Best Toddler Guitar - 5 AMAZING Things Nobody Tells You
You know, this topic has me so excited, we're just going to jump right in. Give a read and I'll tell you how to find the best toddler guitar. #5 is really gonna surprise you. It did me - and I wrote it.
Kids are SMART
Really smart. I mean, you might not be able to tell when they're blowing snot bubbles and laughing hysterically at Sponge Bob, but they're brains are ready to soak up all sorts of knowledge.
Does this mean my 18-month old can learn to play guitar? What's the best toddler guitar I can buy?
No. It doesn't mean your little one is ready to start strummin'. Not quite yet.
The thing is, at the toddler stage, they're just learning how to communicate and how to make their bodies work. Complex tasks, like guitar, are still beyond their reach. They don't have the motor skills, or the attention span needed.
But – introducing them to music can have very beneficial effects. A recent study done at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC showed that "music training accelerates maturity in areas of the brain responsible for sound processing, language development, speech perception and reading skills." These are wonderful abilities that lead to greater all-around learning.
Music training makes kids learn everything faster!
This means that getting your toddler involved in music early can give them advantages in a wide range of communication development. They'll even be better at learning foreign languages. This is partly because music is like another language. And with better speech processing, all topics will come easier to them. This improved ability is something they will always have. Studies show it doesn't go away, even if the child only plays music for a few years.
"Some studies have shown how musical training can shape brain development. And that improvements in small motor skills and general intelligence have been linked to musical training." – from an article on The Conversation.com.
Toddler's brains are so flexible, they don't even realize they're learning things we consider 'different'. They just learn and know inherently when that knowledge applies. And there are no barriers. The same skills they use to learn music apply to the task of learning language and communication.
"It is clear then that music can have a big role to play when it comes to children’s learning. Not necessarily just in terms of intelligence, but also in term of their physical development and social well-being." – TheConversation.com
So why wouldn't you want to get your toddler involved in music? It's a win-win.
What to Give Your Toddler Before Their First Guitar
Starting early, you want to keep toddlers entertained. Having fun with music from an early age can be the foundation for a lifetime of musical engagement and learning. It's not a far stretch that a toddler with a favorite guitar toy will want to learn guitar as soon as they are able.
The answer here is not to get them a toy mini guitar with plastic strings that will never sound good.
You want to get them something with colorful buttons and preloaded songs. If your toddler's toy guitar has other instruments, like drums and keyboard, all the better. Major bonus points if they can push buttons that really do something to change the music. This sets up a cause-and-effect relationship between themselves and the guitar. It changes them from a passive to an active participant.
If the music the makes them want to dance, that's great. Kinetic energy mixed with auditory stimulation is awesome for kids - and it will make them feel good. Any good a toddler can associate with a guitar will be setting them up for success later on.
Oh, and if you want to dance while they're playing, or hoot and holler at their solo (even if it is pre-recorded), they will have even more fun. If they know that playing a guitar can get positive attention they'll look even more forward to it later on. Then when they get to the part of learning guitar that is actual work, they'll know it's worthwhile.
Guitars can Make Toddlers Blossom
I knew a 2-year old girl, an old college buddy's niece, who was all sorts of shy. She'd always hide behind her mom when we visited and generally avoided contact. Evidently we weren't the only people she hid from. It was just her nature to be reticent. Which was a shame, because when I would catch a glimpse of her playing with her mom, it was obvious she was full of joy. I wished she could be that way with everybody. I determined I was going to make myself as non-threatening as possible to see if she would interact with me.
So one day when we went to visit, I brought one of my classical guitars along. They're a little smaller than the acoustic dreadnoughts and they have nylon strings that are gentle on the fingers. When we entered, I made sure to speak softly and not make big movements or gestures. Then, with mom's permission, I sat down and started playing.
I started with Itsy Bitsy Spider. That caught her interest, though she still watched me from a distance, I definitely had her attention. Then I moved on to The Lion Sleeps Tonight. By the time I got to Don't Worry, Be Happy, she was standing right in front of me, watching.
When I finished the Bobby McFerrin song, I asked her if she wanted to try the guitar. I saw her eyes light up when I asked, but her natural shyness had her shaking her head. I plucked one string and let the sound resonate. Then I held the guitar out just a little and told her to try it. I wasn't sure she was going to go for it, but even her mom was surprised when she reached out and plucked the string.
As the sound rang out, she smiled and laughed with glee.
For the next twenty minutes we played. She plucked, I plucked and showed her how to change the sound. I fingered chords and let her strum. We even tried to let her strum a song, but there was more laughing than playing.
After she became less shy with me, she became less shy with other people. And this was all because of a guitar.
Now she's 8 years old and has a guitar of her own. But when I go to visit, I have to bring a guitar so we can play together. Our visits wouldn't be right without a jam session.
If You have a Guitar, Let them Play it
Okay, so don't hand your Vintage Gibson ES335 over to a 2-year old. But if you have one of those, you surely have something lying around that you can let your toddler interact with. Let them strum. Let them hold a string down in different places and see how it changes the sound. Show them what the whammy bar does (if you've got one).
Kids love the whammy bar.
When they start to get bored, as toddlers inevitably will – play something for them. Learn some children's songs for them, or a little Bob Marley. Three Little Birds make everyone happy. Or try some of the songs I mentioned above.
Make a space for them in your musical world. Help them feel comfortable in it. This will certainly encourage them to play later on.
So What Age CAN I Start my Toddler on a Real Guitar?
Some guitar teachers won't take students younger than 6-years old, but many will take 4-5-year old students. I'm going to go against the grain and say that some toddlers are ready to start playing as young as 3-years old. As long as they have the ability to press a string down to the fret board, strum and pay attention, they're ready to play real guitar.
I wouldn't have said this ten years ago. But I have to give props to a new guitar company called Loog. They are making real wood guitars, acoustic and electric, that sound great – but they only have 3 strings. They're real strings – they match the three thinnest strings of a regular six-string and are tuned the same. So the skills they learn on a Loog transfer directly when they're ready to move up.
These guitars also come with flash cards for learning chords, and an app that features cute little monsters teaching them chords and songs.
These are easily the best toddler guitars I've seen. I think they offer a smart approach for kids this age and are really well thought out.
When your toddler has mastered the 3-string and is ready for something more, check out Best Guitar for Kids – 7 Things You Need to Know.
If you have an older toddler (4-5 years old) that has good motor skills and knows their alphabet, you could go straight to a six string. There are some good ¼ size guitars out there that aren't just toys. But make sure to get a good one, and make sure your child is interested, because these are a bit more challenging.
Exposure to music is a wonderful thing for a toddler, there's no doubt about it. They have fun, they learn, their brain develops in all sorts of wonderful ways. Whether they're the right age for a toy, or a real guitar, get one in their hands as soon as possible. The benefits are amazing.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.