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Banana Phonana

Bite-sized brain snacks for Chicago’s early learners.


Ring! Ring! Your banana phone is calling and it wants to have a conversation with your toddler. Turn your banana (or any other object) into a pretend phone. Invite your child to use it to dial a number, talk, text, and take pictures.

Why It's Important

Symbolic play where children use one object (like a banana) to represent another object (such as a telephone) has been shown to have many cognitive benefits. For example, this type of pretend play helps children learn to be flexible in their thinking. It can lead to greater creativity and stronger problem solving skills, too.


Pretend play is a unique part of childhood that doesn't last forever. Write down some of the pretend play games your child likes to engage in right now. Make sure to include some of the funny or silly things your child says. These will be fun to go back and read one day when your child is grown.

Not Ready Yet

Give your child something that better resembles a phone to make pretend calls on such as a calculator or an old TV remote. This might help your child make the connection easier.

Need a Challenge

Walk your child through all of the steps taken when placing a phone call. Encourage your child to "dial" the number and wait for someone to answer while you make a ringing noise. Teach your child different ways to say goodbye on the telephone such as, "talk to you soon" or, "see you later" before ending the call.

Book Recommendations:

"It Looked Like Spilt Milk" by Charles Shaw

Extend the learning:

Help your child learn how to represent feelings with images. Draw faces depicting different emotions on a piece of paper, and hang it somewhere your child can see. When your child is expressing a strong feeling, use the drawings to help your child identify what that feeling might be.