If you’re looking for a good beginner’s guitar to put under the Christmas tree this year, or perhaps for a birthday present, my first recommendation is to take a long look at Fender’s Squier SE Special Strat Pack.
For the price ($199.79 at time of writing) you can’t really beat this package – it includes Fender’s Squier SE Special Strat, Squier SP-10 amplifier (with built-in switchable distortion,) an electronic tuner, guitar strap, cable, guitar picks, a beginner’s guitar instruction book from Fender, and a gig bag. honestly, you pretty much get everything you need in the package to start playing right out of the box.
While far from a professional-level instrument, Fender’s Squier-brand of electric guitars are very well made for this kind of pricing, and they sound quite nice for the true beginner.
I don’t personally suggest buying anything cheaper for a budding guitarist, because I can tell you from personal experience that it is very difficult to stay motivated while learning a new instrument if the quality is so low that the guitar won’t stay in tune, and the action is so high that it’s difficult to play.
That said, if you’re pretty sure you’re little guitarist is going to keep at it, or if you want to purchase a guitar for someone who has already been playing for a few years, you might take a look at something a little more expensive. In that case I’d suggest the Fender Standard Stratocaster; it’s a jump up in price (just under $450 for the guitar,) and it doesn’t come with an amplifier, but you’ll get an instrument that won’t be grown out of in a few years.
Either way you go on this you’re going to get very good quality for what you’re spending…Fender dominates the guitar market for a reason –– they just make really great instruments –– and their Squire brand of guitars brings excellent production quality to the low-cost market. Check one out. I think you’ll be impressed.