The small size of the ukulele makes it the perfect first instrument for most children. In recent years ukes have gained popularity, particularly in schools, as a great instrument to help develop kid’s musical abilities. They aren’t very hard to learn, are relatively inexpensive, and are super FUN! So here’s our little guide for getting you going if you want to teach your child to play this fantastic instrument.
What is a good starter ukulele for kids?
If you haven’t chosen an instrument yet, you might want to start on a soprano uke. Soprano ukes are the smallest size of ukulele, the other sizes being concert, tenor, and baritone. Music teachers often recommend this one from Kala, people like them because they are built well, are reasonably priced and sound really good. Since we are talking about kids, color can be an important factor when making a purchase, so another highly recommended uke for kids is the Kala Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele, it comes in something like eight colors and kids will really love the look of it. It’s also generally regarded as one of the best starter models around.
If you are thinking about getting a toy store brand starter pack, please consider going to a music store and having a look there first. Music store brands are only slightly more expensive than toy/big box store brands, but they are worlds apart as far as quality is concerned. If you get your child a bad quality instrument, it will be harder for them to play and less likely that they will stick with it.
What age can children start playing the ukulele?
The best age to begin a child on an instrument is when they show an interest in it. If you try to force a child to learn an instrument they have no desire to play, you won’t get very far, especially if you are teaching them at home. You can try to spark an interest in playing by showing kids different models at music stores and letting them play, or showing them online videos of other children playing. It is possible for kids as young as age 3 to learn a musical instrument, but a good starting age for ukulele is generally age 6 and up.
What are the basic skills to start with?
If you are teaching your kids at home, start with the easy stuff.
- Go over the parts of the instrument. If you aren’t sure about the parts, here is a good article and diagram on what is what.
- Show your child how to hold the ukulele.
- Tuning –Knowing how to tune your instrument is pretty important. There is a simple, quick video here on how to do that.
- What are chords
- How to strum
There are some fantastic resources if you want to learn more about teaching kids. Great places to start are these websites:
- Ukulele 4 Kids has a ton of resources for kids who are learning or thinking about learning to play. It has great info on how to do A, C, F, and G chords. The site also has reviews on Software, books, DVDs, and links for songs and videos.
- Ukulele in the Classroom This site is primarily for music teachers, but it does have really good free, supplementary materials and teaching aids for classroom use that can also be used at home if you are really keen.
The Best Ukulele Books for Kids
With the popularity of the ukulele growing every year, it’s not hard to find a beginner book that your kids will love. There are quite a few books that are great for teaching kids, here are some of the most popular:
- My First Ukulele For Kids: Learn To Play: Kids is one of the newer intro books for kids written by the very popular music author Ben Parker. It covers basic info about the including its parts and a bit about the history. It gives practical lessons on using a pick, tuning and chords and strumming. There is also information on how to read chord diagrams and how to actually play the chords. It is written in a very simple way that children will have no trouble following along with.
- Kid’s Ukulele Course 1: The Easiest Ukulele Method Ever! is a method book, CD, and DVD combo that can help kids learn to play songs right away. This set comes with a book, CD, and a DVD that covers how to hold the instrument and tune the strings. It also shows kids how to strum chords, read music, and playing songs like Ode to Joy, Over the Rainbow, and When the Saints Go Marching In. The DVD teaches kids how to play along with notes displayed on the screen, and the CD and DVD give kids a reference on how the notes are supposed to sound.
- Jiminy Kokopo’s Ukulele Sing and Strum Fun Book This is a fun and educational music book, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it’s a good choice for kids. It covers everything a beginner player needs to know, including history, diagram of the parts, how to hold it, strumming, and tuning. Fun Book combines the fun of ukulele playing with theory. Kids will really like the crazy potato comics.
- Mel Bay presents Children’s Ukulele Method Book/CD Set by Drew Andrews is an older method for children and beginners. Since it is put out by Mel Bay, you can expect a pretty standard method book covering all the basics like how to read the notes, proper holding technique, strumming and picking, and lots of popular songs. This isn’t my favorite of the method books, I find it a little dry, so I wouldn’t put it as my first choice of books to get, but if you like the Mel Bay style then definitely check it out. It does come with a CD that has the songs that are in the book.
- Ukulele for Kids – Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Series is another good option if you are looking for a method book that you can use at home to introduce your kids to the ukulele. There are lots of songs that parents will know, maybe not so many that kids will recognize like Yellow Submarine, This Land Is Your Land, Rock Around the Clock, You Are My Sunshine, and Barbara Ann. This book comes with a CD that has tracks for demonstration and play-along. Some of the lessons are parts of the uke; holding the instrument; hand position; reading music notation and counting; notes on the strings; C, F, C7, Am, G, B-flat, and Gm chords; strumming and picking.
Free Online Ukulele Lessons
If you aren’t quite up for the method books, here are some great free online lessons for kids. Honestly, the best place to find free lessons is on YouTube (as you probably already know). There are so many free good quality lessons available you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something that is right for your kids there. Here are a few other lessons to help get you started:
- Motleumuse this is a great little series of lessons from a school music teacher.
- Madeline’s Ukulele Class talks about the parts of the uke, how to tune it with an electronic tuner, how to play in the fret, the c chord, and how to strum.
- Ukulele Lessons for Kids this girl goes over what you need to know to play the uke.