What's the best Christmas gift I could buy for my young nephew, who has shown an early interest in music?
November 27, 2007 11:37 AM   Subscribe

What's the best Christmas gift I could buy for my young nephew, who has shown an early interest in music?

My nephew is almost three, and although many kids have an interest in music at his age, he seems to really enjoy it. The only TV show he'll sit still for is "Little Einsteins" on the Disney Channel, which teaches musical concepts and includes some classical music. He enjoys making up his own little songs, and his favorite video is a Laurie Berkner Band DVD. Among his many toys, there's really no musical instrument-style toy -- aside from a xylophone, which is just an invitation for children to bang metal incessantly with a little mallet.

I'd like to get him some sort of educational toy for Christmas, one that teaches basic music knowledge but can also go beyond just what individual notes sound like. Any suggestions?
posted by mrkinla to Education (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Music Blocks, plus cartridges that have different instrumental sounds.
posted by matildaben at 11:49 AM on November 27, 2007

There are many, many keyboards available, including some that you can walk/dance on. My daughter loved that. She also loved having a small tape recorder - there as some fairly indestructible ones made for children. That would allow him to record his songs and explore sounds in general.
posted by clarkstonian at 11:49 AM on November 27, 2007

posted by blue_beetle at 11:57 AM on November 27, 2007

This previous thread should be helpful.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 12:05 PM on November 27, 2007

Boomwhackers are really fun and will probably stay interesting for him as he gets older. My ten year old cousin still loves his.
posted by yogurtisgenocide at 12:57 PM on November 27, 2007

Casio makes a learning keyboard that lights up red as you press the keys. If the child is interested in music, the keyboard has the greatest growth potential and is simple for the child to learn. They will feel accomplished by playing a real instrument, not a toy, and it amounts to only a single learning curve. Giving the child a musical toy is fine, but they have to learn how to use it, and invariably they are limited, at which point the slightly older and slightly less adaptable child is forced to climb another learning curve on a real instrument.

For centuries people have been learning on pianos and violins, there's no reason to relegate the child to a toy. Give them a real instrument, and let them explore it.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:57 PM on November 27, 2007

I don't know if this is the best toy, but there is a list of top toys for 2007 here: http://www.busy-moms-online.com/688/hot-christmas-toys-of-2007 and if you scroll down the page you'll see a toy called "Little Einstein Pat Pat Rocket".
posted by adriana at 1:04 PM on November 27, 2007

If he likes Berkner, check Amazon for the "Jack's Big Music Show". It was on PBS Sprout for a while and I think it got canceled. A similar show with very similar puppets and music-theme showed up on Disney as Bunnytown.
posted by bkdelong at 1:13 PM on November 27, 2007

Not a toy per se, but stuff to do with kids: I very fondly remember LPs used by my music teacher in elementary school that demonstrated all the instruments in an orchestra and what they do. Okay, that was the late seventies/early eighties, but they probably have something like that on CD, right?

Along the same lines, a children's edition of Peter and the Wolf would be great. (Do they still do Story Reader-type editions with a book?)
posted by desuetude at 1:13 PM on November 27, 2007

you'll see a toy called "Little Einstein Pat Pat Rocket".

Great find. I was looking at that just this weekend. That looks like a cool toy but it's a bit pricey for what it is IMO.
posted by bkdelong at 1:18 PM on November 27, 2007

I got my son the music blocks, and he never really got in to them, but he loved it when we got him a 3 octave baby grand piano. (For the record, I loved the music blocks. I played with them constantly. ) :)

My husband plays the trumpet, and Boy has loved picking that up and trying to play it. He says he's going to be Miles Davis when he grows up.

My point is this: there are real instruments that are designed for a very young target. Check your local music store and ask them for recommendations rather than buying plastic imitation instruments that don't actually have any tone or pitch.

We had great luck with a lap harp, with the piano, and of course, drums. What kid doesn't love a drum kit? The parents, on the other hand, may have you assassinated.
posted by dejah420 at 2:01 PM on November 27, 2007

Response by poster: These are all excellent suggestions, thanks. And the previous thread is right on target as well, so I have a lot of stuff to look over. From a familiarity point-of-view, I think the "Little Einstein" toy might be just the ticket, provided I can find it cheaper than Amazon's $80 price. An Amazon review mentions finding it at Target for less than half that. Bless indignant reviewers.

I also like the lighted keyboard proposition. Lots to work with here, so again, thanks to everyone for helping make this a musical holiday for the little tyke.
posted by mrkinla at 5:06 PM on November 27, 2007

if you decide to get him an instrument, i highly recommend that whatever repertoire he plays be available to him & played often on CD- the way the suzuki method works. think of music as a language.

the basic idea is that when a child acquires language, he hears his parents speak & repeat words many times before attempting to speak them himself. when he speaks his first words, he is imitating what he's heard. only much later does he learn to spell & write & read. so in the suzuki method, the kid hears a song a bunch of times (on CD), then has the technique (fingerings, etc) demonstrated byt the teacher, and learns to play by sound & imitation. this is unlike traditional music lessons that are based around peering at a book & learning to read music. you wouldn't teach a kid to read before he could speak, right?

suzuki method is pretty awesome (i was a suzuki kid). each book comes with a CD that the kid listens to passively every day (it can be played in the car, or during dinner or homework). the idea is that the kid becomes familiar with the songs in the repertoire, which means they play with more musicality, and makes them excited to play because they already know & like the songs.

in private lessons, the teacher teaches by demonstration. the parent can get involved by learning the same instrument at the same time (or not), and by playing the CD every day. periodically, the kid also attends group lessons and awesome big group recitals, where all the kids play the same repertoire. the little kids will of course only know the easiest songs, and watch in wonder as the older kids play the more complex songs, which is very motivating. and the big kids get to look cool for the little kids, which motivates them, too.

suzuki method instruments include violin, cello, piano, flute, harp, guitar, etc etc etc. here's a 9-minute youtube documentary about suzuki kids (BTW, when i took suzuki classes, my teachers didn't speak to me in the same tone as these teachers do- that's a personal style thing).

anyway, even if you choose a non-suzuki instrument/method, i think getting the kid a CD of the music they'll be playing is the best thing you can do. i started music in a non-suzuki context, playing classical repertoire, which i hated- i had no idea what it was supposed to sound like, so it wasn't rewarding when i got it right, because i couldn't really tell it was right. but then my mom, a genuis, noticed that i really liked andrew lloyd weber musicals, so she bought me the easy piano books of his full repertoire, which my awesome teacher was totally into teaching. when i was 8, i played "mister mistofelees" from CATS, in a recital where every other kid played classical/baroque repertoire. in later years i was playing john denver and beatles songs on a classical instrument, which i loved. i still play to this day.
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:18 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

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