Turn An Old Smart Phone into a Free Gaming Device for Kids

I'm giving my 6 year old a cell phone for Christmas.  Whoa!  Hold on.  Let me explain.  My daughter is really 6, and it's a real cell phone, but it's not going to have any cell phone service.  I'm "repurposing" a gently used Android cell phone to provide a FREE and pretty darn sweet handheld gaming device for her for Christmas. She loves playing games on my cell phone (another Android device) and is asking us for "something like her brothers have that can play lots and lots of different games".  Nintendo DS, I'm sorry, but she's looking for something more.

LG Optimus S phone

She would love an iTouch, but at $170+ that's way out of Santa's price range, and it's way more than she needs at 6 years old.  I've heard the LeapPad Explorer is popular this Christmas, but at $130 that's also way too pricey and, knowing my daughter, she would tire of the included games and I really don't want to have to buy more.

I found a "just right" option my used LG Optimus S android cell phone.  I can connect it to our wifi at home and use it without a cell phone connection or bill.  It has access to the Android Market and it can run most the games available there.  All of the games she wants to play are FREE (as in free air).  I don't need to worry about her becoming bored with it because there are hundreds of new games available on the Android market each month.

Anyone can pick up a used LG Optimus for less than $40 on eBay (or select from a wide assortment of other used android phones).  The games are free.  New games are available all the time.   You can work in a bunch of educational "games" as well which are also free.

What's not to love?

Update: as a reader pointed out, old cell phones still have the ability to dial out to 911 even without service.  Kids do have the ability to dial 911 from any phone in the house today, and that's a good thing, but it will be important to emphasize that this is a real cell phone and can really call 911 just like any other "real" phone.  There are apps in the Android Market like Call Blocker Gold (paid) that have the ability to disable outgoing calls, but I have not personally tried any of them yet.

For those not familiar with connecting a cell phone that doesn't have service to wifi, here's how to do it with an android phone:

  • From the home screen, hit the Menu button
  • Open Settings, Wireless & Networks
  • Check the box to turn on Wifi.  You will be prompted for your wifi password if you have one set (which you should!)
  • Update: you can also turn on Airplane mode from here before you turn on wifi.  This will keep the phone from trying to connect to the cell phone network.