The ukulele is a great first instrument for kids to learn. They are easy to learn, there are very affordable and good ukuleles on the market and most importantly the small size of the ukulele fits perfectly young children. In this article we want to focus on ukulele lessons for kids and how to teach a child the ukulele.
Why is a ukulele the perfect instrument for kids
The small size for a ukulele is perfect for children. This also means that they are not too heavy and that they can wrap their hand easily around the neck. In addition to that, strings are made of nylon and don’t have much tension. They are easy to press down and it’s easy to hold chords. This is a big advantage for beginner compared to guitars. Since ukuleles have only four strings, unlike the guitar, chords are much easier and some of them require only a finger and not odd finger positions.
In addition to that, ukuleles are really fun. Kids get excited since they are able to quickly learn their first songs. As a first instrument, ukuleles help children to learn about music and music theory. If a child is too young for a guitar and very motivated, then a ukulele can be a perfect alternative.
What age can children start playing ukulele?
There is no ideal age to start teaching kids ukulele. When a child shows an interest in it, then you can consider buying an instrument and ukulele lessons for your child. There are kids that already start with 3 years to learn the ukulele. But this is rather an exception. Most students start around 6 years. You can test the motivation and interest of a child by showing him a ukulele in a music store by watching ukulele videos on youtube. You quickly see if this instrument catches your child’s attention.
But keep in mind, parents shouldn’t force their children to learn to play ukulele. The interest and motivation has to come from the child itself.
Get a soprano ukulele for kids
There are different types of ukuleles, which are basically defined by their size. Beginner start often with a soprano ukulele because you can find them in every music or guitar store and they are quite affordable. Soprano ukuleles are also the smallest ones, which makes them perfect for kids. They are easier to hold and consequently more comfortable to play. Other sizes are concert, tenor and baritone.
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Don’t get the cheapest and most colorful ukulele that you can find because many of them are low quality. And don’t but a ukulele in a toy sore. However, color can matter for kids. In this case I would highly recommend the Kala Makala Dolphin, which has a nice shape and is available in different colors. The problem is that these ukuleles don’t really hold the tuning. And that’s definitely something that would lead to frustration and a loss of motivation. Good ukuleles are available under $100, which hold the tuning and are fun to play.
Read more in our article about finding the best ukulele for kids.
Finding ukulele lessons near you
It’s actually quite hard to find ukulele lessons for kids nearby. There are in general only music schools in big cities that offer also ukulele lessons. And most of them offer them for adults and not specifically to kids. The reason why is that the ukulele is still a niche. They are quite known and famous but still considered as a fun instrument. In addition to that, typical instruments like guitar and piano are so much present in music classes.
Sometimes you have groups in kindergarten or primary schools where they teach kids ukulele. Otherwise you could try to find someone who plays the ukulele quite well if he would be interested in teaching your child. Of course, this person should have some solid teaching skills and patience with children.
Could you imagine learning the ukulele as well? If so, you could learn it together with your child. Fortunately, learning the ukulele is not too hard and most of the students are already able to play a song after the first lesson! Learning the basics for the ukulele is much easier than for the guitar. The ukulele has only for 4 string instead of 6 strings and they have much less tension, which means that the strings are much easier to press down.
There are great books out there that explain the basic principles
How teach a child ukulele
Ukuele course books for adults can be good basis to structure your lessons In addition to that you should use teaching materials and resources that are designed for kids. Especially with children, it’s important to work with visuals that are catchy and fun.
1. Get kids motiviated and excited
This part is optional but you should consider it when you work out your lesson plan. Youn children want to play around and discover new things instead of sitting down to learn theory.
That’s why you should start at first to have fun with the ukulele. Play a known nursery thyme on the ukulele that they can sing along. Let them make some noise with the ukulele. If you teach a class with several students, then everybody can show each other how good he already is in getting some random sound out of the ukulele.
2. Get to know the ukulele
Once you have got them excited by playing and jamming around, ask them how well they actually know their new friend the ukulele.
Show to your student how to hold the ukulele correctly and go over the different parts of the instruments. It’s important to explain that the tuner are very sensible since you can break the strings when turning them too much!
In addition to that get familiar with the names of the strings. This forms the basis for the communication between the teacher and the students as well as for teaching ukulele chords.
3. Tuning a ukulele
This step can be a bit complicated for young children. Demonstrate your students how a ukulele sounds when it’s in tune and how it sounds when it’s out of tune. In this way, they get a feeling for the right sound. There are great tuners for ukuleles, which makes it super easy to tune it. However, you should always check the tuning together with them.
If you are a ukulele teacher in classes, then explain it to the parents as well, so that they can help their kids at home with this.
4. Basic ukulele chords
When it comes to playing the ukulele, you need to know some chords. You should start with the easiest ones, so that your child has quickly a feeling of success. The C-Chord for example requires only one finger! There are some songs that you can play only with two chords. So, it’s pretty easy to get there.
For groups there is very nice way to play songs together. Imagine you have nursery rhyme with three chords and you have three students. Each student then is responsible for one chord. You are singing the song and pointing to the student who has to play the chord (just with simple down strums). In this way, nobody has to change the chord and they play a whole song together.
In the teaching materials that I have created, you find chord charts that especially designed for young kids. They are easy to understand and kids love colorful stuff. They are also available in black and white, so they can color them out and memorize the chord at the same.
5. Changing between chords on the ukulele
Once your students master a few chords, it’s time to change between them. This requires practice but some chord changes are pretty easy. So, you should start teaching chord changes that are not too hard (for example from Am to C or from Am to A). If you know how to change between chords, you walked already the half way to play a complete ukulele song.
Again make your lessons fun and bring in some different activities. For example, play with your students a chord memory game. This activity game is already included in the ukulele teaching materials.
6. Basic ukulele strumming patterns
Strumming the ukulele properly is for most beginners the hardest part. There are basically two ways for strumming a ukulele: up and down. Strumming down is much easier than strumming up, because a down stroke feels more natural. If you combine down and up strokes you get a strumming pattern, for example down down up, which you repeat over and over while playing the song. On Youtube you can many great videos that explains strumming pretty well.
7. Easy ukulele songs
When teaching ukulele songs to kids you should start with popular nursery rhymes. They are short, easy to play and most of the kids already know the lyrics. Good songs to start with are for example Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Baa Baa Black Sheep. Take a look at our article with easy ukulele songs for kids and get inspired.
Don’t forget to ask your students as well what they would like to play and see if their song wishes would fit. If the song is tot difficult to play for a beginner you should suggest another song to avoid frustration in learning something too hard. Learning songs should be also fun for kids. That’s why it’s another good possibility to add some coloring activities here as well. We have a song book for ukulele that is especially designed for kids.
8. Basic picking
In the beginning you should concentrate on basic chords and basic strumming patterns. But once your students master them pretty well, introduce them to some picking patterns. You can play every song in this way, which also sounds very nice. However, this requires more exercise but at the same time it’s a great way to learn the notes on your ukulele.
Here it’s also important teaching how to read guitar tabs!
9. Music theory
How is a chord built? How can you change the key of a song? Answers to questions like these require some music theory and you can spend a lot of time with it. Start with some basics and teach how to read sheet music.