Learning Phone Numbers with the Teaching Telephone

How soon do you teach a toddler to dial a telephone? My 2-year-old daughter has memorized her phone number, street address, her parent’s places of work and a vague description of what we do. Mom "helps sick babies" and Dad "writes stories." Incidentally, and I’m not kidding, she has told us she wants to grow up to write stories about sick babies.

She can also recognize the numbers 0 through 10 and knows how to talk on the phone, but when I asked her to dial our phone number there was a complete cognitive disconnect.

Marketing photo of the Teaching Telephone.
The Teaching Telephone by Learning Resources is a toy phone for dial training. It’s like potty training, but not so messy. A parent programs the toy with a number the child should learn and then records a message. As the child punches numbers, the numbers appear on an 11-digit LCD display. Depending on what is pushed, the child might hear a dial tone, busy signal or phone ringing. When the correct phone number is typed, the child hears the parent’s prerecorded message. After the number is mastered, a new one can be programmed.

The buttons seem large and easy to push, but I question the wisdom of the parent-oriented record and program buttons being easily accessible on the front panel. Here is the pivotal unanswered question: how easy or hard is it for a toddler to punch those buttons and erase the configured phone number or parental message?

The toy is rated for ages 3-and-up, probably due to a potential strangulation hazard with the phone cord.

An activity book can be purchased separately. Judging by the sample pages (540K PDF), the 32-page book appears to be for older children who have begun to write.

Now back to the central question: when do you begin dial training? According to an article at the Partnership for Learning, there are two simple criteria. First, your child must know the numbers 1 through 10 (hey, what about zero?). Second, your child should be responsible enough to recognize that a phone is not a toy, unlike, uh, the toy phone you gave him. Hmmm.

See related: Walkie-Talkie Phones

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