Want to give your child a head start in life? Music could be the way to go. Playing an instrument offers numerous benefits, including, but not limited to, spatial intelligence (source).
The earlier they begin, the better. It doesn’t have to be on a serious level, which makes the ukulele a more fun option. This guitar-like, budget-friendly instrument could spark interest, not to mention that its sound is quite unique.
If you’re considering a ukulele for your child but are unsure of where to start looking — don’t worry, we’re here to help.
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Ukulele Versus Guitar
Many parents whose child is showing interest in the guitar, may want to consider introducing them to a ukulele first. However, do keep in mind that while these two instruments look alike, there are some primary differences, including:
- The playing: Each instrument has a different technique
- The number of strings: An acoustic guitar has six, while the ukulele has four.
- The sound: Ukuleles have a specific tonal quality the guitar doesn’t.
One of the reasons why the ukulele is thought of as a good starting point for kids is that the fretboard (the neck of the instrument) is much shorter. The body is smaller as well, which means it’s more comfortable for little people.
What to Look For In a Ukulele
Now you’ve decided to buy a ukulele for your child, which one should you choose? There are a few key points to consider.
1. String Quality
Good ukuleles typically have soft nylon or Aquila strings. These will be gentle for children and their sensitive skin. Try to avoid strings with a plastic feel to them, as they can be rough on the fingers.
Higher quality strings will also produce a better sound than plastic. Either way, the strings will need some “breaking in,” just like a pair of new shoes.
2. Acoustic Versus Electric
Your child might see an electric ukulele at the local music shop and want it immediately. However, you should know the differences before making a decision.
- Has the traditional ukulele sound.
- Simple to use for beginners.
- Lighter in weight and easy to transport.
- A wider range of tones and sounds.
- Requires an electric pickup for amplification.
- A better choice for performances due to sound projection (source).
Consider the level of interest your child has in playing the instrument. Will it be a hobby or do they show enough motivation for long-term advancement?
Acoustics are great for fun home use and beginner lessons. Electric might be a better option if concerts are on the horizon.
The Best Kids Ukuleles of 2019
By now, we know a little more about the ukulele than we did in the past. Let’s have a look at our top five favorites:
1. Donner Electro-Acoustic Ukulele
Best Electric Ukulele
Your child might have their eyes set on an electric ukulele. Or you may be on the lookout for something a little more professional.
This uke is electro-acoustic, so you’re getting the best of both worlds. It can be played with or without an amplifier, which means the volume and power are wide-ranging.
The body is made from mahogany wood and the strings are carbon nylon, made in Japan. They are very durable while being gentle on small fingers.
The strings and pegs are designed to hold the tuning. It also requires batteries for the preamp and tuner.
New ukes can be difficult to tune and often require frequent tuning. Having a ukulele that will stay in tune for longer is essential for serious players.
This one is supplied complete with a case, strap, and extra strings.
- Beveled armrest for increased comfort.
- Guitar-styled tuner pegs.
- Durable strings.
- Stays in tune for longer.
- Comes complete with accessories, such as extra strings and a strap.
- Battery insertion for preamp and tuner can be tricky, no markings indicating orientation.
2. Kala Ukulele
Best Acoustic Ukulele
Nothing beats that sweet, smooth acoustic sound of a traditional ukulele. If you want to invest in something your kiddo will love to play over and over again, this could be it.
One of the unique features of this uke is probably the strings. These are “Aquila Super Nylgut” strings. What makes them special is their pearly-white color and firmer material.
These strings, along with the mahogany body, give this uke an exceptionally crisp tone. That might be why it’s a highly popular choice for schools as well as professional musicians.
Kala also has an app you can download to a phone or iPad. This features quick lessons on how to tune and play, so it could make it easier for your child to learn.
You also get a little booklet to help your child get started, which might help you out in the process as well.
- Good strings and body material.
- Excellent acoustic sound.
- Extra learning resources such as the app and booklet.
- Some have reported that it goes out of tune quickly.
3. Lohanu Concert Ukulele
Best Ukulele for Advanced Students
For the younger ones among us, the smaller soprano uke might be best. However, as your child advances, a larger instrument might be more appropriate.
A concert ukulele is typically around 23 inches long, just a tad longer than a soprano. But, it also makes the sound that much more powerful. To top it off, this concert uke is equipped with Aquila strings.
This particular instrument has wider frets, excellent for older children and adults. The back is arched, so it has a deep, hollow space for producing a fuller sound.
You receive an adjustable strap with the ukulele, and it has buttons to attach the strap to. This is something you don’t find in many soprano models.
Also included are a tuner, extra picks and holder, a case, and extra Aquila strings.
- Excellent size for older children.
- Aquila strings.
- Arched back and fuller sound.
- The manufacturer is currently offering an unconditional lifetime warranty.
- Some cosmetic flaws, like glue remnants and laminate peeling.
4. Pomaikai Soprano Wood Ukulele
Best Ukulele for Beginners
When your child is just starting out, it’s a good idea to find something simple for them to learn to play with. You want your child to get used to the hold, feel, and sound.
This baby-blue uke is an appropriate starting point for aspiring players. It has soft nylon strings, which will be easy on your child’s hands.
It’s also lightweight, so suitable for younger musicians. There are seven color options to choose from, including blue, pink, and black.
Pomaikai has also taken the paint into consideration. Using environmental paint, the ukulele has an attractive gloss finish.
Tuning the ukulele takes practice, but this one has 15 gears to help make the process faster and easier.
The material quality is also topnotch — the body is made out of hardwood, and the fretboard is basswood. This gives it that nice and relaxed acoustic sound we all know and love.
- The compact size makes it convenient for toting to lessons or school.
- Quality acoustic sound.
- The fretboard is easy for beginners to recognize, with marks for guidance.
- Wide range of colors.
- Case included.
- May need to be tuned often at first.
5. Hape Kid's Wooden Ukulele
Best Ukulele Toy for Small Children
However, for small ukulele enthusiasts, you might need a more sturdy model. This one might just be the perfect place to start, since it’s made from a durable wood. Even better news is the wood is sourced from sustainably maintained forests.
Having your child’s safety in mind, you might be hesitant about the strings. But, with this ukulele, the company has attached the strings to the body, so there are no sharp ends to hurt little fingers. The non-toxic finish adds to its child-friendly image.
As much as this ukulele looks like a simple toy, it can, surprisingly, be tuned. Your child will be able to play around with ease, and maybe even learn a few simple chords.
The color options are bright and cheerful — soothing blue-green stripes or a bolder red-yellow combination. Whichever suits your child’s personality best.
- Small enough for toddlers and preschoolers.
- Vibrant color options.
- Sturdy body.
- The strings may be difficult to tune and replace.
Tips to Help Your Child Learn
1. Introduce the Instrument
Show your child the ukulele and its parts — how to hold it, and maybe help them figure out which hand goes where. Your child might be a “righty,” but you never know when it comes to playing an instrument.
2. Tuning the Ukulele
Similar to an array of other instruments, the ukulele has to be tuned. You do this by turning the nuts, or pegs, at the top. New ukuleles require tuning more often than ukuleles that are a bit more worn in.
If it’s out of tune, your child might feel less inclined to play. There’s no need to worry though. There are apps, guides, and even electronic devices available, to help you tune your ukulele correctly.
3. Learn Some Chords
Correct finger placement is key to playing the ukulele successfully. If you don’t already play the instrument yourself, a good move would be to familiarize yourself with a few chords before trying to teach your child. You can help your kiddo learn with a little knowledge gathered beforehand.
4. Consider Lessons
If your child is seriously set on learning to play the ukulele, it might be a good idea to invest in some lessons.
There, your child will learn chords, how to strum, how to tune and more. It might also help your kiddo to have set times for the ukulele, instead of sporadic playing here and there. These lessons could be a good starting point for a potentially serious student.
How to Make It Fun
Find the right ukulele from the wide range of choices. Look for one that fits your child comfortably. There are four primary styles, which differ in both tone and size. The smaller the instrument, the higher the pitch in sound.
- Soprano: 20 inches long.
- Concert: 23 inches long.
- Tenor: 26 inches long.
- Baritone: 30 inches long.
A soprano or concert might be the best place to start, depending on your child’s age. These could be easier to hold since the neck is shorter, meaning less space to cover with the hand at once.
As your child advances, they may want to upgrade to a tenor. These also have a more powerful sound.
Praise success, even if it’s small things, like holding the ukulele correctly. And if something isn’t going quite as they had hoped, encourage them to keep trying.
Show interest in the instrument. Maybe ask your child to perform a little number, or teach you something. If your child senses your enthusiasm and interest, it could make them enthusiastic as well (source).
With younger students, it would be good to start with their favorite nursery rhymes, or other basic songs that aren’t overwhelming. Chances are if they’re songs your child recognizes and likes, they’ll be more willing to play.
Stay in Tune
Choosing a ukulele for your child is a unique instrument choice, but one you won’t regret. From building confidence to enhancing cognitive development through hearing and coordination, the ukulele can help further your child’s development.
If we had to choose one of these ukes, it would have to be the versatile Donner Electro-Acoustic Uke. It offers your child the option of playing acoustic or electric, meaning you don’t have to decide between the two.
Have you ever tried to play the ukulele? Why did you or your child choose it? Comment below, we would love to know — and please share the article for other moms to see!