I don’t think anyone is ever too young to have a love of music instilled in them. My daughter wanted very much to play the alto sax when she was 8. (She’d been playing piano since age 5 or 6) We tried one, and she had excellent tone and rhythm, but she didn’t quite have enough arm strength to hold up the instrument for long periods of time. We switched her to the lighter clarinet for a few years, and now at 11, she is happily wailing on the sax. So, I think at 6, you’re not too young for making music. However, sometimes the kids are size wise a bit small for their instrument, as my daughter was. Time will cure that, but meanwhile keeping her interested is great! If she can strum some basic chords; wonderful! We also bought my daughter an acoustic DaisyRock Guitar for that reason. It’s about the size of a Baby Taylor and has a composite back (so we didn’t have to worry about any accidental breakage of a wood body) and sounds pretty good. If you are interested you can find more at www.daisyrock.com. They also make smaller sized electrics, which I find a bit easier to play.
Take it a little at a time, and let the student build up the calluses like the rest of us have! Even just strumming Em /A (the beginning of Somebody to Love, or Summertime) which may be easier to hold down may be ok. You can consider nylon strings for a year or two. They don’t sound as rich as the metal, but may be easier to hold down and strum. A luthier (if you know one, or if there is a good guitar store near you) may be able to lower the guitar’s action, making it easier as well.
Learning to read music is a good idea. Both of my kids learned to read music via the piano when they were 5 or 6, and I took lessons from that age as well. It’s a skill that will be useful for the rest of one’s life.
From the Editor: In addition to Laura’s comments, I’d also like to recommend a couple of things – first off, many teachers start off their younger students with partial chords, using just the first three or four strings. For instance, you can play a G like this: xx0003 and a C like this: xxx010. Another thing that one can do is to use an open tuning (usually G or D). This is especially good if the child it adept at strumming. You can show where to barre the frets (or even use a slide) for your typical three chord song and the two of you can have a blast.
For even more on teaching guitar to children check out Laura’s lesson How Young is too Young to Play. Laura’s latest article discusses children and musical instruments. How young can one start? What things should be taken into consideration? There’s some wonderful tips and advice here.