How Rotary Phone Toys Managed To Stay Relevant Throughout The Rise Of Smart Technology

Chances are we’ve all played some version of house when we were growing up. Pretending to be grown up, cooking in the play kitchen, and making important calls on our toy rotary phones. These classic elements of play have withstood the test of time, so much so that old school toys like toy rotary phones are still relevant today, regardless of how much technology has changed. 

Fisher Price initially released the toy “chatter telephone” in 1961. You can likely still picture the red phone receiver, eyes that would blink when the phone would ring, and a happy smile.

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Although we’re living in a new era of toys and technology, certain nostalgic items like the classic rotary phone have continued to sell and be played with worldwide. While actual rotary phones may no longer be in style, the toy is still holding its place in the market. 

Jules Burder is someone who has worked in early childhood education for 14 years. She recently spoke to the media and confirmed that the rotary phone – whether in toy or actual form – “ticks many developmental boxes. The repetitive task of rotating the dial builds fine motor skills and dexterity – this helps with pre-writing skills like pen holding,” she stated. 

“The phone also helps with counting, number recognition and even rhythm – you can imagine the click and the zing as the dial is drawn to each selected number.”

“Pretend play helps young children draw from and reflect on their own experiences and it encourages them to develop an understanding of social norms,” she says.

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“The nostalgia factor may explain why parents keep buying these toys.”

Lucia Di Mauro, the owner of Stranger Than Paradise toy shop, believes “nostalgia plays a large part in the dial phone’s enduring popularity.”

“We find that parents remember these toys from when they were kids. The design is mostly unchanged, and it sparks a memory of love or happiness. In the same way that people want to share a great song or movie, parents [and grandparents] want to pass on this positive experience to their children and grandchildren,” Lucia says. 

“Obviously, its appeal to children is not based on nostalgia. They don’t know that the toy is modeled on an old item that is no longer produced. It’s a multifaceted toy that offers many types of play, and that is what kids love.”

Flick Davies, the store manager of Honeybee Toys, finds that, “rather than the adults seeking it out, it’s the children who gravitate towards it. It seems they can’t help but pick it up. Instinctively they know what to do with it – it’s got a receiver like mummy’s phone … that just happens to be attached by coloured string.”