There are toys that should be retired. Not that they are bad, or unsafe, but simply because they have done their time and it’s time to move on to newer things. The Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone is one of those toys. This toy was introduced in 1962. The one I remember as a child was even made out of wood. It appears that in 2000 Fisher-Price tried to modernize it with a push-button version, but consumers complained.
I wonder why Fisher-Price still makes this toy, it’s not like they haven’t put on the market a more modern version with the Laugh and Learn Phone. I even wonder how kids interact with it, the rotary dial has all but disappeared, much like cathode ray tube TVs with VHF and UHF dials or ghetto-blasters with high-speed dubbing cassette decks.
For nostalgic reasons, I guess, my wife got one for the kids a few years ago. Just recently I spotted it for sale at Toys’R’Us for $9.97, on sale from $14.99. Sorry, but even on sale I don’t recommend it. There are plenty of other fake phones out there that look like modern phones and make noise. And instead of throwing out your old house or mobile phones, simply let the kids play with them, pulling the battery out if you can.
I have to hand it to Fisher-Price, the build quality of their products is really good. The choice of material and construction is such that it will stand tremendous abuse and keep working.
The design is outdated. Yes it’s simple and functional, but house phones haven’t looked like this for over 20 years. And here is something I find rather odd: the cord for the handset is ridiculously short. So short that if you want to play with the toy you either have to be lying on the floor, or have the phone dangling near your chin while you hold the handset to your ear. I can only conclude that this was done to avoid strangulation. But then, why does the toy come with a 2 foot long towing cord?
Young kids like to interact, and they like to role play. Phone conversation is one of those things they love to do, some saying it even persists past the teenage years. Therefore if they have no other toy phone, they will use the Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone. But give them a more modern alternative with lights and sounds, and the 60s vintage look-a-like will be quickly dropped.
It is a phone, and it does teach social interaction, communication and role play. The score is not so much the educational merit of the toy, but it’s capability in the hands of a parent or educator.
TOTAL SCORE: 26/40