Promoting communication skills in preschool

In my classroom, even the quietest children have something to say when you hand them a telephone. This may look like just a bunch of old phones to you, but it is actually one of the best ways to get kids talking, role playing, and using their imagination all at the same time…

I have been collecting phones off and on throughout the school year.  I started out the school year with only four phones but quickly discovered that everyone loves to talk on the telephone in my classroom so I have been adding to the collection when I happen to find a phone that someone is getting rid of…

There are days when my classroom looks like a preschool telethon.  I keep all the phones in a basket on one of our shelves and about once or twice a month, the children like to drag them out and play telephone…

As I listen to my students talk on the phone, I can hear a lot of their parents doing the talking. The children often even stand or use body language like mom or dad or they use language that sounds like mom or dad. I bet mom and dad have no idea how much their children are listening to and watching them as they talk on the phone…

But the best part of playing with the telephones is that everyone is talking. They are communicating. Sometimes, they are communicating with each other through some sort of role play…

And other times they are only having a conversation with their imaginations. I hear the children talking like secretaries, moms, dads, teachers, doctors, and other people or occupations that are familiar or interesting to the children as they talk on the telephones…

We also have a few cell phones (no batteries included) available for play. I will find the children having conversations in just about every corner of the classroom (even under the tables)…

Most of the time, I just observe as a child goes walking by me with a cell phone or cordless phone in hand while talking up a storm.  I rarely notice what is being said, but what I do notice is that the children are quite intense and focused on their imagined conversations. I do not interrupt them in the process.  Besides, my mom taught me that it was rude to interrupt someone when they are on the phone…

The use of telephones promotes all types of learning as well as growth and development. As the children play, they often use paper and pencils to jot down a few notes or they will dial a certain number many times until they can get someone to answer the phone. In other words, we have a little vocabulary, communication, dramatic play, pre-writing skills, number recognition, and fine motor skills all in action at the same time….

I am still on the look out for unique or old fashioned phones to add to my collection but I don’t want to discount the modern day phones because the modern phones and cell phones are what the children see the people in their world using. I want to be sure that I am doing my best to promote play with tools that are realistic in the children’s daily lives…


  1. Margaret@growingplay says

    My children have always loved to play with the phone. At our local library there was a toy chest full of toys but every time they would grab a large push button phone. We play office where I call up to make appointments. I saw you had some clipboards out for messages. Once again great post ( see you are moving on to speech therapy now LOL). Just goes to show you what well rounded children you are educating.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Thank you Margaret! I guess a little speech therapy is bound to be a part of the preschool classroom too:)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Thanks for stopping by Kim! I think they enjoy being able to pretend to be mom or dad!

  2. Diane Quigley-Clune says

    Over the years i have had phones in our classroom but mostly in the dramatic play area. I love the idea of having them available all the time.
    Since cell phones are such a part of our world it makes sense that the children want to communicate that way too. Thanks Deborah.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I keep thinking I need to round up more cell phones but so far, I only have two. The rest of the phones are old office or home phones but the kids seem to like them just as much!

  3. Carla says

    Hi Deborah,

    I have a telephone song/chant for you that the children might enjoy as they play:
    “With a ring a ding ding,
    with a ring a ding ding,
    we sing, we sing.
    Hey (child’s name),
    Hey (child’s name).

    I don’t have a website, sorry, but my e-mail address is I will see you on Pinterest!
    You’re wanted on the telephone!”

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Oh, what a cute song! I will have to teach that to my kids this week!

  4. Carla says

    oops!!! I just saw that the wording got a little mixed up! The last line should be “you’re wanted on the telephone!” Sorry….must have hit “enter” in error

  5. says

    It always makes me laugh to listen to my son pretend to talk on the phone. One time I asked him why he was saying certain things and talking a certain way and he said that he’s talking on the phone like a grownup. It’s hilarious to watch them role play like that!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Haha – how funny that he has differentiated between talking like a kid and talking like a grown up!

  6. says

    it’s so fun to hear their one way communications with whoever they’re talking to on the phone! you can really learn alot about their interests! pinned it

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      It is funny, but I almost never listen in to what they are gabbing about. I am too busy watching their body language which is a language all by itself!

  7. says

    I love this idea and I love this post. The pictures of your “preschool telethon” are cracking me up! I love the idea of having writing supplies nearby!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I get a kick out of it too when we are in the classroom – I get tickled watching them all busy on those phones!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      My kids would love to play with a dial phone! I wonder if I still have one somewhere? I used to have an old one – I am going to have to dig around!

  8. Jodi Davis says

    we just did a study on phones and had many different phones in our room and compared and contrasted them. we also tied in learning our phone numbers, 911, learning numbers, and phone manners. we also made a fake phone book with kids pictures so they could call each other.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Wow – you all used the telephones for some great learning!! I will have to introduce some of these idea the next time we pull out the phones!