Learning to play a musical instrument is a challenge, but it’s a rewarding challenge. Children are naturally drawn to simple instruments because it’s easy to play the individual notes. We think the ukulele is a great choice for kids because they can quickly master the early requirement of learning how to strum and produce chords. This gives them quite an incentive to go on and learn the more difficult task of playing an entire song.
As parents, we know the value of hard work that leads to satisfaction. However, it’s sometimes difficult to point our kids in the right direction. A musical instrument is a great vehicle for taking our child on a magical journey. The ukulele is difficult to master, but it’s an easy instrument for learning the music basics. In this article, we’re going to explore the ukulele in detail and offer our top picks when it comes to choosing which brand and model type is best for each individual child. The best ukulele for kids is a model that’s the right size, is of good quality, and is capable of producing pleasing tones.
How to choose the best ukulele for kids
This is where we start our journey to find the right ukulele model for our child. We want the instrument to be easy to tune, we want it to be the right size for easy handling and playing, and we want it to be of sound construction. Ukulele models vary greatly in their size and shape, and not all of them are suitable for preteens. If price is a concern, we’ll talk about that in this section.
Sound and tuning
The ukulele is similar to the guitar, but there’s one major difference. The ukulele has only four strings. Depending on the model and the sound range, the strings are tuned to four keys, but these notes vary from one model to another. There are four types of sound ranges, and each individual ukulele falls into one of these categories. These are soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.
The soprano ukulele is considered the most suitable for children. That’s because it’s smaller in size and doesn’t produce as loud or rich of a sound as do the other types. Adults are drawn more to the large baritone models because they are much louder, have tighter strings that are difficult to kids to pluck, and have E-A-D-G tuning which is more difficult to master.
We like the soprano models as the choice for kids. They are very lightweight, yet the strings are very tight and won’t break. The models are typically about 21 inches in length, so even a six-year old can hold them easily. They’re also very easy to pack into their case, so a small child can carry them around without difficulty.
The concert ukulele is a bit larger, averaging about 25 inches in length. The length from the bridge to the neck is about 16 inches, so it’s a bit harder for kids to reach the entire length of the string in order to produce higher notes.
This instrument is usually constructed in much the same way as a guitar. The primary material is wood, although some of the newer models are of a composite material similar to youth baseball bats and pleasure boat hulls. Some models have a curved back, and this helps to reflect the sound waves back through the interior of the instrument to produce a louder, richer sound.
Toy ukuleles are sold mostly for their appearance. The really cheap ones have bright color finishes, and some of them even have images of cartoon characters on their surface. The more advanced models have better materials quality, and they come with a warranty.
We’re going to assume that whoever reads this is serious about their child learning to master the ukulele. How young is too young? Well, it’s kind of like a child learning to swim or asking about where babies come from. If the child asks to play the ukulele, he or she is old enough to learn!
As we mentioned before, the size of the instrument is important. Because a first-grader’s arms aren’t that long, a soprano ukulele is the obvious choice. However, keep in mind that all ukulele models are played exactly the same way, so that as the child grows, trading in the beginning model for a larger one is no big deal. When she gets older, she needs a bigger bike. When she gets older, she needs a slightly larger ukulele. That’s all there is to it.
As far as lessons go, there are plenty of online tutorials for helping the child to learn the notes, how to hold the instrument, and how to tune it. Even younger kids can easily follow these tutorials, even the ones offered by adults.
Ease of operation
The ukulele is much like the guitar in that it’s easy to get familiar with it. Most models have the same basic appearance, meaning that the tuners are spaced about the same, the strings are the same distance apart, and the main instrument body is the same overall shape. Think of it this way: If the child learns to play his ukulele, he’ll find it just as easy to play the one owned by his neighbor. There’s one major exception, and that’s getting back to the problem of instrument size. The child moves up to a larger instrument only when it becomes obvious that the current ukulele is now too small due to the child’s growth and greater arm length.
Simple toy models start at around $15, but the more advanced models in the soprano category can be procured for under $60. That’s good, because we don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars on a starter instrument. We find that most parents are delighted with the sound quality and sturdy construction of moderately priced ukulele models. We really want to stress the point that high-priced models generally don’t produce a better quality of sound than the more inexpensive ones. The high price is usually associated with the brand, and most of the expensive ones are baritone models which are more suited to adults.
To summarize, choose your model based on:
- Model type (soprano is best for kids)
- Model size (21 inches is best for preteens)
- Construction (finished wood with high-quality strings)
- Age appropriateness (Serious students don’t want a toy ukulele)
- Ease of operation (getting familiar with the instrument dimensions)
- Model price (great models start at under $60)
For those who aren’t really sure how a ukulele works and how it’s played, check out this handy learning guide: kidsguitarworld.com
This simple online page will help guide parents on what to look for in a kid’s ukulele. It goes into great detail on sizing, tuning, the different parts of the instrument, and it also offers a good explanation of why a ukulele is a great choice as a kid’s instrument.
Our top picks for the best ukulele for kids
Compact size with overall length of 21 inches
Wood construction with gold-plated dolphon machine heads
Appropriate for younger preteens just learning to play
Simple learning guide can be downloaded to computer or phone
Affordably priced at under $40
We think that the Mahalo Ukuleles Rainbow Series (check price on Amazon) is an excellent choice for beginner kids because of the affordable price, attractive design, and soprano tone range. It doesn’t come as a complete kit but does include a tote bag and instructional guide book. It’s available in a total of 10 colors including soft blue and bright yellow.
The strings are sturdy, rather tightly spaced, and are easily tuned thanks to the large tuner buttons. The sound isn’t too loud, and the instrument is very lightweight. Kids as young as six years of age can easily carry the case with them wherever they go.
What we love
- Excellent as a starter instrument
- High-quality strings
- Premium paint finish
- Few accessories includeds
Soprano or concert sound range depending on model
Both 21-inch and 24-inch sizes available
Premium wood construction with molded white bindings
Age-appropriate for kids as young as seven years
Easy for kids to learn advanced music pieces, handy learning guide
Price varies according to the distributor, averages $80 for the entire kit
This is an excellent choice when it comes time to upgrade to a more advanced instrument. The Lohanu Bundle Kit (check price on Amazon) is available in both soprano and concert sizes. The kit includes a top-quality instrument formed from premium sapele wood, a sturdy tote bag, picks, strap buttons, tuner, and a learning guide that’s used in combination with video lessons.
What we love
- Complete kit with all the accessories
- High-quality tote bag with padded interior
- Unconditional lifetime warranty
- Soprano model with G-C-E-A tuning
- Compact 21-inch length
- High-quality mahogany wood construction
- Appropriate for preteens over seven years of age
- Easy to learn and excellent guide booklet
- Priced at around $60 for the entire kit
The Kala Learn To Play Ukulele (check price on Amazon) is a complete starter kit, available in soprano size, and it includes the instrument, tote bag, tuner app, and booklet. The child learns to play a variety of songs in just days by following the booklet guide and the lesson plans on the company website.
What we love
- Lightweight and easy to haul around in its tote bag
- Short scale length and tight string spacing for easy use by smaller hands
- Easy-to-handle open gear tuners
Best For Toddlers
- Soprano note range on ukulele and multi-octave range on xylophone
- Ukulele is smaller than the standard soprano models
- Made of premium hardwood with bright paint finishes
- Appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers
- No learning guide necessary, just let the child start playing!
- Entire kit is priced around $50
The bundle kit is a great choice for toddlers because of its simple design and construction. The Hape Kid’s Wooden Toy Ukulele (check price on Amazon) and tap bench are made of sturdy hardwood, and the bench has a slide-out xylophone. The ukulele is small even for a soprano version, but it has big tuning buttons and an attractive paint finish. The tap bench has three large buttons that help teach the toddler different music notes, and the xylophone helps the child to develop hand-eye coordination.
What we love
- Smaller size instruments for toddlers
- Ukulele and tap bench easily stored just about anywhere
- Great for developing a child’s motor skills
- Concert music tone range
- Concert size, overall length is 25 inches
- Made of premium mahogany and rosewood, brass frets
- Appropriate for older preteens and advanced students
- Intended for kids who already play the ukulele and have mastered the basics
- Price varies according to distributor, averages $60
This is a concert-size ukulele that’s suitable for older preteens. The Donner Concert Ukulele Kit (check price on Amazon) boasts a mahogany body and a rosewood fingerboard. It comes with a full set of accessories including a digital clip-on tuner, ukulele bag, strap, and four guitar picks.
The carbon nylon strings are of the highest quality, and they can withstand the highest pressure a child can place when plucking. The neck and bridge are extra-sturdy. We think this is an excellent upgrade model because it’s slightly larger than the traditional soprano models.
What we love
- Concert size with wide note range
- Top-quality construction, built to last
- Lots of extras included with the kit
And the winner is…
Most of our readers are interested in a starter kit, but we felt we had to include a couple of advanced models in our reviews so that parents could get a feel for what’s available when it comes time to upgrade. However, since the focus is on learning to play, we choose the Mahalo Ukuleles Rainbow Series(check price on Amazon) as the best ukulele for young children because it’s affordable, attractive in design, and produces crisp notes. The strings are spaced perfectly for small hands, and the hardwood construction is above-average.
It’s lightweight and can be toted anywhere. It’s easy to tune, and kids will love how easy it is to master the chords. We think that parents’ faces will light up just as much as the child’s once the basics are understood. Get ready to enjoy watching as the child entertains you with the magical sound of a real, honest-to-goodness ukulele!