As the director of an early childhood music school that readies children to play an instrument I often get asked at holiday times to recommend places to buy glockenspiels, xylophones, hand drums, drum sets, ukuleles, guitars, keyboards, shakers etc. for young children. So here it is - my musical gift giving guide for parents of 0-5 year olds which will cover all those topics.
The first thing I always tell people is please, if you are looking for a real instrument for your child to play, for the love of Pete, do not buy the cheapest thing going! Cheap instruments sound bad, go out of tune easily, can be harder to play and you run the risk of turning your child off of playing an instrument because the instrument itself will hold them back and deplete their enthusiasm very quickly. In some cases you don’t have to spend much more to get something decent and your ears and your child’s long term joy will thank you in the long run.
Now, if you have a 3-year-old or younger who is rough on toys and you think the instrument will be used as a hammer as often as it lends itself to a tune, by all means get the cheapo uke or glock.
Also, FYI, none of the raft of links I’ve posted here are affiliates, i.e. I don’t make any money off them so click away with full confidence that I actually just LOVE these products and shops.
You can’t go wrong with a uke! This mellow little sweetheart is very popular these days and it also happens to be the perfect entry level instrument for kids. Soft strings, small stature, great price point. I highly recommend Kala ukes (and their sister brand Ma-Kala) - great tone and durability. These American made beauties come with glowing reviews from top uke players, guitar shops and ukulele teachers alike and start at about $75.
The go to name for smaller guitars is Beaver Creek. Every teacher and guitar junky I talk to agrees on this. Beaver Creek makes ½ sized classical guitars that have nylon strings which go easy on small fingers. They also come in fun colours - pink, blue, ultra-hip sunburst and au natural.
GLOCKENSPIELS AND XYLOPHONES
In my early childhood music classes I have spoiled myself and the kids with top-of-the-line glocks and xylophones by Studio 49. These are classroom grade instruments with beautiful tone and tuning. They ain’t cheap though. I have tried out dozens of mid-range metal glocks and I just cannot get excited about their tinny sounds - and so many of them are poorly/haphazardly tuned! My advice is to stick to their mellow wooden cousin the xylophone or just get a really small and therefore quiet glockenspiel. Good brands to check out for toy glocks and xylophones are Plan Toys and Djeco.
The Studio 49 glockenspiel and xylophone I use in my classes are available online at St. John's Music. Plan Toys and Djeco instruments are available locally at Silly Goose Kids and Treasure Island Toys. Also, for a not too pricey personalized and hand-made glock try Cake In The Morn.
Hands down, my favourite hand drums for kids are by Remo. Everything from their cheap and cheerful “Lollipop Drums” to their huge family sized "Gathering Drum" is quality. They’ve got soft mallets, kid friendly designs and a great reputation among early childhood music educators.
EARLY CHILDHOOD MUSIC TOYS
My go to one-stop online shop for early childhood music toys is the Canadian-owned Empire Music. They carry clavés, harmonicas, wrist scarves, egg shakers, triangles, gift sets, and so much more. Locally, Silly Goose Kids and Treasure Island Toys both have nicely rounded out selections for 0-3 year olds and Long and McQuade has a solid selection for 3+ years in their percussion department.
Drum kit for you kid eh? Brave you! For the little drummer in your family you can’t beat Westbury RB Junior drum kits. They’ve got replaceable and tuneable skins (there’s that sounding better thing again!) and all metal parts.
RB Junior Drums are available locally at Long and McQuade.
For keyboards, I wanted to get the skinny from a pro, so I talked to Larra Debly, owner of local music school Sweet Music Lessons to get a solid recommendation. Larra said to look for a keyboard with “weighted keys” to simulate the feel of a real piano. She also warned that If music lessons are in your child's future to look for a keyboard without too many bells and whistles as they can be a tad distracting. (drum beats, orchestra hits, flutes and choir voices oh my!) However, if you are looking for something a little less serious check out Mastermind Toys locally and online for a wide variety of keyboards - they even have one shaped like a cat and also a cool gigantic foot piano!
A wide selection of keyboards with weighted keys are available locally from Long & McQuade.
Is your kiddo addicted to making music? Why not try out a free trial of our group music classes? In our parent/child music classes our expertise lies in building solid musical foundations for 0-5 year olds in a fun and nurturing environment.