The 14 Best Musical Instruments for Toddlers

For Fun and Creativity

Welcome to my guide to choosing the best musical instruments for toddlers.

As parents, we want to provide our little ones with the best start in life, fostering their development in every way possible.

best musical instruments for toddlersMusical instruments offer a whole world of fun and creativity

Music has a hugely important role to play in early childhood development, offering a fun and engaging way for toddlers to learn and grow through both listening to music and creating music of their own.

In this article, we'll explore specific benefits of musical instruments and identify the best types of instruments for young musicians, before I reveal my selection of the 14 best musical instruments for toddlers. You’ll then be all set to pick the ones you feel are perfect for your little one.

Benefits of Musical Instruments for Toddlers

1. Cognitive Development

Toddlers' growing minds are like sponges, ready to absorb new information. Musical instruments can stimulate cognitive skills, such as memory and pattern recognition. As toddlers explore different rhythms and melodies, they enhance their spatial-temporal skills (the ability to interpret information gained visually), critical for problem-solving later in life. Music also fosters creativity and imagination, allowing toddlers to express themselves freely.

2. Motor Skills Development

Fine motor skills are crucial for toddlers' physical and cognitive development. Playing musical instruments, like xylophones and keyboards, helps improve finger dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Additionally, instruments such as drums develop gross motor skills through whole-body movements, which are essential for balance and coordination.

3. Emotional and Social Development

Music is a powerful tool for emotional expression, and especially helpful for toddlers who struggle with verbal communication. Through playing instruments, toddlers can convey their emotions, whether it's joy, excitement, or even frustration. Furthermore, musical activities promote social interaction and teamwork, as toddlers participate in group performances or join in musical playtimes with friends and family. These experiences boost their confidence, self-expression, and ability to work collaboratively.

toddlers playing with musical instrumentsShared music sessions are great for creativity and learning

Best Types of Musical Instruments for Toddlers

A. Xylophone

The xylophone is a classic instrument that really appeals to toddlers with its colorful keys and ringing sound. Its simplicity makes it easy to play and introduces toddlers to basic melodies. Look for xylophones made from child-safe materials, with sturdy construction and vibrant colors. A xylophone can keep a toddler entertained for hours.

B. Mini Keyboard/Piano

Mini keyboards or pianos are perfect for aspiring little maestros. These instruments provide a great introduction to the world of music and allow toddlers to experiment with different notes and combine notes to create tunes. Choose keyboards with a range of sounds and interactive features, such as pre-recorded tunes or animal sounds.

C. Drum Set

For toddlers who love rhythm and movement, a drum set is an excellent choice. Drumming helps develop their gross motor skills as they engage their whole body to create a beat. There are both table-top types and conventional mini drum set styles available.

D. Shakers and Maracas

Shakers and maracas are fantastic instruments for introducing toddlers to percussion. These handheld instruments provide sensory stimulation through their sound and tactile feedback. Opt for shakers and maracas with easy-to-grip handles and exciting colors. They are ideal for encouraging toddlers to explore rhythm whilst developing their fine motor skills.

E. Guitar

Toddlers love to strum along to their favorite songs and a toy guitar is often the musical instrument that ignites their love for music. A guitar will help to develop your toddler’s fine motor skills and coordination regardless of whether you choose one with strings or a toy that plays button-operated tunes and sound effects. Both offer an exciting way to explore sound creation.

The 14 Best Musical Instruments For Toddlers

With so many different options available, it can be a challenge to identify the very best musical instruments for toddlers. Here’s a list of the top fourteen I recommend based on their features, durability, and how much my toddler team loved playing with them.

1. Xylophone

This 8-note xylophone is of quality materials and construction and gives a good sound. My little testers love the bear-shaped beaters which were easy for small hands to grasp. The two song cards are easy for even quite young toddlers to follow. Also included is a harmonium for more musical fun as they learn to make music by blowing.

2. Xylophone Bench

For toddlers who love to give things a good whack, this multifunctional xylophone is a great option. They can pound the colored balls to send them tinkling down the xylophone keys or pull out the xylophone to play on its own, using the bench as a separate toy. A clever combination.

3. Electronic Piano Keyboard

The multiple features on this exciting instrument include 8 different instrument sounds such as piano and violin, 8 rhythms including rock, disco, blues, and samba, 5 different drum sounds, 4 animal sound buttons (cat, dog, frog, bird), and a working microphone. Your toddler can even record and play back their musical masterpieces. Brilliant.

4. 3-in-1 Keyboard, Xylophone and Drum Set 

There are hours of musical fun stored in this 3-in-1 musical instrument. There are 5 different tones to the piano including guitar and trumpet, 9 drum songs with 3 different beats, and the xylophone can be played conventionally or be set to play animal sounds or pronounce numbers 1-8. It even includes a fun whack-a-mole game.

5. Musical Mat

An alternative keyboard option is a musical mat, an excellent choice for when your toddler is full of energy. They simply dance up and down the mat to create music. This mat plays 9 melodies and 7 animal sounds, or your toddler can create their own tunes by stepping or pushing on the keys.

6. Piano Mat

What I particularly like about this musical mat is that it plays 8 musical instrument sounds – piano, accordion, trumpet, violin, guitar, oboe, flute, and vibraphone. There are 10 demos melodies to play and a record & playback function. It promises lots of creative fun.

7. Beat Set

Most toddlers respond to rhythm and here’s their chance to create rhythms of their own. They can pound away to their heart’s content on the three drum pads and cymbal, each with its own unique sound. Your toddler will especially enjoy playing along to the 9 melodies. There are also modes that teach letters and numbers.

8. Drum Set

For a more grown-up-looking drum set, this is a great choice. It comprises 3 drum pads, drum sticks, a pedal for the bass drum, a little stool for your toddler to sit comfortably as they play, and a microphone. As well as free play, they can have extra fun playing along to the with 10 songs using 5 music modes with flickering lights, 4 funny sound effects, and 3 rhythms. You’ll be delighted to hear that this set has a volume control to keep the sound down when your toddler is playing.

9. Percussion Egg Shakers

At 2” tall x 1.5” wide, these 4 brightly colored shakers are just right for little hands. Your toddler will enjoy experimenting with them to create sounds and rhythms in a variety of ways by shaking, rolling, and dropping them. They can play along to music or join in with other family members or friends for group music sessions.

10. Maracas

The soft rattle of these red, blue, and yellow maracas makes them gentle on the ear. With textured handles, they are easy for a toddler to hold on to and shake. The perfect size for little ones, they are small enough for even a baby to grasp. A very nice first percussion instrument.

11. Mixed Musical Instrument Set

If you’re keen to give your toddler as wide a musical experience as possible or just want to offer them a varied choice of instruments, opt for a mixed musical instrument set. I particularly like this one for the range of instruments it includes and the fact that most are made of wood. It comprises a xylophone, a harmonica, a triangle, maracas, egg shakers, castanets, a tambourine, sleigh bells, a rainbow bell stick, a bird whistle, and a few other fun instruments. A really great set.

12. Zoo Jamz Guitar

A wonderfully fun guitar for your toddler to rock the day away. The eight light-up buttons and four strings allow your little musician to create many different sounds as they play along to the included tunes or make their own music. They can choose between acoustic, electric, or distortion guitar modes by turning the dial, and create even more cool guitar effects by moving the giraffe’s tail. A lovely first guitar. A toy guitar is one of the best musical instruments for toddlers to feel like a real musician.

13. Flower Power Stringed Guitar

For older toddlers, or those who are desperate for a guitar that looks like mom or dad’s, this colorful wooden acoustic guitar is just perfect. At 26” in length, it’s small enough for a toddler to manage and can be played just like an adult acoustic guitar. Your toddler will love strumming away to their favorite songs and be thrilled to begin learning a few simple chords.

14. Multi-Instrument Musical Toy

There’s a huge range of integrated musical instrument toys available but this one was chosen as the favorite by my mom and toddler testers. It’s wooden, well made, and offers five different ways for your little one to make music – with an 8-key xylophone, a drum, a cymbal, a guiro, and 3 gears. That all adds up to hours of creative musical fun.

Tips For Parents

Nurturing Your Toddler's Musical Journey

1. Create a Musical Environment

Set up a dedicated music corner or play area where your toddler can freely explore and interact with instruments. Display various instruments, play different genres of music, and encourage active listening. Sing and dance together, providing a rich musical environment that promotes a love for music.

2. Engage in Musical Playtime

Join your toddler in musical playtime. Show them how to play different instruments and encourage them to experiment with sounds. Model simple rhythms and see if they can copy them. Consider taking your toddler to music classes or groups specifically designed for toddlers, where they can interact with peers and learn from trained instructors.

3. Encourage Toddler-Led Exploration

Allow your toddler the freedom to express themselves and explore their musical preferences. Support their interests by providing instruments that match their favorite sounds or styles. Celebrate their milestones and progress, whether it's learning a new melody or mastering a rhythm. This will really help to develop their self-confidence.

Final Words

I hope my list of the 14 best musical instruments for toddlers has ignited your enthusiasm for the fun your little one is going to have exploring the exciting world of music and all they are going to learn. Yes, it’s going to get noisy at times but the rewards will be worth it.

Just yesterday, a friend was showing me video clips of her granddaughter’s recent visit. She had many videos but the one she most wanted to share was of her granddaughter playing her keyboard and singing along to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. A priceless moment captured forever.

I hope you create equally special musical memories with your toddler.

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About Jacky Spear

Jacky Spear passionately promotes learning toys for child development. With 30+ years of teaching experience, she understands the power of play in engaging and nurturing children, including those with special needs. Drawing from personal experience in both the school and home environment, Jacky helps parents to select the best learning toys to unlock their children's potential and create a lifelong love for learning. Learn more about Jacky >>

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