Firstly, the classical guitar.
As a general rule of thumb, I would recommend starting children with a nylon-strung classical guitar rather than jumping straight into buying an electric guitar and amplifier. There are two main reasons for this: 1) they are light, small and the nylon material the strings are made out of make it significantly easier to press down on the frets for small fingers and 2) they are less of a financial commitment at first, and if the child shows genuine dedication and excitement about the guitar you could then look at an acoustic or electric guitar option.
Classical guitars comes in 3 different sizes: 1/2 size, 3/4 size and 4/4 or "full" size. I would recommend the 1/2 size for ages 7-9, 3/4 size for ages 9-11 and 4/4 size for 11 and above. These are still only guidelines - children vary in size and many prefer to continue using smaller guitars well into adulthood. For example, Ed Sheeran still uses exclusively 3/4 size guitars.
So you've decided upon the size of your first guitar and the next step is deciding on a budget and where to make your purchase. I wouldn't advise spending less than £40 or more than £100 on your first guitar purchase and quality budget manufacturers include Valencia, Redwood, Stagg, Jose Ferrer and Encore.
Although a traditional route for a child learning guitar on a classical would be to learn standard musical notation and play with thumb and fingers rather than plectrum, this is not the only way to proceed. For instance, if you or your child wished to go down a rock/pop route from Day 1, a classical guitar could still be used to learn riffs and strumming chords; skills that can later be transferred to an electric or acoustic guitar.
I like to provide a mix of traditional notation, TAB notation, chords, famous riffs and songs and music theory to ensure my students become well-developed and rounded musicians. For adults, I tend to use a series of handouts of my own written material.
Two excellent books on the market for young children are:
1) The Guitarists Way: Book 1 by Peter Nuttall and John Whitworth
2. Guitar Basics by John Longworth and Nick Walker
Once you have bought your guitar and books, you will need a number of accessories to make things easier. Firstly, a case or "gigbag" is an essential to protect your guitar from damage. This needn't break the bank and a good quality padded soft case will be sufficient. Your retailer might do you a deal on guitar and case together, but if not then one can be had for around the £10 mark from Amazon, eBay, Music Room etc. Make sure the case is padded as otherwise it won't provide enough protection when your guitar gets inevitably bashed as it is carried around from pillar to post.
The next essential is a tuner. Many people like the clip-on tuners which are attached to the headstock of the guitar; these start at around £5. If you have a tablet computer such as an iPad, there are many free apps that you can use to tune instruments using the in-built microphone. These work best in a quiet environment.
Other useful but not immediately essential items include plectrums for strumming, a strap so that the guitar can be held hands-free, spare strings and a footstool.
For many reasons, I wouldn't recommend a child begins guitar until the age of 7, but if they are eager to get going and are aged 5 and up, a ukulele is a great place to start. I will cover the hows and whys of the ukulele in a similar article very soon!
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