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If there’s one thing that toddlers up to the age of 3 are drawn to like magnets, it’s music. Their young, curious minds seem predisposed to trying everything and find joy when their actions make sounds.
It can often be a little challenging for parents to figure out how best to facilitate their growing musical interests. The following toddler instruments blur the line between fun and education, ensuring that their time is well-spent.
VTech KidiBeats Drum Set – Best Overall
You don’t have to be very observant to know that toddlers love to bang on things. It’s almost as if children are born with the natural tendency to become drummers.
Because of their smaller stature (and because of price), a regular drum kit is practically out of the question. But, if your toddler loves to hit things, the VTech KidiBeats Drum Set is an affordable solution that can provide hours of fun.
This toy-sized drum set comes with a set of drumsticks so your toddler can hit its 3 drums and cymbal. Each of these is filled with lights and makes sounds when struck with the drumstick.
The KidiBeats Drum Set offers 4 different playing styles, including:
- Free play
- Alphabet training
- Number training
So, not only can they play as they please, but they can learn their numbers and letters, too! Plus, 9 kid-friendly melodies from different genres come preloaded so your toddler can be like a drummer in a band.
Melissa & Doug Learn-To-Play Piano – Best Premium
The piano is maybe the most fundamental instrument in all of music outside of the drum. Its visual layout makes things easy to see, which is especially helpful for inquisitive young minds.
If you have a bit extra to spend, the Melissa & Doug Learn-To-Play Piano is a fantastic option. This toy-sized piano will give you a few years beyond the toddler age range while introducing them to real-world piano mechanics at a young age.
The Learn-To-Play piano comes with 25 piano keys and covers 2 entire octaves. Plus, each note is labeled and color-coordinated so that your child is more apt to learn the note names.
This piano has become the industry standard in terms of a high-quality offering that can facilitate actual musical knowledge. It leans more on the “real instrument” side of things but is conveniently sized down for young children.
Tudor TD180 – Best Budget
Outside of the piano, the recorder is usually one of the first instruments children learn to play in music class at school. The reason for this is that they are inexpensive and don’t require a large amount of space like that of the piano.
If you want your toddler to get a head start, consider the Tudor Candy Apple TD180 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon). This is a 2-piece plastic recorder that is perfect for beginners, no matter what age they might be.
To be fair, those in the older range of the toddler spectrum will probably fare better here. But, because it’s an actual instrument, it would still be playable in a practical way 20 years from now.
Casio SA-51 Portable Keyboard
If you grew up during the 1980s and 1990s, you probably spent some time on a small Casiotone keyboard. The Casio SA-51 Portable Keyboard is essentially today’s modern version of those classic keyboards from decades past.
This keyboard features 32 keys and is filled to the brim with 100 different keyboard sounds. Your toddler can go from the piano to drums, to strings, woodwinds, and so much more.
The SA-51 also has 50 preloaded drum patterns, which will secretly train your toddler to play to a metronome. Plus, there are 10 songs included that your toddler can play along to.
What makes this great is that it can be powered by a power supply or with 6x AA batteries. It’s small enough to take anywhere, allowing your child to play wherever they see fit.
The SA-51 is fairly pricey compared to other keyboards, but this is maybe the only one with a true reputation. Casio is one of the most respected names in the industry, and this keyboard will be useful well into the toddler’s adulthood.
Don’t believe me? I played a 1980s version of this portable Casio keyboard in a progressive psychedelic band in 2009.
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Band Set
Is the toddler in your life a natural percussionist? The Melissa & Doug Deluxe Band Set has plenty of instruments to ensure they never get bored.
For a reasonable price, the Deluxe Band Set features 10 different instruments. What’s great is that the offerings provide a blend of rhythmic and melodic instruments, including:
- Pair of castanets
- Pair of jingle sticks
- Pair of slapsticks
- Pair of güiros
The Deluxe Band Set lets your toddler try a little bit of everything. Plus, it even comes with a storage crate so they can keep everything organized and in one place.
VTech Record & Learn KidiStudio
Does your toddler display signs of maybe someday being a studio producer? The VTech Record & Learn KidiStudio will plant the seeds and develop their creativity in this specific direction.
This offering from VTech is quite immersive, offering:
- 25-note keyboard
- Scratch pad
- Drum and cymbal
- Whammy bar
What’s truly mind-blowing is that your toddler will be able to record their own music with this instrument. Plus, with over 40 different tones and songs packed in, they will never run out of musical creativity.
The Record & Learn KidiStudio might look a little complicated but everything is perfectly laid out for a toddler. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they learn their way around this.
Plus, this can be quite fun for the entire family, as you’ll get to actually hear their musicality develop.
Kala Ukadelic Soprano
If your toddler is a bit older and shows an inclination toward stringed instruments, a ukulele is the most popular option. The Kala Ukadelic Soprano (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is perfect for young beginners, providing practicality at an affordable price.
Make no mistake about it, the Ukadelic Soprano is an actual instrument rather than a toy imitation. It features a Poplar body with a Pine neck and a Laurel fretboard with 12 frets and comes in 12 different color options.
Do keep in mind that, unless your toddler receives some instruction, a real ukulele could become boring because they aren’t able to make pleasing sounds right away.
Fortunately, the Ukadelic Soprano comes included with a gig bag so your toddler can keep it safe in travels to take their lessons.
Stoie’s International Wooden Music Set
Kids like to have a bit of variety when it comes to their toys. The Stoie’s International Wooden Music Set provides a massive variety of rhythmic instruments that are great for kids of all ages.
This bundle features 10 different instruments, all built from high-quality wood components that are sure to withstand even the most rigorous of play. In this set, your toddler will be able to play instruments such as:
- Wood sounder
- Chime bar
- Hand drum
A bundle like this can be great for those times when your toddler has their friends over. There’s something for everybody to play with here!
VTech Monkey Band Music Center
If your toddler is on the younger side of the spectrum, something like the VTech Monkey Band Music Center can be great for a first musical instrument. This offering from VTech features 9 piano keys, all of which light up for enhanced enjoyment.
The monkey on the Monkey Band Music Center is twistable and will play 10 different melodies and 2 songs to get them singing along. There’s even a small button underneath the bird that causes drum sounds to play when activated.
In the grand scheme of things, the Monkey Band Music Center is only really practical for the youngest toddlers. However, it can be a vital instrument in developing your child’s creativity at such an impressionable time in their life.
LeapFrog Learn & Groove Mixmaster Scout
With the rise and popularity of DJs in recent decades, it’s not uncommon for toddlers to be drawn to the craft themselves. The LeapFrog Learn & Groove Mixmaster Scout provides this experience in spades, ensuring they can live out their wildest fantasies as a DJ.
This offering from LeapFrog allows the toddler to remix grooves, make record scratch sounds, and learn their numbers, alphabet, and colors. Your toddler will also be able to utilize different tones as they see fit, with instrument sounds including:
The Learn & Groove Mixmaster Scout has spinning parts that allow your child to mimic what real DJs do professionally. It is sure to keep them stimulated and learning for hours on end.
VTech Bluey's Keytar
There’s no denying that the keytar has a certain hipness to the way it looks when a musician has one strapped up on the stage. The VTech Bluey’s Keytar allows your toddler to feel just as cool as the heroes they look up to.
Plus, it’s even an officially-licensed product of the popular cartoon, Bluey. So, if your child loves Bluey, they will be even more attracted to this toddler-sized instrument.
Bluey’s Keytar features a keyboard with 13 keys and comes with the sounds of 10 different instruments. 10 melodies as well as various voices from characters in the cartoon are also included to help keep things fun.
With just 2x AA batteries, your toddler can strap on Bluey's Keytar and play wherever they wish. If they start playing Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein, you know you have a young genius virtuoso on your hands.
Melissa & Doug Band-In-A-Box
If you’re looking for a little variety to give to your toddler at an affordable price, consider the Melissa & Doug Band-In-A-Box. This bundle provides a few different instruments without being excessive in its number of offerings.
In the Band-In-A-Box bundle, your toddler will have access to instruments like:
- Tone block
With a few exceptions, the majority of the instruments featured in this bundle are made of high-quality wood. They are sure to withstand years of play and can be great for times when friends are visiting.
The Band-In-A-Box also comes with a wooden crate for easy storage. This offering from Melissa & Doug is essentially a slimmed-down version of its Deluxe Band Set mentioned above but at nearly half the price.
VTech Strum & Jam KidiBand
Does your child show an inclination to the electric guitar? The VTech Strum & Jam KidiBand provides an affordable opportunity to let them live out their rockstar fantasies.
As its name implies, the Strum & Jam KidiBand has a series of short strings designed to emulate the mechanics of a real guitar. Except, with this, your toddler will begin making pleasing sounds right away, with no prerequisite knowledge required.
This VTech offering provides more function than this, however. There are buttons on the neck that play sounds, as well as a 13-key piano scroll, which also plays sounds.
Plus, the neck can fold up to emulate a mini drum set, ensuring that all of their musical interests can be explored.
Melissa & Doug Caterpillar Xylophone
Every toddler needs a xylophone in their life, and the Melissa & Doug Caterpillar Xylophone is a fantastic option. This xylophone keeps things fun by featuring rainbow-colored keys, not to mention that it is designed to look like a cartoonish caterpillar.
Xylophones are great because it allows the toddler to use mallets to hit the keys, which results in a note being played. Plus, as they get older, the provided sheet music can help your child learn their first melody and teach them how to read music.
A pair of mallets are included with the Caterpillar Xylophone. No batteries are needed for this classic toddler instrument.
VTech Zoo Jamz Guitar
All guitar-related instruments for toddlers are not created equally. If you want something that is dedicated specifically toward emulating the guitar, the VTech Zoo Jamz Guitar is worth looking at.
The Zoo Jamz Guitar features an iconic guitar shape with a fun giraffe neck to keep things fun. Your toddler will love the fact that it has so many buttons along its neck and that it has strings that can be strummed.
There are also a couple of knobs, along with a whammy bar, ensuring that they can truly tap into the experience of playing the guitar at a young age. Something like this is sure to keep their interest in the guitar alive as they get older.
Boley Electronic Toy Keyboard
Want to pick up a practical keyboard for your toddler without breaking the bank? The Boley Electronic Toy Keyboard is a 32-key fully-playable digital piano that is suitable for children of all ages.
This keyboard is fairly small, and with its 2 internal speakers and battery power, is extremely portable. Not to mention, it’s also stocked with 22 demo songs and a fantastic range of usable tones to keep your toddler occupied.
Purchasing this for your toddler ensures that they are spending their time on something with real-world mechanics rather than imitative emulation.
VTech Zoo Jamz
Do you like the idea of a xylophone but aren’t a fan of how loud some of them can be? The VTech Zoo Jamz provides one of the best solutions for this and adds a few enhancements that can make the experience even more enjoyable for toddlers.
This is essentially a digital xylophone that works by tapping its keys with its included mallet. Your toddler will never lose the mallet as it comes attached to the xylophone itself, which is designed to look like the cutest caterpillar you’ve ever seen.
All of the xylophone keys are colored in the various shades of the rainbow, and feature attractive lights that will keep your toddler engaged. Zoo Jamz will even teach your toddler how to play songs by means of following along with its lights!
Melissa & Doug Let’s Explore Camp Music Set
Sometimes, it’s nice to have a range of different instruments that can be easily stowed away for transportation. That’s precisely what’s in store with the Melissa & Doug Let’s Explore Camp Music Set.
This bundle has a number of instruments that your family will love to play with on your next camping trip. All of the following items can be found in this bundle:
- Pair of castanets
A tote bag is even thrown into the bundle so that you can always keep the instruments together in one place. If you like the aforementioned Melissa & Doug bundles, this is quite a bit more affordable while still offering the essence of its higher-priced bundles.
LeapFrog Learn & Groove Shakin' Colors Maracas
Standard maracas can be perfect for a toddler, but the LeapFrog Learn & Groove Shakin' Colors Maracas kicks it up a notch. In addition to providing that distinct rattle sound, these light up in different colors, and with plenty of buttons to press, too.
These maracas will teach your toddler the names of different instruments as well as numbers and colors. Plus, LeapFrog has gone the extra mile to ensure that the voices are spoken in both English and Spanish.
Something like this will give your toddler a head start, especially if they live in a bilingual house or community. This will be their favorite thing to shake in the early years of toddlerhood.
LeapFrog Learn & Groove Rainbow Lights Piano
Looking for a well-designed piano that can also teach colors and numbers? The LeapFrog Learn & Groove Rainbow Lights Piano will have your toddler learning in a fun way that can keep them engaged for hours at a time.
Its piano scroll features a full octave of different keys, all of which are colored in the shades of the rainbow. These are also conveniently numbered, and when each key is pressed, its corresponding color is lit up in the instrument’s decorative rainbow light.
The Learn & Groove Rainbow Lights Piano is stocked with 17 different songs and features some music theory basics to help them learn how to read music. It’s also filled with quite a few different tones to ensure they never get bored.
If you’re considering getting a recorder for your toddler, the Yamaha YRS-24BY (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is one of the best available for beginners. Considering its price, this recorder offers a very low barrier of entry to being able to play music.
The YRS-24BY is made of ABS resin and is comprised of 3 different pieces that come together to form the whole. Plus, it even comes with its own carrying bag, providing a massive degree of portability.
There’s a good chance that your toddler will grow up to play this very same recorder in the classroom. Getting them started early can give them a serious advantage, especially if you foster their knowledge with lessons.
Plus, considering that Yamaha is one of the most respected brands in the music industry, you know that you’re getting nothing but quality.
What To Look For When Buying Musical Instruments For Toddlers
The thought of buying a musical instrument for your toddler can be intimidating at first. But, as long as you are observant of your toddler’s natural inclinations, you really can’t make a wrong choice.
However, if you need a little bit of assistance, the following points should help to clear things up for you. Remember, at this age, it’s all about fostering your child’s creativity rather than expecting them to become a great musician.
What Musical Instrument Should I Buy For My Toddler?
Because there are so many different instruments, it can be hard to guess what might trip your child’s fancy. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true instruments that all children seem to enjoy at a young age.
Most toddlers will absolutely love playing drums and other rhythmic instruments such as:
You’ll know if percussion instruments are the right choice if they have a fascination with hitting things like a drummer would. Giving them these types of instruments will help them develop their sense of natural timing.
Piano keyboards and guitars are also extremely popular due to the fact that so many iconic musicians can be seen with them on the stage. If your child has ever watched a concert (even televised), there’s a chance that they will be inspired to want to play the same instruments.
Bundles can be a great option if you want to get multiple instruments for one price. This allows them to learn the different sounds each instrument makes and figure out what they like the best.
Buy Appropriately For Their Age
The first thing you will want to keep in mind is that not all instruments are appropriate for all ages. What might be suitable for a 1-year-old may be near obsolete for a child who is nearing the age of 4.
If you’re shopping for the younger side of the spectrum, something that is more of a toy is the most appropriate. Likewise, as they get older, an offering that is more akin to an actual instrument should be sought.
Those designed for younger toddlers will have plenty of interactive features to keep them entertained and occupied. Instruments for older toddlers can still have that interactivity but feature more real-world practicality in terms of their mechanics.
How To Know The Difference Between A Toy And A Real Instrument
When you do a search for instruments for toddlers, the majority of your results will turn up toys rather than actual instruments. This isn’t a problem unless you’re looking for an actual instrument for your child.
A good indicator as to whether or not something is a toy is whether it is being offered for sale at a legitimate music store. Typically, there won’t be things like lights and animal characters to be found on a real instrument.
Know When It Is Time To Upgrade
Keep in mind, it’s perfectly okay (and encouraged) to buy your toddler(s) musical toys that emulate real musical instruments. However, you do need to keep in mind that, depending on their interests and desires, imitation might not be enough.
You can use these musical toys to gauge whether or not music keeps their interest as they get older. If so, you will want to stay ahead of the curve and upgrade before they do lose their interest.
Think about it, if you wanted to play the guitar, but your parents only gave you a toy, would you be satisfied? Chances are, at first, you would be, but as you get older, the desire to play with a mere toy becomes lessened.
Treat this natural graduation as a sort of celebratory milestone and get them something that can allow them to expand on their interests and any knowledge that may have accumulated along the way.
How Much Money Should I Spend When Buying A Musical Instrument For A Toddler?
Let’s face it, we all love to spoil kids. It’s hard not to justify spending an exorbitant amount of money when you know that it has the potential to greatly enrich a child’s life.
However, when it comes to toddlers, there isn’t an overt need to spend a ton of money. The reason for this is that your toddler will eventually grow out of whatever you choose to buy for them.
This is very similar to clothes and shoes, which only seem to fit for a short period of time before needing something bigger. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend a decent wad of cash, it just means that you need to make sure that the larger purchases have an inherent longevity of relevance.
In general, it’s probably best not to spend more than $100 on one single musical instrument for your toddler. Most of the offerings mentioned in this guide are well below that mark.
The more-expensive offerings generally tend to be items that a toddler can find use for well into the later years of adolescence. Things like digital piano keyboards and recorder flutes are just 2 examples of things that can fall under this category.
Best Brands For Musical Instruments For Toddlers
Thanks to the advent of Internet shopping, the market has become flooded with both high-quality offerings and cheap imitation knock-offs. To ensure that your money is being well-spent, it’s best to be familiar with the different brands found in stores.
The following companies are some of the most recognizable brands in the industry, each with a stellar reputation built over multiple decades. Look for these brands the next time you’re shopping for a musical instrument for a toddler.
LeapFrog is a very reputable brand that has been specializing in interactive children's toys since 1995. The company became extremely popular in the early 2000s as it was proven that many of its products help young children solidify their learning of vital information.
VTech is a name that any child of the 1990s will recognize. The electronics company gained a fantastic reputation for its interactive computer-based toys that assist children with learning.
Melissa & Doug
Melissa & Doug is one of the most popular children-oriented brands on the market. The company made its humble start in a garage in 1988 and has since revolutionized the industry with its high-quality offerings.
Top Musical Instruments For Toddlers, Final Thoughts
The fact that so many toddlers are drawn to music shows that music is something that all humans can enjoy and participate in. Surrounding them with the right tools can help to ensure that they can create without limit and helps in the process of developing their brain.
Many musical instruments for toddlers even teach basics such as numbers and the alphabet. Fortunately, it doesn’t cost a whole lot of money to give your toddler access to these kinds of important experiences.