To those who have or had young children around their instruments...

longtortoise

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Hello all. I have a five month old baby girl that is very interested in my guitars and ukulele. She loves hearing me play them and very much wants to grab them and interact with them. I'm not worried about immediate damage, as she is so small and I can easily control her interactions, but I was wondering when would be the right time to get a cheap, durable uke for her to interact with more independently (EDIT: meaning more 'hands on', not left alone)?

I understand kids can't truly start learning to play until 3-6 years old but I think there could be some value in occasionally letting her grab, pluck, spit up on, etc. a 'knock around' uke, like a Makala Dolphin or Flight TUS35.

What do you think? Should instruments be only for 'looking' and not 'touching' for some time, or is there value in allowing her to get her hands on an instrument?
 
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g'est

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I'd say get it right away!

My son is almost two years old. I bought him a ukulele before he was born. He's been trying to play it for about six months now. By now he is more or less capable of holding the ukulele and strumming the strings (but obviously hasn't figured the left hand yet). He's quite proud of it! :D
 

Jim Yates

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My grandson Mickey likes to play at a uke when he comes to visit. He has a couple of instruments at home that he is allowed to play and he knows enough not to touch his dad's valuable instruments.

Mickey with uke.jpg

When they were three, I gave my two sons a tenor guitar and a mandolin banjo that I got at yard sales. I tuned them to open chords and let them wail away. They both make their livings with music today, 40 years later.

Clay & Darc in Baltimore.jpg
 

clear

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Do not buy an ukulele for her. You are just going to end up with an extra ukulele that will not get used. When she's old enough and interested, you can let her pick out her own. At this age, I'd be supervising all her interactions with the ukulele, so I don't see the need for an inexpensive instrument. Just let her play with your regular ones. Definitely, let her touch, if she shows interest. You'll get some baby drools on the ukuleles but that just makes them better (note: to you only... so when you sell, you probably don't want to mention it).
 

derbyhat

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I got my daughter a purple Makala dolphin for her second birthday. It was THE present at the time (because of the color, mostly). I think 5 months is a little young because things tend to get chewed when the teeth come in, but if you want to make it a present now - go for it. Worst case is that it sits on a shelf until later.
 

longtortoise

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Great input, everyone. Thanks for sharing.

To be clear, this would not be meant as a gift for her, and I don't retain delusions that she'll learn an instrument any time soon. That will come in a few years :) I suppose it would be more for me, as something to have laying around that I'm ok with her getting messy, dinged, etc. since she is interested in grabbing my instruments. I'll definitely pick it up and strum while we're playing together, too. I only have one uke currently, so adding another uke of different scale and construction is a bonus.
 

BuzzBD

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My father let me handle his Martin tenor when I was quite young. It still has the teeth marks in the upper bout from me, and is now one of my prized possessions.
Brad
 

Kimosabe

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I traded my kid for a Kamaka. I wanted a Kinnard but only got a Kamaka. Better than nothing.
 

30svintage

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I think the most important thing to promote music appreciation is to expose children to music. My granddaughters love Elizabeth Mitchell songs. Check her out on YouTube.
Here is one:


I have three granddaughters and of course I have given them a very colorful inexpensive ukulele. It is basswood but actually plays easily and has decent sound. It is there if they want to pick it up and strum. Below is the six year old with the "Honsing" ukulele.
When I last visited (they live in New Zealand) I learned some of their favorite songs and I played the ukulele and we sang and had a good time. I recorded some videos of us on my Iphone and they loved watching themselves over and over and over....
download.jpg
 

KohanMike

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I bought my grand niece and nephew each a ukulele for their 2nd birthday. Scarlet is 5 now and asked me just before the virus hit to show her how to play. She came over once and listened for about 2 minutes, then got distracted by my purple and hot pink and bright yellow mini bass guitars. Oh well. Her brother is 3 now and doesn't show any interest... yet. My nephew, their father, is a very accomplished guitar player, from some influence by me early on, so maybe between the two of us, one of them will get the bug.


This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers: YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers
 

Jerryc41

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It's seems that many of the great players started when they were just 5.
 

badhabits

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a new toy/source of stimulation never hurts. they make small cheap plastic ones for kids (I've even seen mini pos toy ones at the local dollar store). in terms of actual playing the instrument though, let her interest guide you
 

mjh42

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5 months might be a little young. Certainly by 2 a plastic uke would do. Son started Suzuki violin at age 4, his teacher was great at instilling proper care and attention to the instrument, he also had mom and dad to watch and how they treated mom's instruments. He did snap a bow in his younger years by putting the point on the floor and then leaning too heavy on it like a cane or walking stick. Lesson learned. His early lessons in music and his interest has led him to continue with high school orchestra and playing several other instruments. We'll see what he takes forward into adulthood. In my observations kids love rhythm, sound, music and when they start the process of making music themselves a multitude of positive outcomes ensue.
 

longtortoise

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Thanks again, everyone, for continuing to share your thoughts and experiences.

It sounds like the most important thing is continuing to play and share music with my baby and include her as she becomes interested and able. It also sounds like allowing her to get her hands on my instruments could be helpful but having something solely for her wouldn't have much value at this point. With that in mind I may get a 'knock around' uke of some kind.
 

Rllink

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I let my grand kids sit on my lap while I play them sometimes. I let them strum. I keep them out of reach otherwise. Easy enough to do. I did let my three year old grand daughter get her hands on one unsupervised with almost disasterous results. I just wrote about it in another thread. For her birthday I bought her a Dolphin of her own. It appears to me that the excitement of having her very own ukulele lasted a couple of days. Right now it is sitting in a corner of her bedroom with one broken string waiting for her to step on it. I do not believe that small children will have a natural instinct to make music if given a ukulele.
 
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Teddy

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I bought my 2 year old a cheap bugsgear off Amazon. He sort of gets it but it's more just for him to have his own thing. If he wants to grab one of mine I remind him he has his own and he runs to grab it.

Hoping to teach him one day, brushing up on some theory to help.
 

maxmax

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I got my oldest a ukulele when she was fairly young, for the reason already mentioned above, that when she wanted to play one of my instruments I could tell her to go and get hers. She was fine with that arrangement. Later on her younger brother got in on that deal too, and just the other day my wife took the picture below of our youngest daughter accompanying me on it as well.

Between the three kids and all of their friends who have a go on it now and then, I’d say it’s been a very appreciated “toy” around here and one of the very few that still gets used several years later.

4340CD5C-8A7E-40A4-817C-C69B49ABD147.jpg
 

Graham Greenbag

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Hello all. I have a five month old baby girl that is very interested in my guitars and ukulele. She loves hearing me play them and very much wants to grab them and interact with them. I'm not worried about immediate damage, as she is so small and I can easily control her interactions, but I was wondering when would be the right time to get a cheap, durable uke for her to interact with more independently (EDIT: meaning more 'hands on', not left alone)?

I understand kids can't truly start learning to play until 3-6 years old but I think there could be some value in occasionally letting her grab, pluck, spit up on, etc. a 'knock around' uke, like a Makala Dolphin or Flight TUS35.

What do you think? Should instruments be only for 'looking' and not 'touching' for some time, or is there value in allowing her to get her hands on an instrument?

As a child I grow up with a Piano in the house but never learnt to play it. It was played regularly by my Mother who would bang out a tune or two on it but she never showed me how to play it. Having said that she’d have put me through paid for lessons but that structure and family expense turned me off. So, the point I make here, is that once the child is old enough (or should that be developed enough) to learn then a casual introduction might be the way forward.

In my teens I learnt to play other instruments through free tuition at school. I was at the right stage for me, the tuition was free and so were the instruments and the guy giving the tuition was the right teacher for me; with that mix I made good progress and established a foundation of skills that has served me well.

Fast forward to life as a parent. My wife plays Piano and our own children grew up with one. They can all play but we put them through lessons, none of them wanted to put the effort in to learn and our society has an elitist attitude such that if you aren’t a perfect player then you shouldn’t bother - that discourages learners. So the point here is that not all children have much interest in playing (there’s lots going on in their Worlds already and plenty of other interesting stuff to do instead) and the skill of playing needs to be appropriately supported, nurtured and encouraged - which is no small task.

Fast forward again and the next generation has started to arrive. This generation are not in my regular care but I take an interest. I now see music or rather musical accomplishment as a journey with many different stopping off points and alternative routes forward. Looking in terms of education you’d need to be an early years music teacher to give a really useful answer as to what’s best but I observe that children learn in a progressive way building on earlier knowledge and experiences. I wouldn’t give a Uke to a small child but rather something percussive instead which they can rattle and band to their hearts content. Maybe later something percussive that has different pitches and later again something on which a scale and simple tunes can be played.

At what stage is a child ready to attempt to play (note that I say play rather than play with) a Uke? Well hand control, strength and coordination have a part to play in that decision as does intellect and natural talent. There are always exceptions to every ‘rule’ but just for now let’s be guided by what happens in Primary Schools. Following that lead my best guess is sometime beyond seven and before eleven, so Junior School age (as would be here in the U.K.). So what I’m saying here is before a curtain age or developmental stage a Uke is a toy rather than an instrument, of course the toy might eventually make the transition but I suspect that there are more age appropriate things for little ones to have as they learn and play.
 
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Anthroterra

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I've always had a travel uke around for me, so would let my son play it whenever he showed interest and he loved to strum and pluck on it. I think it was more about the sound for him than the feel. You could buy a toy one she can knock around, but it doesn't have the musical qualities. I support either buying one that is durable enough to handle it (Outdoor or Enya) that would double as a travel uke for you, or cheap enough you don't cry if it breaks (Makala).
 
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