What are your concerns with letting children have a player? That they would break it? I can't immediately think of a reason why it would be a bad idea.
As long as you can limit the volume so it is not harmful I guess it's okay.
It always depends on how responsible this child is with personal belongings. If you feel they are responsible enough to have an item worth a good amount of money than go for it. If you feel they may break it or loose it than why not make them a CD with their favorite music on it. I know it is not as exciting as an MP4 player, but at least if it gets broken you only loose a few cents and not hundreds of dollars.
I can't see why a five year old would need one, to be honest. I'll get my son a radio at that age, perhaps, because that's what I had, but why buy an expensive piece of equipment that he could break at age five? It just doesn't make sense to me. I think that's too young.
I absolutely refuse to get my son any big electronic devices (computers, cell phone, etc.) until he's at least ten, probably not until he enters junior high. It just screams "spoiling" to me.
My sister bought my son an inexpensive MP3 player when he was six. She got it for Christmas and loaded it up with all his favorite songs and a few that she thought he might like. Since it wasn't that expensive, it wouldn't have been a huge deal if it broke. But the rule was he could have it around the house or in the car, but couldn't take it with him to friend's houses or, obviously, school.
It was a great way to introduce him to music. My husband would change out some of the songs or load new music once a week or so. My son could pick out new music for purchase as a reward for things.
I think the appropriateness of the age has everything to do with how involved adults would like to be.
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