I do video calls with my 2.5 year old god daughter every week, as she live in another state and keeping a close relationship with her is important to me. She insisted on carrying the phone we use for chatting around with her, we had to find an app to keep her from accidentally closing the chat session so she could safely carry it.

We have many 'games' we play over the phone, I'll often have her do ring around the rosie or dance with me, and she likes to 'knock me down' by hitting the phone until I pretend to fall etc. However, she also has her own game of burying the phone underneath her toys or putting it inside a box so I can't see anything and then mostly ignoring me. She will occasionally come back to check on the phone, and I'll act excited to be 'rescued' from the darkness, but she will immediately bury me again, and she only does that every 10 minutes or so. I will try to keep talking to her and interacting with her despite my inability to see and muffled sound, but it's hard to know how much, if at all, she is listening or understanding me while I'm buried, and frankly there is only so much I can come up with to say to her like this. Yesterday it was extra blatant, after spending time in a toy box when she was moved to the kitchen she found a paper towel just to cover my phone with, and later plastic bags to put me in, it was as if she was actively trying to figure out a way to cover me up each time I was freed :)

It's not that she is simply bored of me. She gets excited about the calls, or even asks her mom to call me. If someone else tries to get the phone out from where it's buried she will get upset and tell them not to. Yesterday her mom said I was going to go if she kept ignoring me she pulled the phone out fast and pleaded with me to 'No go, No go!', so I know she still likes to chat with me even when she seems to be ignoring me, but I still don't like to be ignored.

Another limitation is that I'm often 'alone' with her when we do our video chats. her mother is usually taking care of her baby sister or trapped in the kitchen, and she will always carry me to another room away from her Mom. This is a problem because I don't have an adult to repeat what I say or ensure she hears what I say. In particular I've considered suggesting that I would hang up if she didn't want to keep playing, but I don't know if she will hear me and I don't want her to come back in 10 minutes to find the phone turned off and not be able to understand why I'm no longer there. There is also the problem that she will hide the phone well enough that I often have to speak up to help her mother find the phone when it's time for bed, so if I do hang up her mother may lose her phone.

I'm looking for two things. First, what can I do to keep her engaged even when buried, and what can I do to try to get her to play other games that allow me to actually interact with her. What is most important to me is that she enjoys our chats and remembers me as someone that cares about her, even if that means getting shut in the dark occasionally, but I feel like such long gaps without interacting is limiting my ability to engage her.

  • 7
    She's 2 1/2, you can't expect too much. It would help if the mother could help supervise these calls and to try and keep things on track, but a toddler is gonna do what a toddler is gonna do.
    – user20343
    Feb 12, 2018 at 15:55
  • My 2-year-old's favorite games with the phone are dropping or throwing it on the flow and watching me run across the room to get it before he does it again, and pressing as many buttons as possible as fast as possible, then throwing it on the floor when I realize he has it. I'd say you're lucky :)
    – zugzwang
    Feb 12, 2018 at 17:26
  • 1
    Is she old enough to really understand that it's you? She might just think the phone is a toy, not a connection to a real person at that age. (She might also understand; it really depends on the child)
    – Erik
    Feb 12, 2018 at 19:14
  • 1
    @Erik the child "even asks her mom to call me." She knows who it is. Although she may be known as "funny phone lady" instead of godmother. (Assuming gender here, no offense meant if i'm wrong).
    – user29403
    Feb 13, 2018 at 16:04

4 Answers 4


You may have set your expectations for your long-distance video-chat interactions with your goddaughter too high. Everything you describe sounds par for the course for a toddler, so this really comes down to what your wants and needs are for the situation.

If it were me, I would explain to the mom that I am planning on hanging up if the child loses interest in the conversation and/or buries the phone. The child might be upset initially, but she will soon adjust to the new reality. Furthermore, if the mom doesn't want to lose the phone, she'll need to monitor the child while she is on the phone. I don't think it's a fair ask for you to spend extended amounts of time talking to the inside of a sock drawer.

As far as keeping the child engaged, I'm not sure this is even a good goal. Children that age should be primarily interacting with the world around them, not a device, even if there is a loving adult on the other end. Hopefully you'll have chances in the future to interact with her in person in order to build your relationship. If not, you'll find that the video chats are more productive when she gets older.


At 2.5 years old I suspect the child is competing for attention of the Mum. I also suspect that the child understands perfectly what is going on, the focus is completely on personal gain. My 2.5 year old was perfectly capable of coming up with the following plan:

  1. Ask Mummy for phone, which is an important object for Mum, maybe I only get given it when I ask to speak to you.
  2. Hide phone in toys.
  3. Get attention from Mum (who was attending to sibling) when it become apparent phone is missing.
  4. Get attention from Mum while looking for phone, 'Where did you put it?', 'This is annoying', 'Bad girl'.

I think the behaviour is perfectly normal for a child this age. Your challenge is to work with the child parents to communicate to the child that you find the behaviour annoying/distressing.

My suggestions:

  1. Talk to the Mum about the situation and get suggestions.
  2. Be honest with the child and say how the action makes you feel. Use simple emotions like happy, sad or lonely. Try and link this with something that happened to them recently e.g. wandered off in a supermarket and got scared.
  3. Try and see it from their perspective - the child might be thinking that putting you in amongst all their favourite toys would be enjoyable, they might love being covered in toys. I know would!
  4. Think up a positive reward with the Mum - if the child speaks with you for a period of time without hiding you, the child gets the reward that the current bad behaviour is giving - Mums attention.

If you are going to try something like hanging up when your are hidden - make sure you do this consistently for a period of two weeks - and it will be distressing for the child the first few times it happens.

Remember that at 2.5 years the child's brain is ~85% the size of an adult. They are perfectly capable of advanced mental activities, unfortunately they lack the motor, emotional and language skills to communicate that fact.

That's what I try and calmly tell myself as my 3 year old has a massive meltdown/tantrum in the middle of the supermarket because I went to the bread isle before the milk isle like I normally do. :)


Many years after asking this question my goddaughter is nearly 6 years old, and she still likes to turn her tablet upside down so I can't see anything, and laughs as I jokingly complain about going blind. She also likes to tell me she is going to hang up on me, then slowly hang up laughing while I, again jokingly, beg her not to; only to call me back a minute later.

After all these years it's pretty clear what her motivation was, control. She is strong willed and assertive and just likes being in control for once. As a little kid who is mostly dependent on the whims of her mother and other adults she was, and still does, enjoying the thrill of being the one in power able to put her beloved godfather in timeout whenever she chose to.

We did eventually convince her it was rude to keep me locked away for a long time without interacting with me. Perhaps more importantly we found out she needed tubs in her ears due to fluid build up which was making her hard of hearing. Once she got tubs in her ears her vocabulary increased drastically and, more relevant to this question, it became much easier to get her to talk and interact with me even when she was burying me now that she could actually hear and understand me properly.

Now the only problem is that she's a bad influence on her little sister, who just hung up on me during our last video chat while laughing like she's seen her sister do. This isn't right because as the godfather I'm suppose to be the bad influence on the kids! ;)


Without an adult present, there is nothing you can really do but plead, and that probably won't work. Though, is it really a problem? Is it really even a game? 10 minutes is longer than a 2.5 year old's attention span, so it is difficult to believe she is engaged in any capacity for any significant portion of your imprisonment.

Without talking about it, you would really be guessing why she does it. Talking about it with her an another adult present might help you get at her purpose for this game, and let you get across that you don't like getting trapped in the toy box for 10 minutes at a time (or set some ground rules for the game (count to three and check... etc.).

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