The Best Toy Phones for When Imagination Calls
Toy phones are great tools for inspiring imaginative and pretend play, which is monumental for a child’s cognitive and social development. As little ones engage in make-believe conversations and scenarios with their play phones, they can strengthen their problem-solving skills, reinforce emotional understanding and nurture their creativity. This style of open-ended, no-wrong-way type of play allows toddlers to explore various roles and situations, imitate real-life interactions and develop a sense of empathy. So as your search for the right toy phone begins, allow us to walk you through some more of their benefits before sharing our favorite picks.
The ability to divert your child’s attention away from your own phone may be all the reason you need to invest in a good toy telephone that baby can call their own. But this petite, button-rich plaything has a ton of other perks:
Cognitive development. The AAP notes that make-believe play encourages creativity, as well as language and communication skills. As children engage in pretend conversations, they practice language skills such as vocabulary, sentence structure and verbal expression. They learn to articulate their thoughts, engage in turn-taking and even experiment with different tones of voice.
Growth in fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. The buttons, sliders and dials on a toy phone require precise finger movements, which facilitate greater hand-eye coordination and dexterity. By grasping and manipulating these toggles, babies and toddlers can strengthen their finger muscles and refine their ability to isolate and control individual fingers.
Ready to find the best toy phone for your tot? Terrific! We’ve rounded up six of the most entertaining, interactive and learning-focused toy phones around—from smartphone dupes featuring touchscreen-like interfaces, buttons and sounds that surprise and delight to soft, food-grade silicone silhouettes that are designed to be teething-friendly while promoting sensory exploration—our favorite toy phone picks are totally dialed in. Ring, ring, ring!
Speaking as a parent (and someone who’s purchased a number of different toy phones for my kiddos over the years), I’m incredibly impressed with the VTech Touch and Swipe Baby Phone—we bought it for our first son years ago (right after he turned one), it was one of our daughter’s favorites when she hit the 18-month mark and now with our third, it’s starting to get noticed and reached for even though it’s a bit duller and softer sounding in its old age (not bad for a five year old toy!). The phone’s vibrant colors are what distinguish it right off the bat, and then we get into its “realness” factor: The glossy touch screen, iconographical apps and true-to-life phone sounds grab your little’s attention and make your phone a whole lot less exciting in one fell swoop. Being able to slide and swipe through screens certainly doesn’t hurt its authenticity score, either. What’s more, there are the educational elements, like the letters, numbers and shapes that feature in the phone’s stored-up songs and melodies. We really could keep singing this phone’s praises, but for less than $20, it’s a steal that’s worth taking for a spin on your toddler’s own time!
- Large, responsive buttons on the bottom (the green and red phones and orange star in the center) introduce cause-and-effect and nurture fine motor skills
- Durable, child-safe materials last long with active toddlers
- Realistic look (weather, calendar and clock tiles) and home button that saves your phone number (so they can pretend to call you) provides fodder for conversations with your mimicking mini
- Requires two AAA batteries, which aren’t included
- Not waterproof (or drool-proof)
- Bulky in size
Flip phones are en vogue again thanks to Gen Z, and nobody’s too young for a little vintage cool factor. The teal and coral Infantino Flip and Peek Fun Phone features a flip-up mirror for babies (at the 4+ month age mark) who are enjoying self-recognition and visual tracking, soft buttons for tactile stimulation and help with dexterity, and even bi-lingual phrases and sound effects to foster language development. And with its durable, high-quality construction—made from BPA- and phthalate-free materials—it’ll stand up to the rough and tumble play your little one puts it through.
- Small and smooth design is easy for tiny hands to hold
- No lights, music or overly-loud sounds, so there’s no need to worry about sensory overload
- Some parents wish it had more sayings
- Operates on watch batteries
When it comes to sniffing out inauthenticity in a product, toddlers are pros. Whether it’s a set of keys, a remote or a phone, they want the real thing. And the Discovery Toy Starter Smartphone gets them very close; the make-believe mobile device comes pre-loaded with activities, 20 songs, sound effects and lights and dedicated “quiz modes” to teach your 2 to 4 year-old animals, colors and numbers. On top of all that, the sensory fidget popper case is what really has us obsessed with this toy phone for tiny technophiles.
- Includes a wrist lanyard for portability
- Battery is rechargeable and micro-USB cable is included
- Looks just like an actual smartphone, so the “pretend” play possibilities feel closer to real life
- More expensive than others
The Fisher-Price #Selfie Fun Phone’s large mirrored screen allows baby to see themselves (something they’ll love to lean into during tummy time), and the orange grip stand on the back—aka the “pop socket”— lets them turn and twist to their heart’s content, making clicking noises as they go. The sensory experience doesn’t end there, though. They can shake the phone up and down or left and right to hear rattling noises, and if they get the urge to chew, they’re encouraged to! The textured blue edging on the phone feels good on just-cutting teeth, and since it’s crafted from BPA-free materials, your baby can drool, suck and mouth the chewy bumper case as much as they want.
- Simple design looks like a phone, but requires no batteries and doesn’t feature “tech” components (lights or electronic sounds)
- Super lightweight, making it great for diaper bags/light travel
- Some parents say that excessive drooling can make the phone waterlogged
- Suitable for babies, but may be a lot less interesting for toddlers
- Some parents worry that the purple tether may present a choking hazard if baby puts it too far back in their mouth
You know that iconic Fisher-Price pull toy—the rainbow telephone pull toy with a painted grin and cherry red nose? Well, the version you can shop today is even more adorable and so much friendlier than the original. It has sound effects, a spinning dial and a cute, cherubic face with eyes that move up and down as your little chatterbox pulls it along. Fledgling walkers can sit and make pretend phone calls, while older tots can pull it along behind them while they prattle about whatever’s on their mind. And feel free to encourage them as you hear them walking and talking—ask them what their friend has to say on the other line, pretend you’re calling them to “catch up” or see if they’d like to call in the order to your favorite pizzeria for Friday night dinner plans!
- Rotary dial and pull string help develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity
- Some parents say it’s not as durable as the older version
- Receiver cord is very short
This interactive toy excels at blending amusement with learning, captivating tiny human minds with its playful purple colorway and engaging features. Toddlers can explore the smooth, glossy bubble buttons to discover and hear letters and numbers, react to Violet the pup’s videos with their favorite emojis or just press their ear up against the phone to buzz their fluffy bestie and see what she’s up to. The built-in brainteaser activities, including a guessing game and a number matching game, offer excellent enrichment opportunities as well.
- Also available in black and green colorways
- On/off switch is easy for little ones to manipulate on their own
- Age recommendation is 18 months to 5 years, so educational outcomes grow with your child
- Digital screen animation is very analog/blocky; could be brighter and more engaging
- Volume is reportedly very low for some parents
- Requires three AAA batteries that are not included
To help streamline your shopping and highlight the best toy phones, we considered a list of criteria when sourcing products, including durability, age appropriateness and educational value. We searched for phones made from non-toxic materials, with rounded edges and no small parts that could pose a choking hazard, and engineered with sturdiness to stand up to rough and active play. And we also prioritized toy phones with enriching features and interactive elements highlighting numbers, letters, games and sound effects. Products that provided exceptionally stimulating and engaging experiences for babies or toddlers earned high marks. Beyond the toys’ prominent points of difference in a somewhat cluttered market, we also referenced stage-based play/toy recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to see which toy phones best aligned with the developmental milestones babies and toddlers reach in their early years. We also read user reviews to get the lowdown on how these products work for families, never considering anything less than an average 4-star rating.
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- Health Children (AAP), The Power of Play: How Fun and Games Help Children Thrive, May 2023