“The phone! The phone is ringing! … The phone! We’ll be right there!”
Though they have been recently brought back to life by a show like Wonder Pets, tin can phones have been around for years and years. These used to be part of the fun arsenal of times past – it was simple to make and could keep kids occupied for hours.
Thanks to this being the “emergency call button” of the Wonder Pets, a children’s show from Nick Jr., kids are enjoying this timeless classic again and seeing how sometimes simplicity has a place in their lives. So if you want to help your child make that perfect tin can phone, (perfect as a craft for a Wonder Pets party) get ready to create one out of simple household materials.
Get the Cans First
First and foremost you want to be sure that you get just the right cans for the job. Some people will go with plastic cups, Styrofoam and other substitutes, some of which don’t work as well or actuall work better (see why below) – but come on, tin cans are traditional! You want to take a few cans that you’ve used from the recycling bin and grab the ones that seem to be the perfect shape and density.
Wash them out thoroughly. You want to take the labels off and get them good and clean inside with plenty of soap and water. Since you will be putting these up to your face, you don’t want to risk any germs or stains. Wash them out and let them dry before you move onto the next steps.
Next, punch a small hole in the bottom of each can. It’s easier to use a power drill to do this, so this is a step adults should do. If you’re using a plastic or paper cup, just use a thumbtack.
Tie It Up and Decorate It
With a piece of kite string (or thread that doesn’t stretch), thread each end through the hole of each cup and tie them. You can connect multiple cans for multiple “extensions” but be sure not to get the string tangled in the process. If you want to let the kids have some fun with this step, you can encourage them to decorate their new phone with some construction paper, markers, and a whole lot of imagination. Nick Jr. actually has a Wonder Pets tin phone craft, which you can view here.
Time to Talk, Old Fashioned Style!
Now have each child walk in opposite directions, and keep walking until the string is tight. It is very important that it’s tight, or it won’t work. Now, with one person talking and the other listening, begin. Each child should be able to hear each other through the cans.
How does this work? What happens is that when the first person talks, the bottom of the can vibrates with the sound waves. This vibration travels along the string like waves in the ocean, and it “splashes” to the receiving end, where the second can vibrates with the same pulses as the string. This vibration enters the ear as sound. (If the string is loose, there will be no vibration.)
Which material is best? Paper cups, actually, because the thin paper vibrates easier. Next best is plastic. Styrofoam is worst, because the material is thick and the structure dampens vibrations. Tin cans come around the middle in effectiveness – the tin is thin and flexible enough to vibrate.
How does it work in the Wonder Pets? The “caller” must have an explosive, shrieking voice to cause the vibrations in the can to actually move it – so they must definitely be in trouble!