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Talking on the phone



Suitable for children: 
Skills this activity improves: 
Man talking on the phone

There are many different ways that we can communicate and talk to people. You can have a conversation with others even when you are not face-to-face or in the same room. One way is by using the phone.

Next time you are going to make a phone call talk to your child about what happens. Explain that sometimes when you ring someone they might not be able to talk. They might not be at home or are busy doing other things.

If we can’t talk to Nikita we can leave a message. Then she can ring us back later.

Talk to your child about what happens when you ring. Explain that every phone has its own number and that it is different to all other phone numbers. Sometimes people will remember the numbers. Sometimes they write them down or save it on the phone next to the person’s name.

Explain that before you can start talking you need to wait and listen for the person to answer the phone. After they have answered and said hello you will need to say who you are and why you are calling. Explain that the conversation is shared and that one person talks and then the other person does, taking it in turns. When the conversation is finished you need to say goodbye and hang up the phone.

If your child is very young, you might want to explain that the person can’t see them when they are nodding or smiling.

Tell Nikita ‘yes’. She can’t see you nodding your head. Okay, time to say goodbye now.

Materials you will need

  • Phone

Why does this matter?

When children are talking on the phone they are learning to hold a conversation and experimenting with taking turns.

As they listen and talk on the phone they are developing listening and responding skills. They are learning to hear pauses in a conversation - showing them that it’s now their turn to talk. When a child can’t see the face or body posture of the other person they don’t know when it is their turn to talk. They will learn to carefully listen for a pause or stop in the conversation.

What does this lead to?

Talking on the phone helps children to develop listening and responding skills which are an important part of developing friendship skills.

When children talk to another person on the phone they are developing language and communication skills. Because the other person can’t see what they can, they are learning to describe objects in a way that the listener is able to picture what they are saying.

Language to use

  • Telephone, mobile phone, landline
  • Phone number
  • Dialling, talking, listening, conversation
  • Message, ringing, ringtone
  • Answering machine, message bank, engaged, no answer

Questions to use

  • Who are we going to ring?
  • Do you think Jack will be home when we ring?
  • If Jack doesn’t answer the phone what could we do?

Useful tips

  1. Children under five can find it very challenging to have a conversation when they can’t see the face of the person.
  2. Talk to your child about how to use the phone if there is an accident or emergency.
  3. Remember to talk to your child in your home language.

More ideas

  1. Make a phone list for the family, putting a picture of the person next to the number.
  2. Make a list of emergency numbers and place it next to the phone.

Variation by age

Three to five year olds

  • Set up a dramatic play office space.
  • Make a family phone book.
  • Point out the emergency phone numbers for the police and ambulance when you are out and about.

Questions to ask

  • Who would you ring if I had an accident?
  • Who would you ring for an ambulance?
  • Who could you ring if you were scared?

Language to use

  • Emergency, accident
  • Police, Fire Department, ambulance, hospital