If you’re looking for a gift for your child that will last a lifetime, consider giving them the gift of music. These days there are a wide range of instruments available for kids in varying prices and difficulties from a kazoo (cheap and easy) to the harp (expensive and lifelong learning). However, many choose to start their kids on the guitar because it is typically inexpensive, quite easy to learn, and provides your child the many opportunities to join bands with their friends.
There are also huge developmental advantages to taking up the guitar. Studies show that playing the guitar specifically increases activity in the area of your brain that links the rational left brain with the creative right brain, and the younger your child takes up the instrument, the sooner they will learn to approach rational problems with creative solutions.
While you may want to tread lightly if your child is five or under, kids from age six and older can pick up a guitar that’s the right size for their hands and body and get started on a hobby that will last them throughout their lives.
How to Choose a Guitar for Your Child
Choosing the right guitar for your child is crucial. Studies show the first three months of your child’s journey with a guitar are key to keeping the habit. That means that if you buy them a cheap guitar that’s the wrong size for them or difficult to play, they may find it too difficult and lose interest before the habit grabs them.
Luckily, these days almost every major brand has guitars aimed at kids that are easy to play, and available in a variety of sizes to allow them to comfortably take up the habit and stick with it.
It is for this reason I would always suggest you try to stick to brands such as Epiphone (Gibson), Squier (Fender), Yamaha, Donner, or Washburn. There are of course many smaller manufactures that make cut-price kids guitars, but they don’t have the economies of scale available to them to make fantastic guitars at great prices like the major brands do.
Choose the Best Size for Their Age
Picking the right sized guitar for a child is key. I look back now at my first guitar – a full sized dreadnought acoustic guitar – and realize that I’m lucky I was so crazy for music that I stuck with it. My left arm could barely hold a low chord while my right hand was strumming.
These days there are many guitars in the correct sizes for every age. While there is no hard and fast rule for what size is right for what age (as anyone who’s bought kids clothes will tell you), the following is a great rule of thumb.
- Under 5 – ¼ sized guitar or Ukulele
- 5-7 years old: ½ sized guitar
- 7-10 years old: ¾ sized guitar
- 10 years or older: Full sized guitar
Of course, the best way to ensure you’re picking up the right sized guitar for your child is to get them to try some at a music store, but if the guitar is a surprise present, the above is an excellent guideline to follow.
Check That You Have Everything They Need
Every parent has had the Christmas morning panic of realizing the new toy needs batteries that you neglected to buy, and guitars are no different. You might buy an acoustic guitar and then realize you have no way to tune it, or buy an electric guitar and an amp and realize you have no cable to connect the two!
Whether you buy an acoustic, electric, or bass guitar, every instrument will require a strap, picks (thicker for bass and acoustic, thinner for electric) and some sort of tuner (clip on tuners are very popular). Optionally, you can also purchase a capo for either an acoustic or electric guitar, which will allow your child to play certain high-tuned songs, such as many Beatles tunes.
For an electric guitar and electric bass, you’ll also obviously want an amplifier (you can get great practice amps for under $100), a cable to connect the two, and you can also get a tuner pedal or a distortion pedal for your little rocker!
It’s also not a bad idea to invest in two sets of spare strings for any new instrument, as well as some sort of guitar book to get your child on the road. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are also a wealth of cleaning and maintenance kits on the market.
Bear in mind that many manufacturers now bundle entire guitar starter kits together that will give you everything you need to get up and running. Our favorites are the Fender Squier Stratocaster Pack and the Epiphone Les Paul SL Starter Pack.
There’s nothing better as a parent to have your adult son or daughter point back to a time in childhood when you gave them a gift that they still remember years later. If you choose to give them the gift of music, it might be a story you hear them tell over and over to many people. As long as you buy the right guitar at the right age, there’s no reason not to expect your gift to resonate with your child for years to come.