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Learning to Use the Phone

Your kid loves to push buttons on toys and dishwashers  -- is she ready for the ones on your phone?

Most school-age kids can follow directions and have had practice talking to adults. So if your child is dying to use it, and you don't mind guiding her through some awkward conversations at first, here's what to do:

Create family rules. When is she allowed to answer? Who can she call? Have her help create the laws, and talk about the reasons behind them.

Practice. Unplug your phone to teach her the basics, like how to dial and what to say when she answers. Then call from your cell phone so she can test her skills.

Give her (supervised) freedom. With you by her side, let her make her own playdates or respond to invitations. Once she gets through the sticky early part ("Hello, this is Morgan. May I speak with Kate?"), let her chat while you do something nearby.

Prepare for emergencies. Make sure she knows how to call 911, and role-play what she might say; explain that it's different from giving her name to strangers because that's a safe number to call.