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Toddler Telephone Etiquette

When Grandma calls, Paige Critchlow of Renfrew, PA, is eager to chat. But the 2-year-old is still learning the finer points of telephone conversation. She'll ask, "Grandma, like my dress?" or sometimes hold the earpiece to her mouth.

Phone calls are especially challenging for 2-and 3-year-olds because they rely heavily on visual cues such as facial expressions and gestures to help them decipher meaning, says Dayna Jornsay-Hester, the community education coordinator for the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. They don't yet get that the voice on the other end can't see them, or know how to keep up a back-and-forth. They may chirp "Hi!" and then hang up abruptly, or wanter off midcall.

To help conversations go more smoothly:

Prep the caller with some info, so she can say, for instance, "Tell me what you bought at the supermarket today with Mom." That's more likely to get your toddler gabbing than a vague question like "What did you do today?"

Before you hand the receiver over, show your child a photo of whoever's on the phone, then tell her to "Say hi to Gram." That way, she'll be more comfortable talking to that disembodied voice on the other end.