The ukulele is a fantastic first instrument for children to learn. The small size makes it easier to handle than a guitar, a good beginner model is substantially cheaper than a guitar, and results can be achieved quicker than any other instrument. Choosing a child’s first ukulele can be a daunting task, so to find the best ukulele for kids, we reviewed dozens of ukuleles from Amazon, narrowing down our list to find the best value and highest quality children’s ukuleles.
A staple cheap and effective ukulele, the Makala Dolphin range is loved by many ukulele players around the world. The name comes from the dolphin styled bridge at the base of the ukulele. Makala also offer a very similar Shark range.
For not much more than most toy ukuleles will cost, the Makala Dolphin hits all the right boxes as a kids ukulele. It is well built, decent enough quality for a child to learn on and produces a perfectly fine sound.
Many experienced players, myself included, keep a Dolphin around the house for quick and easy playing despite owning more expensive ukuleles. Mine doesn’t live in a case but can be found somewhere in the house, usually on a sofa or a bed somewhere and gets picked up and played by different people in my household several times a day.
In addition to the geared tuners, the strings that the Makala Dolphin ship with make a huge difference. The ukulele is strung out of the box with Aquila Nylguts, a fantastic set of strings that I use on many of my other ukuleles. These strings help the Makala Dolphin to have a lovely sound out of the box and stay in tune well.
For children, this is a great first ukulele. It is available in a range of colours and even as an adult I enjoy the fact it has a dolphin on it. The Shark range is also very cool. Perfect out of the box for learning the ropes of the ukulele without breaking the bank, or worrying too much about breaking it.
The Makala Waterman is an entirely plastic ukulele, designed to take a few more knocks, bumps and scrapes than a ukulele made of wood. As you may guess from the name the plastic also means it can survive a trip to the beach, and will have no problems with a bit of water, sand or other debris.
Cheap enough and sturdy enough to throw in a backpack and take on a hike without worry, the Makala Waterman is a great ukulele for kids likely to put it through a beating.
Being a plastic ukulele, the sound is certainly different from a wooden ukulele. However, it’s not an unpleasant sound, and for the price it sounds pretty nice! But you may find some children (and parents) prefer the more authentic sound of a wooden ukulele.
The construction is solid and the inclusion of geared tuners definitely puts this above any toy ukulele you’d find in a toy store. The Waterman also comes in a nice range of colours and appearances, with some very unique transparent plastic designs as well as more traditional looking ukuleles.
So for children that love being outdoors and on adventures, (or those that are a little clumsy) the Makala Waterman makes a great children’s ukulele. With a unique sound that is more than good enough for learning, and a sturdy waterproof construction, all at a very reasonable price, the Makala Waterman should be high on your list to try.
For slightly older children or those looking to start on something a little bit more serious than the Dolphin or Waterman, the KA-15S is an excellent choice. It sports a more traditional appearance, good build quality and a well-rounded sound.
The KA-15S is part of a range of excellent beginner ukuleles that Kala make. The ‘S’ in the name stands for Soprano. The other two models in the range are the KA-15C, a Concert ukulele, and the KA-15T, a Tenor ukulele. The Soprano size is considered the ‘standard’ size for a ukulele so that is the one we’ve chosen for this list. However, they are all excellent ukuleles so if you’re looking for something bigger or with a slightly larger sound then definitely check out the Concert and Tenor models.
The build quality of this ukulele is very sturdy and is a thousand times better than a toy ukulele. Like all ukuleles on this list however, it is still mass produced and it is worth keeping expectations in check. Just because this ukulele has a more traditional and professional look, it is still considered a budget ukulele. It is absolutely good value for money, and an excellent ukulele for kids, but don’t expect the earth.
Saying all of that the Kala KA-15S is a great sounding ukulele, and plays extremely well out of the box. It ships with a decent set of strings and a surprisingly low action, not often found on ukuleles of this price, that makes it quite easy to play.
The appearance of this ukulele is really one of the high points. It has a striking traditional look with a natural wood look that makes it look very professional, while maintaining a good sound for such a cheap ukulele. The light and thin finish on the wood also helps to let the ukulele sing out, and doesn’t dampen the sound like other ukuleles at this price.
If you’re after an all round great beginner ukulele for your child with an eyecatching traditional and professional finish, then the Kala KA-15S is a fantastic choice that will give them a great base to build their skills on.
What to look out for buying a children’s ukulele
Any of the suggestions listed above would make for a great first ukulele, but for any confused parents still unsure what to pick here is a basic summary of things to look out for.
A Word of Warning
All of the ukuleles we’ve listed are below $100, but you might still think many are expensive compared to ones you’ve seen in local stores. Most of the ukuleles you’d find on store shelves suffer from poor build quality and will be more difficult to play as a result. Having to use one of these ukuleles has a serious chance of putting turning your child off from learning the ukulele.
It is definitely worth spending that little bit extra for a ukulele from a respected manufacturer like the ones on our list above. In my opinion any ukulele less than $30 should be considered nothing more than a toy for very small children and will make real learning and progression difficult.
So please, if you are serious about your child learning the ukulele, spend a bit more money. Avoid the ukuleles from store shelves and either buy something from our list or visit a respected local instrument retailer.
Ukuleles come in a few different sizes. The most common in order of smallest to largest being:
A commonly held belief is that small ukuleles are for children and big ukuleles are for adults.
This is completely untrue.
Ukulele sizes lend themselves to different playing styles and string setups. Most people’s first ukulele is a Soprano size as this is considered the “standard” size, although it isn’t uncommon to find a Concert size ukulele either.
So do not be fooled by anyone telling you that your child should have a “children’s sized” ukulele. I personally have very large hands and can play all of the listed ukulele sizes, and even some uncommon sizes such as the Sopranino which is considerably smaller than a Soprano.
Many beginner ukulele’s try to set themselves apart from the competition by bundling accessories, such as a travel bag, a tuner or a short book of lessons. The quality of these items is usually very poor and it’s usually better to get a ukulele on it’s own and then buy the items you need.
Lessons can be found online or in much better books for either free or not very much money. In my opinion a tuner is essential and there are many great ones out there that are very cheap. For help choosing a tuner check out this guide to the best ukulele tuners.
The only bundled extra that I don’t take issue with is a case or travel bag. Most of the time they are very thin and light, but for protecting your child’s new ukulele from the odd knock and scrape as they travel to and from school they will work just fine. Much better cases can be bought separately for those who like a bit more protection, or have exceedingly clumsy children.
The strings that come strung on most cheaper ukuleles are pretty bad. The more established ukulele producers that we focussed on in our list generally do make use of better strings, but changing the strings out for a nicer set is one of the simplest ways to improve the quality and sound of your kid’s ukulele.
Strings can be had very cheaply and there are a wide variety to choose from. Changing strings isn’t too difficult, but if you’re unsure I’d suggest taking the ukulele to a local music retailer who will install them for you for a small fee.
The Best Ukulele for Kids
The ukulele can provide a fantastically fun introduction to music for kids, and this should be encouraged by providing them with adequate tools to pursue their interests. This list should equip with the knowledge needed to choose a ukulele for your child that will foster their interests and encourage them to pursue music.
If you can, get your child to a local music retailer to try some of the ukuleles and see how they feel to play. Even if they don’t know how to play yet, both you and your child will learn a lot from holding each ukulele and hearing how they sound. I wish you the best of luck!
“If everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place”Jake Shimabukuro