These ideas for musical gifts for kids are hand-picked by musician, music teacher, and mother Kari Richmond.
Updated November 2022
Have you thought about giving your child a musical gift this holiday season?
As a musician, mother of two, and Music Together teacher, I’m happy to offer some thoughts to help you choose a musical gift that your little one can truly enjoy.
Parents in my classes often ask about appropriate instruments for their small children, along with questions about when to start formal music instruction, etc.
The sorts of instruments that I see in children’s stores are often poor quality, or seem a bit too complicated, too fragile, or flat-out poorly made.
And most children under the age of 6 are not ready to receive serious instruction on many instruments (particularly a very large one). String and percussion instruments can sometimes be a bit more accessible for small children, but you probably don’t want to put a good quality violin or snare drum in the path of a toddler or preschooler. Cheap instruments are usually lacking in tone quality and durability, and the frustration of broken or bad-sounding instruments can quickly “turn off” a child to musical play.
I share the Music Together philosophy (and Jean’s philosophy with visual art!) that children learn so much more efficiently and joyfully through open-ended play and self-guided exploration than they learn from sit-still formal instruction. Just as young children benefit from open access to good-quality art supplies and mess-making space, they also benefit greatly from free access to good quality, durable musical instruments that they can explore and make nice sounds on without formal instruction.
So what are some good options?
Musical Gifts for Kids
Disclaimer: This is by no means a definitive guide! It started out as an e-mail response to a specific parent and turned into an epic article attempting to encompass most of my family’s experiences with musical gifts.
Real brass instruments (trumpets, trombones, tubas, etc.) and woodwind instruments (flutes, oboes, saxophones, etc.) would be problematic for the typical kiddo under age 7 or 8. These instruments require reasonably mature lungs and diaphragm, plus finger coordination to play them AND reasonably mature behavior to take proper care of them.
Fortunately, there are some lower cost wind instruments that can make nice tones fairly easily (once your child gets over the initial excitement of being able to make Very Loud High Noises) and will also teach your child to control her breathing, facial muscles, and fingers simply through her exploration and discovery of the instrument.
Start with a simple plastic or resin soprano recorder, which will sound like a flute. Other fun options for small children (ages 1-6) are harmonicas and kazoos. They make great stocking stuffers: they’re relatively cheap, but fun to explore. I prefer real metal to plastic for durability and the nice heft in one’s hands.
And what about one of these fun contraptions? A saxoflute! You build your own wind instrument in any number of configurations – what a great way for small engineers to get their building fix AND be able to make noise afterward!
Piano and Keyboard
Both of my children have gotten hours of fun and invaluable self-teaching by playing with the different “drumbeats,” tonal voices, and other features of their inexpensive Casio keyboard. They’ve taught themselves how to play familiar songs in various keys and even started exploring harmony, all on their own.
Of course, if your child wants to pursue formal piano study, you will eventually need to invest in a real piano or good quality keyboard with weighted keys.
Big guitars are hard for little kids to play! If you don’t mind letting your toddler explore the $15 guitar you picked up at a yard sale, then that’s a great option.
If you want to start out with a good quality instrument that your 5-year-old actually has a chance of learning to play, you can look into getting a soprano ukelele. A 2-year-old could play with the ukelele; a 4- or 5-year-old might start to be able to be able to actually play the ukelele. Ukes make a sweet mellow sound, and they’re easier than guitars for several reasons. They only have 4 strings, are easier for small hands to manage, and the instrument is just smaller and lighter.
You can probably easily find an inexpensive uke at your nearest big box store, but with a uke, you generally get what you pay for. A slightly more expensive option might be good for older children who want to learn.
I’m a drummer myself, so these are my favorites! First let me say, you don’t have to have actual drums to enjoy some percussive music-making! I have a big plastic box full of pans, ice cube trays, measuring cups, and long-handled plastic spoons that I periodically hand out in my Music Together classes for a big “kitchen instrument” jam.
If you want to go for the real thing, hand drums are marvelous for small children to learn coordination and to explore sound, tone, and rhythm.
I’ve found that Remo Kids drums and Rhythm Club drums with synthetic heads are durable, make consistently decent sounds, and feel nice on the hands. A Floor Tom or set of Bongos are appropriate for babies who can sit upright to elementary school-aged kids.
For good quality hand-held drums (for ages 3 and up), I like the Remo Rainforest Drums, 8 inches or bigger.
For kids 4 and older, sturdy djembes are really fun. Little ones can sit in a chair and prop the drum between your legs, hang it from a cord around your shoulders, or even (within reason) lay it down on the floor and sit on it like riding a horse.
Or a fascinating, lower cost option for little ones, the “bongo cajon,” which reportedly features a really wide array of sounds and can just sit on the floor in easy reach of your small one, as long as she can sit up.
If you want a drum the entire family can play together, check out these Gathering Drums!
Musical Experience Gifts for Kids
Many families I know are striving to cut down on the amount of STUFF in their homes, so if buying an actual product is not your thing this year, consider giving your child the gift of musical experiences together! Present her with tickets to the next local symphony concert – a wonderful opportunity to dress up and do a “grown-up” evening on the town. Or, for lower cost alternatives, check out your local high school and university music departments. Most schools offer very low-cost or free concerts that are open to the public throughout each semester.
We hope these suggestions help you figure out which musical gifts for kids are best for your family!
More Ideas for Gifts for Kids
- The Artful Parent’s Creative Gift Guide for Kids
- Creative Gifts for Kids Who Love to Build
- The Best Open-Ended Toys for Kids to Foster Creativity & Imagination
- Creative Gift Ideas for Toddlers & Preschoolers
- 10 Fun Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Kids This Holiday Season
- The Best Kids Games for Family Fun
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