At Home DIY Everyday Gear

Non-Electric Call Bells

Hand-Held BellPosting about call buttons made me think about the low-tech system my dad used to call his caregivers on the west coast. He kept this bell on his night stand, and rang it when he needed help in the middle of the night. It worked well — at least it served to wake me up, so I could wake up the caregivers — but that’s another story.

Waved gently in the air, the bell made a surprising racket — enough noise to travel throughout the house. It was a great, non-electronic, solution to the problem of communicating without bellowing. We used a similar one at our house when someone was languishing with the flu. (Fair warning: your kid may not be too sick to grow power-mad in two shakes of a bell!)

Cow bells are another option. If you’re not already on a farm with a ready supply, offers sizes from two-and-three-quarters to eleven-and-one-half inches.

The larger bells may be big enough to put a hand through the loop at the top, though weight may become a consideration at that point. It looks as if the bells come with a lanyard, which may or not be handy for bed- or chair-size use.

A cow bell, or any other bell loud enough, could be hung in an accessible place where lifting and grasping are an issue. Use common sense here, of course.

Make sure your installation is sturdy enough so that it can’t be pulled down by an over-enthusiastic ringer, and make sure any strings are as short as possible. (Do think about wrists when deciding what’s ‘short’.) Pets, children, and even adults can get tangled up in cords with disastrous consequences.

A better option might be a rod (skinny pvc pipe, a ruler) attached to the clapper or the top of the bell. If you decide to use a cord, run it through a length of flexible PVC tubing so that it can’t double back on itself. Add a ring, a loop (keep it small) or a textured ball or globe to the end to make grabbing easier.

It’s a bit off-topic, but cow bells are apparently used in some European countries to cheer athletes at sporting events. offers a bunch of sports/event theme bells, and will customize your own (even one) if you are so inclined.

Related (at least to bells and communication): Bells on toddlers’ toes, as part of a discussion of Noisy Shoes.