two-year-old daughter. I love watching her do pretend conversations. It’s hilarious, because she just mimics how we sound the entire time — “umm, yes, okay, umm…”

  5. Gary says

    Calculators are great for this kind of entertainment too. I forgot to lock my phone, & my 2-year old son managed to speed-dial my parents at 3:00am their time.

  6. says

    We have a local time and temperature number that I call and then hand the phone over to my 17 month old daughter. She seems to really enjoy actually hearing someone on the other end of the line. And, yeah, those toy phones with some cartoon character reapeating the same thing over and over just don’t cut it.

  7. says

    It’s very interesting to see how discerning our kids are. Makes me wonder if we should spend more time posting Amazon.com reviews of these toys we buy in hopes of hoodwinking our kids. I suppose some kids fall for it but it would be nice to prove a market for more interactive cell phones.

    I’m continually amazed how my 18mo, (since he was 10-11mo), preferred to play with television remotes, cell phones, wireless phones, laptops, keyboards and computer mice.

    Perhaps we can create some sort of safe, monitored, VoIP cell phone network adapter so our kids can call and have a conversation with other toddlers or perhaps a much larger library of recorded characters :)

    Or a television for kids that lets them change channels or change volumn or picture size without locking the TV or causing problems…..

  8. says

    My 16month old absolutely goes nuts at the sight of my cellphone. Sometimes she likes to push teh buttons and make pretend calls, sometimes I’ll just set it up on ringtone and she listens to that for awhile.

    Of course, she will also periodically dig through the bowl of plastic fruit on the kitchen table, hold a banana up to her ear and say “Hello?” (She also tells a mean knock-knock joke.)

  9. rotangus says

    Same idea – We kept a dead standard computer keyboard around when the kids were small. They loved banging on the thing, even though it wasn’t connected to anything else. Especially if they could do it in the same room as a parent who was doing actual “computer work” at the time.

  10. says

    My preschooler just loves talking on my cellphone! I’ve given her the old (non-working) one that won’t hold a charge anymore. So far she’s happy with it.

    I really like the idea of a spare keyboard for kids to play with too. Not that we’d have any of those around here.

  11. says

    Kids love to ape parents. If you are doing it they Want to do it. The sooner you let them scratch that itch the sooner they get the skills.

    My 3 yeard old loved playing with old keyboards as a youngling and now can pick out his name and the word cat. This is great fun on irc, the regulars on #mindvox often get “visits” when i forget to lock my seasion.

    He loved the keyboard so much it migrated into his daycare and we got a request to bring in a few for the other kids. Here in Portland we have a great resource called Free Geek where you can pick up parts and full working , yet dated, computer gear for near nothing.

    At age three he can also pick out tapes and run the VCR and is almost 100% DVD trained.

    The big key is to start them young with mock gear.

    How soon till we see a Fisher Price MyFirstWarDriving rig?


  12. Jeff says

    We picked up three or four of the dummy phones for free at a local T-Mobile retailer. We asked for the models that were no longer on display or being marketed, and the guy was nice enough to go in the back and pull a few of them for our kids. So it might be worth checking a retailer before ponying up on eBay.

  13. says

    Heh. Our kid is the same–loves to bang on the keyboard, loves daddy’s big universal remote (toy remote does nothing for her, sorry). But it’s true what TomWsmf said–it’s aping us geek parents. We recently took care of one of my daughter’s friends for a few hours–she got a little fussy and we thought hey, let her bang on the keyboard! Total lack of interest…her parents? a doctor and a jeweler. go figure.

  14. Concerned Dad says

    I recently went into a cell phone store and asked for any dummy phones they had laying about unused. In the past, they’ve willingly given up the phones as toys for the kids, free of charge. When I went in this past week, I was told that they no longer give out the dummy phones because they sometimes contain lead components that may be harmful to children. I can’t find any information anywhere to either support or debunk this. Anyone know if it’s true?