Teaching a Child to Play the Ukulele: Everything You Should Know

If a child is displaying curiosity in any instrument, that’s a sign that they are ready to learn it. Professionals say that a four or five-year old should be ready to learn how to play a ukulele.

So, how exactly do you teach a child to play the uke? The most essential aspect with getting any child to do anything is to get them interested in it. Once the child is actually interested in playing the ukulele, it’s time to get an instrument suitable for them. After that, you go ahead with teaching basic chords, some songs to play, strumming patterns, and all the other nitty gritty details.

1. Get the child a ukulele

The first thing is, surprise, surprise – getting the child their own ukulele. Bring them to any music store and let them have a look around, see if there’s anything that sparks their interest. There is a possibility that he or she might up a completely different instrument, but then you need to know that a new instrument has to be taught now.

A smart way to pique the child’s interest in anything musical is to let them watch a few videos on YouTube of any young ukulelist. Ask the child if there’s a color or design that they fancy the most.

Don’t go out of your way to buy an overly expensive model for the beginner child, but don’t pick up something from the toy store either. Remember to clarify to the child that their instrument isn’t a toy.

A lot of great beginner level ukes are available within the price range of $25 to $50.

2. Have fun!

Hand the ukulele to the youngster and let them do whatever they want to with it (without breaking it, of course). If the child is touching, plucking, tapping, or doing anything with the ukulele, he or she is prepared to learn.

As long as they don’t treat the instrument like a bouncing ball, let them enjoy the quirks of the instrument. Allow them to keep exploring the uke. Never forget to remind them that the ukulele is a fun instrument to play which creates bright, unique sounds.

When a curious child strums or plucks the strings, you can explain the parts and functions of the instrument to them. Maybe show him or her how to hold the uke properly. Keep a close eye on them so you can remind them about the necessity of correctly holding the instrument. Slowly introduce them to each string by pointing out the names. Pluck each one so they can register the notes.

3. Teaching the first chord: C Major

Allow the child to gently strum the ukulele before teaching them any chord, because the open strings can be considered a chord itself, an Am, or C6. Let him or her enjoy the entire process of learning a new instrument. After a few rounds of strumming the open strings, the child should be ready to learn his or her first chord – C Major, easy to play and simple.

To play this note, have the child position the ring or middle finger on the third fret of string one. Only use down-stroke strumming. In the midst if the child discovers upstroke strumming, let them continue. Don’t fret if the child doesn’t repeat a strumming pattern.

Why not teach the child his or her first song, or a nursery rhyme?

4. Their first song

Teaching a child their favorite nursery rhyme or favorite song will motivate them to keep going. Plus, it’s incredibly fun. There are literally hundreds of songs r melodies to choose from, and your child will most likely be familiar with a fair share of them.

Most of these nursery rhymes take either two or three chords to be played. However, Frere Jacques’ “Are You Sleeping” can be played with just a C Major. You can introduce the next chord later which the child can add to other songs.

5. Learning the second chord: G Major

G Major is a chord included in most common sons of almost any genre. Thus, this chord takes second place in the popularity list after C major.

To play this one, have the child:

  1. Place their middle finger on the first string, second fret.
  2. Place their index finger on the third string, second fret.
  3. Place the ring finger on the second string, third fret.

Many nursery songs include this chord in them. Your child must definitely learn C Major and G Major.

6. Their third chord: F Major

The vast majority of nursery rhymes and children songs use these three chords – C major, G major, and F major.

After learning these three well and getting comfortable playing and changing between them, picking up a new song should be smooth sailing.

To play F major, the child should:

  • Place their index finger on the second string, first fret.
  • Place the middle finger on the fourth string, fourth fret.

What Now?

Take this opportunity to teach them new songs. For a simple two chord song, try out “Row, row, row your boat,” while the viral, catchy hit “Baby shark” would be the ideal choice for a three chord song. Teach the child songs they enjoy. Mentally note the next 5 songs you plan on teaching them and ensure the three chords are in them. If not, no worries! Picking up new chords after this will be a brand new challenge that will develop your child’s musical inclination.

Bottom Line

Did you have enough patience to follow through these steps with your little bundle of joy? If yes, we want to congratulate you on a job well done! Keep things interesting by teaching them a few new chords, a few new songs, and perhaps even some different strumming patterns. Who knows, maybe the next American Idol is right in your home!

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