Just when you thought you’d done everything you possibly could to ensure your kid grows up a vinyl-obsessed audiophile with identical musical taste to yours and a wing reserved in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall Of Fame, it hits you: like all those hip musicians you can’t stand, your kid doesn’t play a damn instrument. And while all their STEM toys might very well prepare them to headline the 2036 Electric Daisy Carnival, no child of yours is going to be some knob-twisting, button-pushing iPad DJ. That’s not to completely ignore the future of music — several of these musical toys have major electronic components — but if things do shake out that way, at least you’ll truly be able to say you did everything you possibly could. Now go drop these under the tree like a fat beat.
Pocket PianoThis thing calls itself a piano, but it sure as hell doesn’t look like one from over here. It’s not a keyboard either, but more like a crazy 7-mode synthesizer that’ll turn your kid into a junior Giorgio Moroder, and it will make your kid will super proficient in an instrument you will never get your head around. Unless you’re the actual Giorgio Moroder.
Critter & Guitari Pocket Piano ($175)
LittleBits Synth KitKind of like the above, except your kid will actually build the weird instrument you have no idea how to work before learning to play the crap out of it. LittleBits, if you’re new here, are invention kits full of basic electronic components that teach your kid to build all the things. In this case, the kit was developed by synthesizer pioneers Korg, so it teaches your kid to build a music icon.
LittleBits + Korg Synth Kit ($159)
Loog GuitarLoog are 3-string beginner guitars that make playing music easy without dumbing down the sound. Every one includes a printed guide and link to the Loog Academy app for more lessons, and comes unassembled because damned if every toy isn’t a building toy. Truthfully, they do that to strengthen the bond between player and instrument, or the bond between father and child learning how it felt to assemble their IKEA bedroom set.
Electric Loog, Pink ($200)
Nabi Karaoke BoxSince kids are basically tiny drunk people, introduce them to the drunk national pastime of karaoke with this high-performance bluetooth speaker that’s totally not a toy. (Pay no attention to that Frozen-themed cover.) A studio-quality microphone connects to the speaker with a 13-foot cable, so kids can Mick Jagger chicken wing strut around the living room and rock ‘n roll all night long. Or at least until bedtime.
Nabi Karaoke Box Bundle, Disney Frozen ($150)
Mini AccordionGive your kid this all-natural, recycled rubber wood instrument and they could grow up to be America’s next great song parodist, play “That’s Amore” tableside while you chow down on fettuccine alfredo, or haughtily correct people at parties. “Actually, it’s called a concertina.” This is the perfect gift if you’re the kind of parent who looks at the marching band and think, “I don’t want my child hanging around those hoodlums.”
Mini Accordion ($32)
Beginner Drum SetOnce your kid reaches a certain age, every surface in your home becomes a drum. This includes, but is not limited to, high chair trays, coffee tables, windows, the cat, and if you’re very lucky, your face. This adorable beginner set at least offers the illusion of an appropriate space for drumming. With a little luck, they’ll be the next Ringo Starr. Don’t roll your eyes — he’s still a Beatle, damn it!
Green Tones Beginner Drum Set ($60)
OtotoThis little circuit board turns anything conductive into a keyboard using alligator clips, with 12 touch keys that produce different sounds when connected and touched. Fine, it’s a Makey Makey that only makes music, but that has its advantages. For example, while your kid is building a guitar, Makey Makey kid over there is smashing pies in dad’s face to trigger the camera for a family portrait. Which option is music to your ears?
Ototo Musical Invention Kit ($145)
Naef Rainbow Wooden Musical Toy & PuzzleSo you want to teach your kid to make music and stack stuff? Well, has Naef got the toy for you! The wooden arches are perfect for discovering different tones or building a rainbow in multiple configurations. Either way it looks gorgeous, unlike that little xylophone on wheels you used to tug around as a kid, which only came in one configuration: death trap at the top of the stairs.
Naef Rainbow Wooden Musical Toy & Puzzle
Giant Piano MatIt’s the giant piano from Big. You’re pretty much Tom Hanks from Big anyway. Your kid can be his little friend. Some things need an explanation and some things sell themselves. Now everyone together: “Shimmy shimmy coco puff…”
Giant Electronic Floor Mat Keyboard ($75)