The Best Guitars For Children

“Mommy! Mommy! I want to learn guitar!”

The guitar is an incredible entry point to the world of music. Easy to master, it unlocks incredible creative and social opportunities for your kid.

In this guide, we will start with some tips on how to choose the right instrument for your kid, including deciding between electric vs acoustic and sizing tips. From there we will go to a list of reviews of some of the best guitars for kids.

girl with flower headband playing pink guitar

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Buying Guide To The Best Acoustic Guitar For Kids

Kids Guitar Sizing Chart?

Sizing for children requires just a little more care. You want to make sure that you get the largest size that they can confidently handle. After all, they are just going to keep growing.

Most kids age 11 and up can play a full (or 4/4) size. There are some who could technically use the intermediate 38″ for this stage, but by and large, full size guitars will work out for them just fine.

I know a lot of people who started with a half-size around age 8 and played it until they were 9 or 10 and then went to a full.

But, if you go too large, it could actually slow their progress.

A child should be able to hold the guitar on their lap and still reach over it to the strings easily.

And, when they pretend to make a chord (assuming they don’t already know how to play), their elbow should still have some bend in it and their fingers should be able to easily reach all the strings.

Where I come from, there is a lot of hand-me-down going on, so we make do with what we have and it works out pretty nicely.

However, there is a huge advantage that comes with having the correct size model for your student.

Correctly sizing your kid’s instrument helps them to master it more quickly.

So, here is a little sizing chart to make to make it easy to get the correct starter guitar

Child height: 3’2″ to 3’8″ – 1/4-Size
Child height: 3’8″ to 4’6″ –  1/2-Size (Age 3-6)
Child height: 4’6″ to 5′ –  3/4-Size (34″) (Age 6-9)
Child height: Over 5′ – 4/4-Size (38″) (Age 10+)

Adult Vs. Children Sizes?

Sizing for children requires just a little more care. You want to make sure that you get the largest size that they can confidently handle. After all, they are just going to keep growing, so you want them to grow into it.

But, if you go too large, it could actually slow their progress by making it too difficult to reach the strings and finger properly.

A child should be able to hold the guitar on their lap and still reach over it to the strings easily.

And, when they pretend to make a chord (assuming they don’t already know how to play), their elbow should still have some bend in it and their fingers should be able to easily reach all the strings.

At What Age Should My Kid Start Learning To Play Guitar?

little girl holding oversized acoustic guitar

For most children, the motor skills simply are not there until they are 6.  I’ve seen a few kids try picking it up around 5, but they really don’t make any progress until after their 6th birthday.

It is key that the kiddos find the guitar to be fun.  So make it a game to them with rewards and praise. Teaching them fun songs that they already know and love makes learning motivating and helps them want to show off to Grandma or their friends.

In the toddler to 4-year-old range, I would recommend picking up a well-built, tuneable, toy.  (Go Here To Se The Best Tuneable Toy Guitars) This gives them something they can carry around with them all day.  You can teach them a few chords. And it’s okay if they act like toddlers and treat them like toys because they are toys!

And if they take a liking to it, you can pick up a real instrument and start their lessons.

Otherwise, it gives them a fun way to “play guitar” until they get old enough to want to be more serious about learning.

Should I Get My Child An Electric Or Acoustic Guitar?

Electric guitars have the huge benefit of being easy for small fingers to play.  The strings have a very short action and require almost no pressure to create the correct chords.

However, they are very quiet when they are not amped and quite annoying loud when they are amped.

And they have knobs. Knobs are distracting.

And we all know that distractions don’t speed learning.

Acoustic models are my top pick for children.  However, instead of going with steel strings, I recommend either swapping the strings for nylon or buying a classical option that has nylon strings already installed.

Nylon strings are very easy to depress and help you take advantage of that easy fingering offered by electric guitars. But they are louder and don’t offer all of those progress-highjacking distractions that electric models have.

Guitars For Left-Handed Kiddos

So, should you buy a left-hand guitar for your left-handed kid?

Oh, wait. Those are like, impossible to find.  And when you do find one, you normally get to pay twice the price.

It’s ridiculous.

Certain styles require an insane amount of finger-picking.  And if your child wishes to learn one of those styles (such as classical), it makes sense to spend the extra money so that their dominant hand can concentrate on the intricate picking while their right does the simpler task of operating the fretboard.

However, in modern rock, country, and jazz styles, the finger picking is relatively simple and is mostly done with a pick.  Any hand – dominate or not – can do that.

So for 90% of the students out there, I would argue that they should simply buy a right-handed guitar.  They will have a “hand up” on their peers as their dominant hand shreds the fretboard, and the non-dominate hand, um, strums.

It sort of makes you wonder if all of the right-handers our there shouldn’t switch to left-handed instruments.

The Best Acoustic Guitars For Kids in 2019

1. Yamaha JR1 3/4 Size

product image of Yamaha JR1

I love the Yamaha JR1 for its sound quality. With a sitka spruce top and meranti sides, it has a bright tone that sounds great whether a kid or an adult is playing it. You can also get the JR2 which is nearly identical but offers Mahogany sides for a slightly warmer tone. It sounds so good that some adults even buy it for its compact size to use as a travel guitar, and it is one of the best first guitars for kids.

It also is one of the smaller guitars on this list. The 21 1/4″ scale length makes it super easy to finger the chords even with small hands and guarantees that your kids will have a satisfying learning experience.

It also comes with all of the things you need to get started including a gig bag and tuner. The only other thing I would invest in is a good guitar lesson program that your child can follow along online.

As with anything Yamaha makes, this is a high-quality guitar that is designed to last. When you invest in this one, you are going to likely either hand it down to another kid in your family or sell it used.

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2. Hohner Classical Guitar 1/2 Size

hohner half sizeThought Hohner just made harmonicas? Think again. The Germany instrument makers have been cranking out quality pieces for students and pros alike, and this 1/2 size classical option is a good starting point for the budding guitar player in your house.

Classical models are strung with nylon strings, which are much easier on the fingers of someone who’s just setting out toward having their name in lights (or their band’s name, for that matter). The half-size option is – you guessed it – about half the size of a standard classical model. This particular model is a parlor-style, which produces a quieter, warmer sound than larger body styles. The curves of the guitar’s body are designed for playing seated and can be handled and practiced on with ease.

This guitar is popular with beginners not looking to plunk down a lot of cash and still end up with a very good beginner investment. Nylon string guitars are highly recommended by instructors, due to the nylon’s less harsh nature than steel strings, which is something that bears mentioning for beginners – it pays to keep a few sets of strings lying around, as nylon strings are also more delicate than steel strings.

Now, this doesn’t mean they can’t hold up to hours of practice, but they will need replacing, just like any stringed instrument.

It’s also worth picking up a simple, quality tuner. Chances are, your kid won’t be using dropped or alternative tunings in her metal band for a while, so you won’t need to grab a high-end chromatic tuner. Many come with built-in displays for the basic tuning so that they can learn that skill with ease: E-A-D-G-B-E.

Hohner has a reputation for build quality with all of their products, and this little bit of craftsmanship is no exception. Out of the box, they’re set up fairly well, but you’ll want your child’s input on this. If not set up properly, it may not sound very pleasant (which is more a concern if you’re a parent with perfect pitch), or the strings themselves may sit too high for your child to comfortably press them down.

Chances are if you don’t know how to do it yourself (and it’s actually not too difficult to learn right alongside your child), there’s a local tech in your area who’ll adjust the set up for you for a minimal cost. Calling your local music stores is a good way to find a reputable person. It’s also likely that you have a friend who is thoroughly familiar with the process.

All in all, this model is perfect for a younger (Hohner recommends ages 3–8) budding guitar player, or a child with smaller hands. A good quality guitar for any youngster, without a huge cover charge.

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3. The Hohner 3/4 Classical

hohner three-quarters size classical guitar

A step up from the half-sizes Hohner offers, their 3/4 scale classical guitar makes a great student instrument to practice on. The company recommends them for kids from ages 8–13, though even older kids who want to take their instrument with them on the road may find something to like about it as well.

It’s also not unheard of for adults to pick up 3/4 scale guitars to take camping or to the beach. These sizes are also useful for adults who may find 1/2 sizes a little too small to show-and-tell their kids pro tips.
Hohner has a longstanding history of being a major supplier to educators and students of all ages, and this nylon-string model is no exception. They’ve also recently implemented their A+ Advantage System of manufacturing, which has improved quality and performance (along with their durability) across their lineup.

Less than $100 gets you a quality instrument for your kid to hone their chops, strung with light-gauge nylon, and featuring a spruce top, the venerable standard of acoustic guitar making.

The lighter string gauge, coupled with the nylon material keeps your kid from stressing their fingertips too much. Nylon also produces less sound vibration than steel string guitars, and that’ll save some sanity during those late-night practices.

Keep in mind, you’ll also want to get a few essentials if you’re not familiar with playing yourself. Picks and a tuner are a must for most players (though fingerstyle learning is well-suited to the nylon on this model), but those are always readily available and affordable.

This particular model is one of the most popular student guitars on the market and for good reason. Hohner’s already well-respected quality, coupled with their innovation in manufacturing keep them on top for affordable guitars for beginners of all ages.

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4. Yamaha C40

yamaha c40 childrens

Is your kid ready to rock a full-size classical model, or have an older kid looking to get started? The Yamaha C40 is worth checking out as a beginner guitar, and the company’s reputation for solid, affordable guitars gives good reason to check this one out.

Much like the other guitars we’ve looked at that are suitable for kiddos picking up their first six-string (even if it’s not at the five and dime), this one features a nylon set of strings, and good build quality, without a price tag that’ll leave you with a second mortgage. That can wait until they’re music majors in college.

Yamaha’s C40 packs a punch and is an excellent standard size entry-level instrument for students and intermediate players alike. Intermediate players will probably swing a step up or two in Yamaha’s lineup, but this model is one of Yamaha’s bestsellers for a reason. A strong instrument for the money, the classical style, and out-of-the-box playability and durability make this a solid contender for a younger learner’s first six-string. Or if your child is graduating from one of the smaller-sized guitars – this is a perfect step up.

As with any new instrument, especially for those starting fresh, you’ll want to make sure your child is comfortable with the action, or string height. Too high, and it’ll be difficult to properly press down on the string to play notes or chords. Too low, and the guitar’s going to sound rattly. Yamaha checks their guitars before shipping them out, but shipping isn’t always kind for the setup. If it’s not, take a little bit to learn how to set it up, or take it down to your local guitar tech, who can help you out. It’s a good investment, as this doesn’t have to be done often (most students will only have to do this once or twice over the lifetime of their guitars unless string gauges get changed).

With the nylon strings, keep a few extra sets on hand. Nylon is a little more delicate than steel string guitars, but they’re ideal for fingerstyle. Novice players won’t be too hard on the strings early on, but it does save you a trip if you have an extra set or two at home.

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5. Best Electric Guitar Set For Kids: Squier Electric Pack

squier mini fender

If your kid is ready to rock a stadium – or even your garage – Squier’s Mini Strat electric bundle is a killer starting point for any beginner picking up an electric for the first time.

Made by Squier, one of the legendary Fender companies, the guitar features the ever-popular Stratocaster body style. This is also occasionally listed as an “S-Style” body. As a partner of Fender, Squier is licensed to use the name of Fender’s perennial fave, and more than lives up to the Strat legacy.

This version is perfect for your budding rock star, as it features a smaller size, and comes with a 10-watt practice amp, and more goodies than you can shake a stage rider at.

The Mini Strat is built completely similar to Squier’s higher-level Bullet Strats, only with a smaller, 3/4 size. Perfect for smaller hands, and with an amp that’s ready to rock a bedroom. The C-shaped neck is regarded as one of the easiest neck styles to pick up and play for most people, making it ideal for novices and kids upgrading to an electric alike.

Squier keeps it simple, with a 10-watt, portable, solid-state amp, but packs it with features found on higher-end amps. It features a gain boost (gain “drives” the amp, dirtying up the sound, just like the full-fledged rockers), dual-band equalizer, and three controls for volume, bass, and treble. This makes it a versatile, carry-anywhere amp that partners perfectly with the classic Strat.
Squier also provides the set in a number of colors: red, blue, black, sunburst, and pink, giving your child, even more, ways to express themselves with their first real set up.

The set also comes with a learn-to-play DVD, a string winder, extra strings (which saves a little more money), tuner, picks, a nylon strap, and an amp cable, giving you everything you need straight out of the box. As always, make sure your child is comfortable playing on their new axe, as this is important for any guitarist, beginner to expert alike. It also makes practice a lot easier on newer players, and not as much of a chore.

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