When Your Five Year Old Wants To Play Guitar


Artyom Yefimov - 17700448

We all like to believe that our child is gifted; whether it’s mastering their ABCs before their second birthday, keeping their balance on ice skates at three years old, or nailing “Enter Sandman” on the electric guitar at the age of six. The reality, though, is while most of our children have the capacity to be talented in areas they are interested in, very few are “naturally gifted.”

As parents, our job is to encourage our children to explore hobbies they are interested in at appropriate levels based on their age. We don’t expect our three-foot-tall son to shoot hoops on an adult basketball court, yet many parents expect him to play his dad’s guitar. Even if you buy him a three-quarter or half-size guitar, it’s likely still too much guitar for the average five year old. The electric guitar is certainly too heavy to hang on a strap over his shoulder. Both the acoustic and electric guitars are too big to rest on her thigh and wrap her arm around the top to reach the strings. The guitar slides off her thigh and before you know it, she is attempting to play the instrument like a lap steel guitar instead of the way it is intended to be played. Plus, the strings are too hard on their tender fingers and the neck is too long to reach the lower frets.

Before you lose hope, consider introducing your child to the ukulele. The ukulele is similar enough to an acoustic guitar to satisfy the young child who wants to play guitar. The things that make the instruments different are also the things that make the ukulele a great choice for a five year old; or even older children of small stature and with small hands.

The ukulele is much smaller and much lighter than the guitar. As an example, the Yamaha Half-Size Classical Guitar is 37 inches long and weighs four pounds, while the typical ukulele is 21 inches long and weighs about one pound.

The ukulele has four strings, compared with six strings on the guitar, which makes the ukulele less complicated and easier to learn and play than the guitar. Plus the ukulele requires much less strength to push and hold the strings and the material the strings are made of don’t hurt tiny fingers as much as guitar strings do.

Best of all for you, the cost of an entry level ukulele is significantly less than the cost of a beginner guitar of the same quality.

As the owner of a music school for kids, this is what I recommend to parents in my community who call about guitar lessons for their small children. The concepts kids learn in terms of strumming, fingering, chord progression, and music theory are just as meaningful when taught on ukulele as when taught on guitar. And at my school we teach many of the same songs in ukulele lessons that we teach in guitar lessons. We’re able to do this because if you remove the low E & A from a guitar and capo the 5th fret, you have what is essentially a ukulele with a low G tuning. The songs our uke students learn are the same popular songs our guitar students learn. Then, if your child wants to switch to guitar when they are a bit bigger, they can do so.

ukuleleBut that may never happen. Thanks to current Indie rock stars like Taylor Swift, Zooey Deschanel, Zac Effron, Pink, Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson who play uke in their music, your child may just fall in love with the ukulele.

Visit Stacey at Foresight Through Hindsight

Profile photo of Stacey Marmolejo

Past experiences help inform future decisions