Should you choose a toy ukulele or a real ukulele for a child?

     

         It’s a question every well-meaning parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle has pondered over since the ukulele became one of the most popular instruments for children. Should they choose a real ukulele over a toy ukulele for their little loved one?

         There’s no hard and fast rule to this because each child is different. For instance, 7-year-old Jonah is of the right age to get started on playing ukulele but he may not take lessons seriously if he’s more interested in playing soccer. On the other hand, 5-year-old Clara may seem to young but she’s advanced for her age - she can read and write complete sentences and has a razor-sharp attention when it comes to receiving instructions.

         Even children of the same age have different personalities, abilities and learning styles. So how do you know whether you should get a child a toy or a real instrument? Let’s consider the following points.

     

    THE CHILD'S INTEREST

         Children will always find a way to let you know if they want something. If they see another child playing ukulele and they like how it sounds, they may express keen interest in playing the instrument as well.

         See if the child’s interest goes away in a few weeks. If it doesn’t, and the child asks to watch ukulele videos and listen to ukulele music again and again, then it’s a good sign. In this case, it’s ideal to give the child the best beginner  ukulele you can afford. It doesn’t have to be expensive - there are several ukulele brands such as Luna and Kala that offer quality instruments at a good price.

         Why not test things out by giving him or her a toy? Well, giving a child who’s clearly interested in playing ukulele a toy version can only ruin their enjoyment and hinder their progress.

         Imagine learning to play the G chord on a toy ukulele. The resulting sound may not even sound anywhere near the G chord. A toy may not stay in tune - it may not even be tuned at all! Toy ukuleles are often poorly built - they have thin plastic bodies, low-quality strings, uneven frets and flimsy tuners. In short, they’re unplayable. A child who really wants to play ukulele will quickly feel frustrated when they’re playing a toy and they may lose interest altogether.

     

    THE CHILD'S DEVELOPMENTAL AGE

         Kids as young as 3 years old can already learn to play musical instruments, but it’s recommended to wait a few more years for proper instruction. Then again, many children develop cognitive and physical abilities quickly, allowing them to learn faster. When choosing a ukulele for a child, consider his or her abilities with regard to learning basic concepts and employing fine motor skills that are needed to play the ukulele properly.

         If you want to encourage a child to play or develop an interest in the ukulele, this is when you can get a toy. A toy ukulele would be a good starting point so the child can learn to hold the instrument and get familiar with how it makes sounds. Plus, you won’t have to worry if the uke gets banged around during playtime.

         If, after several weeks or months the child begins to show a greater interest in playing the toy, then you can consider upgrading to a real beginner ukulele. A soprano ukulele, because it is the smallest of all ukulele bodies, is often the top choice for children learning to play.

         Those are the main considerations when buying a ukulele for a child. Think about the child first and you’ll be able to determine whether to get a toy or a real ukulele. Let us know how your gift-giving goes!

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    Ukuleles and Luthiers:

     

    "FLUKE" ukulele - Made in USA, these are also triangular in shape, but slightly different from the Doane Style. Wonderful to play, great sound, easy to carry around. Excellent as an alternative to the standard ukulele!

    G STRING UKULELES - Located in Halawa Valley on Oahu, GString Ukulele continues to build instruments at a high degree of excellence at competitive prices. Hawaiian hand-crafted quality and sound! Check out the custom "Signature series"

    KAMAKA UKULELE - The only early Hawiian ukulele manufacturer still in business! One of the most respected name in Hawaiian ukuleles since 1916.

    KALA UKULELE - Kala offers quality, affordable instruments for the Ukulele enthusiast and novice alike.With over 40 models currently offered, there is an instrument to fit everyone's tastes and budget.

    KEKAHUNA UKULELE - These finely hand-crafted, grammy-award winning instruments are custom built by George Bence. For those seeking to have an instrument built for them with quality woods and custom designs - well worth checking out.

    KONA "WALKINGBASS" - These unique 3-stringed (Slack Key) or 4-stringed (Standard) electric "stick" basses are priced right for your Uke program. Great for beginners! You must check these bases out! 

    MYAMOE - Offers professional-grade custom ukuleles in a variety of models from stunning imported & domestic hardwoods. Based in Washington State, U.S.A., the company prides themselves in producing instruments with everything that the serious musician should demand, but features that are even more important to the beginner & intermediate player.

    ROAD TOAD UKULELES - Custom ukuleles by "Owen" Keoholaumakani Holt, Jr. since 1998. Very unique designs and specialty woods are the signature of Owen's instruments. He also specializes in the Bufo Bass Ukuleles which were the basis of the "U-Bass" produced by Kala Ukuleles.


    Retail Stores and Supplies:

    EMPIRE MUSIC - BC's largest supplier of music equipment, instruments, and teacher resources for your classroom needs. Empire Music has been supplying ukuleles and ukulele related parts and materials for your school programs for many years. A U.S. Catalogue is also available.

    FUNCTIONAL ACCESSORIES - "Spice up" your uke with a rainbow of colours! This Canadian site offers accessories that make your ukulele fun with coloured (Aquila Silkgut) strings from Aurora Strings, and also an assortment of fun novelty picks. Great for your classroom needs!

    THE HUB - Buying guide for the ukulele enthusiast. This website (by Musicians Friend) offers some good advice about purchasing your first / next ukulele. Contains information about ukulele sizes, history, a variety of currently available brands, accessories and more. Check out this site before purchasing a ukulele!

    LARSEN MUSIC - Located in Victoria, B.C., Larsen offers support to local Vancouver Island schools with musical instruments and rentals. They carry a great selection of ukuleles, including Mele, Kala, Ohana, Ko'olau, Pono, Goldtone, Flea and Fluke, vintage and used instruments, and a variety of accessories for your ukulele programs.

    MUSIC PLANT - Located in Campbell River, B.C., the Music Plant offers a wide selection of music instruments and accessories for upper Vancouver Island. A comprehensive selection of ukuleles - Kala, Lanikai, Makala, Fender, Oscar Schmidt. Supporting the music programs in schools on N. Vancouver Island for over 30 years.

    SOUTHERN UKULELE STORE (U.K.) - Located in Bournemouth, England, the "Southern Ukulele Store" offers a very large selection of quality ukuleles made in Europe, to high-end Hawaiian ukes. If you are visiting the U.K. or looking for something different in a name-brand ukulele, please be sure to check out their inventory of fine instruments. 

    TOM LEE MUSIC - Tom Lee Music has 8 store locations on the lower mainland and Vancouver Island. They carry a large range of quality ukuleles from entry level to intermediate priced instruments. Please check their website for up-to-date inventory amd pricing.

    SHOULD YOU CHOOSE A TOY UKULELE OR A REAL UKULELE? - An article by Jennifer Hughes that offers some sage advice to parents considering purchasing that first ukulele for their child. Jennifer is a blogger for www.knowyourinstrument.com and has written on numerous topics about ukuleles.

     

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