I play the guitar and have always tried to include my son in the fun when I play. He's 9 months old and seems to always like listening to it so far. Recently he has become very curious about the guitar itself. I've let him play with it and I've watched him carefully pluck the strings and get a real kick out of making noise with it.

The guitar is expensive and so playing with it comes with a lot of "No no, son. Be careful. Try like this" and other kind of negative attention. So I'm wondering if anyone has any insight or advice on letting him explore playing with an instrument.

What might be a good first instrument for a young kid? Should I even try to give him his own thing to play with at this point or is 9 months old just too young? I just think it would be a lot of fun to play around and show him and then be able to let him have fun with it without worrying about breaking it.

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    My experience from my niece and nephew growing up is that it's very good to have a cheap and/or durable instrument and let them do whatever they want at that age. I would let them strum my guitar and make it make noise. At that age they just love the power to make noise. If I fretted chords they were even happier. That was on a pretty expensive guitar, actually, but to me it was worth the risk. They can't redo their childhood, but I can replace the guitar. – Todd Wilcox May 4 '18 at 15:25
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    Wouldn't a cheap keyboard be better? It doesn't require much technique, and you can play different notes with just one finger/hand. It's also always in tune. – The Chaz 2.0 May 4 '18 at 15:33

here are some things you can do with a child of any age that doesn't even require and instrument.

  • Sing to the child
  • make up call and response "songs" (for a slightly older child)
  • clap along to music (if the child is too young for this take their hands and clap them along to the beat)
  • dance
  • just listen to good music
  • go see live musicians play (expose them to different instruments than you have at home, and gets them to see how different instruments work together)

As the child gets older instruments can be introduced. durability of the instrument can go down as cost of the instrument and age of the child goes up

  • very young kid: shakers, pots and pans, other percussion instruments
  • slightly older: toy piano/keyboard, ukulele, recorder
  • older: piano/guitar, OR whatever they are interested in. I always thought that the instruments I wanted to play chose me....or I was born with it. Follow the kid's lead.
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  • A friend takes her very young, but walking, daughter to live gigs, but she always wears ear defenders. Good idea!! – Tim May 4 '18 at 16:37
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    @Tim great point about hearing protection. people of all ages: PROTECT YOUR EARS....i am screaming for those of us that have all that ringing and can't hear a damn thing! that being said there are lots of kids friendly live music that might not be so loud. i was thinking more like concerts in the park, or even coffee shop stuff, not radiohead at Madison Square Garden. – b3ko May 4 '18 at 17:09
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    Too true. I remember how quiet my cars were on the way back from gigs. Now, they're quiet all the time. No-one else thinks so. Wonder what happened... – Tim May 4 '18 at 17:16
  • The pots and pans were a great suggestion! – grinch May 7 '18 at 12:47
  • @grinch that's what you think now. let me know after your kid is banging on pots and pans all day. ;) – b3ko May 7 '18 at 13:03

As you'll be well aware, safety is the first consideration - e.g. a young child could easily pull a guitar string in the way that it would snap - you don't want early experiences of the instrument to include receiving some kind of facial laceration! Similar considerations with electric instruments. Of course with appropriate caution (for the sake of the instrument, as well as the child!) there is probably no harm in gently showing a young child what the instrument is about.

Beyond that, there are toy versions of most instruments available that will have been safety-tested to standards appropriate to different age ratings - keyboards, drums, shakers, xylophones, and various wind instruments will all be available (and even if age-rated slightly older, may be better than grown-up instruments for semi-supervised play - but careful of things like rubber buttons on keyboards that might get pulled off). There's probably no harm in slowly introducing some of each (unless the toy in question makes a noise that you find extremely irritating, of course!)

At 9 months, a child is still working out the basic physics of the world, and the way what they do with their body affects the objects around them (and vice versa) - so at that age it's probably best to just see any instruments as part of that general learning experience.

I fully agree with b3ko (whose list is good) that happy listening experiences are likely to be as important in very early years as direct exposure to instruments.

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  • I let ours play with my cheaper guitars from when they could first sit up or crawl. They kept doing that and now live playing guitar, as well as sax, piano, drums etc. – Doktor Mayhem May 4 '18 at 21:36

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