It's very common to see babies and toddlers playing with their parents' smartphones. If you've let your son touch and chew on your phone to keep him busy in the grocery cart, you're not alone.

But it's a big leap from playing with a phone to actually using one. Kids aren't born knowing phone etiquette. For safety reasons as well as social skills, it's important for parents to teach their little ones the proper way to use a phone. 

1. Know there's no magic age to start.

Just like potty training, it's up to parents to determine when their child is ready to begin answering the phone. It makes sense to wait until your child is old enough to understand and engage in a simple conversation.

2. Teach greetings and common conversations.

Don't take it for granted that your daughter knows to say "Hello," when she picks up a ringing phone. Your son isn't born knowing how to ask to speak to someone when he calls a friend's house. Review and practice conversations your children might expect when they place or receive a phone call.

3. Practice on pretend phones.

Role-playing pays off. Have your child pretend to both place and receive a phone call to you on a toy phone or one that is turned off. Coach him on what to say and when to say it.

4. Begin with family for initial real conversations.

When the time comes to practice real conversations, call family first. Grandma is more likely to appreciate the learning process than a stranger. Conversely, let your child answer phone calls from family first. Wait until they're getting the hang of it before branching out to unfamiliar callers.

5. Reinforce safety.

Make sure your child knows basic phone safety, such as never telling a caller that a parent isn't home or giving out personal information.

6. Reiterate politeness.

Don't let your son scream across the room that you have a phone call. Make sure your daughter knows to address adults by "Mr." or "Ms." when receiving or placing phone calls. Reinforce the appropriate way to take messages ("I'm sorry, Mr. Smith, my mom isn't available right now. May I take a message?"). Keep a pen and paper by the phone for writing down messages.

7. Role model good phone behavior.

Regardless of how you teach phone manners, your children will model your phone etiquette, both good and bad. Be sure to practice what you preach.

Talking on the phone is a rite of passage that most children can't wait to experience. Take the time to teach safe and polite phone manners that your child can build on.