How to Talk on the Phone When
You Have a Preschooler
by Susan Dunn
Finding a way to have a phone conversation when you
have a toddler or small child can be quite a
challenge. How do you do it? Here are some tips from
an experienced single-mother, now grandmother.
LEARN TO BE GOOD AT DOING TWO THINGS AT ONCE
You must become good at doing two things at once,
particularly at holding your child's attention while
you're doing something else.
Fortunately most women are adept at this. Learn to
prefer it. I am happiest talking on the phone,
bouncing the baby on one hip, and stirring a pot of
spaghetti on the stove - something for the heart,
the mind, and the hands. I sometimes keyboard while
on the phone ('mute' on headset). I can make a
grocery list while I talk to someone.
This is predicated on "automatic processing" tasks;
not something new to you or that you're not good at.
Practice up on doing two things at once, if you
aren't used to it. It
exercises both parts of your brain, it allows you to
learn and grow, and, if you're a mom, it's making a
virtue out of a necessity!
1. Many babies find it soothing if you hold them
against your chest and they can hear the sound of
your voice as you talk.
Have you tried it?
2. Get a headset!
I'm a coach and use one all the time. Wish I'd had
one when the kids were little.
You'll eliminate neck and upper back pain from
'crooking your neck'.
It gives you mobility - on coaching calls, I walk
all over the house. I've signed Fed-Ex papers, put
away laundry or toiletry items from the store, gone
out to the mail box, switched clothes from the
washer to the dryer, and rescued the cat. You can
grab scissors away, or remove the dog dish before
the toddler gets to it.
3. Have something special nearby to entertain your
child while you're on the phone. You can keep a box
of supplies near the phone, or be creative and
Keep all the plastic-ware in a low stove drawer, and
the aluminum pans in a low cabinet. Just open them
up at phone time.
Pull over crayons and paper and color with your
child while you talk on the phone. It's soothing.
"Doodle" with your child - just takes a pencil and
With a more active child, roll, kick or throw a ball
back and forth. If you're clever you can throw it
into another room and it will take longer to
retrieve! (Go over the rules during a quiet time -
can't be throwing up at the chandelier, etc.)
Make use of food - lay out trails of raisins,
goldfish crackers, cheerios, froot loops, pieces of
fruit and other tidbits for your toddler. Any
surface can become "sanitary" with a piece of
aluminum foil waxed paper, paper towel, napkin or
clean dish towel laid out and those things are
Have a special box near the phone of something fun
they don't get to play with at other times. Special
puzzles, a box of feathers, face painting.
Empty out the utensil canister on the floor - the
rubber spatulas and whisks won't hurt or get hurt,
and can be an interesting diversion.
Add to the above a supply of those plastic grocery
bags you always have around and they can 'put' and
Give them a loaf of bread - what does it cost? 79
cents. It's squishy, like pay-doh, but easier to
clean up. (Watch the plastic bag.)
Special food treats like those juice bags with the
straws; something they get only at 'phone time.'
4. Make use of eye contact, 'mouthing' and facial
Your child will always want to show you what they're
doing or playing with and you can raise your
eyebrows, open your mouth in surprise, wave with
your hand, make the "OK" signal, point your
"silencer" fingers at your lips to remind them to be
quiet (as best they can), point at things they're
asking for and in various ways give them the
connection they crave. You can learn to be a regular
Susan Dunn, M.A., The EQ
Coach, offers individual and business coaching and
Internet courses on emotional intelligence,
resilience, strengths and transitions. She�s the
mother of two, formerly a single-working mom, and
grandmother of two. She is widely published on the
Internet, the author of numerous ebooks, and a
regular speaker for cruise lines. Visit her at