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If a child is raised in a wizard family, when can they first get a wand of their own?

If the child goes to Hogwarts to study when they are 11 years old, then surely they need a wand at that time the latest. But are there children who get a wand much earlier than that? If so, at what age?

Update: It seems that my question was a bit unclear. I'm asking about purchasing a wand with a parent's permission, and using it under a parent's supervision.

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Id say the same rules apply towards wizard children as muggle children, enforcement is another mater however – Himarm Jan 13 at 15:34
    
By "get a wand of their own" do you mean when can a child legally purchase a new wand? Or do you mean when may they possess a wand at all, such as passed down from family? – S. Fruggiero Jan 14 at 5:05
    
@SFruggiero: The question is, when can a parent give or purchase a wand for them, as long as they're using the wand with the supervision of a parent? – b_jonas Jan 14 at 9:04
up vote 42 down vote accepted

If anyone'd have gotten a wand early, it would surely have been Draco "The rules don't apply here" Malfoy.

Yet, he got his wand before going to Hogwarts, or at least that's what Philosopher's Stone implies:

"Hello," said the boy, "Hogwarts, too?"
"Yes," said Harry.
"My father's next door buying my books and mother's up the street looking at wands," said the boy. He had a bored, drawling voice. "Then I'm going to drag them off to took at racing brooms. I don't see why first years can't have their own. I think I'll bully father into getting me one and I'll smuggle it in somehow."
(HP:PS, Chapter 5, "Diagon Alley")

Admittedly, you can interpret the text other ways:

  • This doesn't prove that she was shopping for Draco's wand specifically. But that entire rant is about getting him things for Hogwarts so it fits.

  • This doesn't prove that he had no wand before that.

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I'd assume that Narcissa wouldn't be shopping for a wand for him without Draco present - the wand chooses the wizard, after all. – Doresoom Jan 13 at 16:43
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@Doresoom - "looking at". My guess is, she'd pick the "proper" ones and then have him try them on. – DVK-in-exile Jan 13 at 16:52
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@DVK good point. It wouldn't do for her special snowflake to end up having a wand only fit for a Weasley end up choosing him. – Doresoom Jan 13 at 16:54
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One would assume that an 'early wand', being against the rules, would be stolen from another wizard or bought on the black market, and not purchased from Olivanders - thus it wouldn't be the perfect wand for Draco, As such, they would still need to look at wands when Draco turned 11 even if he had been using a wand for years. – Scott Jan 13 at 20:47
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@b_jonas - broomsticks!=wands. You're not allowed broomsticks at Hogwarts for their internal reasons, NOT MoM reasons - we see in the books that harry rode a toy bromostick before he was 1 year old! – DVK-in-exile Jan 14 at 16:11

They're expected to get a wand only when they start at Hogwarts.

The Hogwarts acceptance letter that Harry received says:

Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

[...]

OTHER EQUIPMENT

1 wand
1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)
1 set glass or crystal phials
1 telescope
1 set brass scales

This letter was in the form that such letters are normally sent to children from wizarding families, while Muggle-born children instead receive a visit from a witch or wizard "skilled at liasing with Muggles". I don't think Rubeus blast down the door and turn Dudley into a pig Hagrid quite qualifies for this, so Hogwarts were treating Harry as a child from a wizarding family even though he'd been raised by Muggles almost all his life.

However, they can perform (uncontrolled) wand magic even before this.

From HP Lexicon:

Even small children can use wands to create magic, but it's uncontrolled.

Canon example: a small boy named Kevin at the Quidditch World Cup pinched his father's wand and used Engorgio to enlarge a slug, and got told off for it by his mother:

'How many times, Kevin? You don't – touch – Daddy's – wand – yeuch!' She had trodden on the giant slug, which burst. Her scolding carried after them on the still air, mingling with the little boy's yells – 'You bust slug! You bust slug!'

-- HP and the Goblet of Fire, chapter 7: Bagman and Crouch

Much like how some Muggle kids might try to drive a car and get into trouble for it, kids in wizarding families could easily take an adult's wand and try to perform magic. Assuming they're not a Squib, they might achieve at least some measure of success, but like any magic performed at that age, it would be unreliable and uncontrolled.

(There's a Quora discussion of the same issue here, but it doesn't reach a clear conclusion or offer much canonical evidence.)

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this is just a school supply list needed in school, they arnt saying you must buy these things, simply that, you must bring these things. as we see ron isnt buying anything year 1 hes has hand me downs of everything, wand included, which he could have had for years – Himarm Jan 13 at 15:53
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While I agree with Himarm's comment, it deserves +1 just for "Rubeus blast down the door and turn Dudley into a pig Hagrid" – BMWurm Jan 13 at 15:55
    
dont forgot that boy gets yelled at, as do fred and george when they steal their fathers wand – Himarm Jan 13 at 16:04
    
moar quotes go! – Himarm Jan 13 at 16:08
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My kindergartner's school list has crayons on it, does that mean she wasn't allowed to have crayons before then? Of course not. It being on the school list suggests a maximum age for getting your first wand not a minimum age for a wand. The only thing that suggests the typical age of getting your first wand is just before school is the trace, but that is a rather inconsistently applied plot device. – stonemetal Jan 13 at 17:17

It's pretty clear that a child gets their wand at eleven, that's when they are allowed to use one and that's when they get to be responsible for it. The Hogwarts letter assumes it [1 wand, not your wand, implies to me that they are not assuming a child already has one]; the decree of the reasonable restriction of underage sorcery demands it; and the wand maker guarantees it. Ollivander is portrayed as very skilled at wandmaking - but we don't see any indication that he would allow an underage purchase, or not report it... and avoiding him might leave their child with a wand poorly made or matched (If, of course, those families did such things, I would assume they left no proof behind).

Some kids might have used wands beforehand, possibly by grabbing a parent's or sibling's - like Kevin, the kid who was growing the slug at the world cup, or very likely the Weasleys (I'm imagining the twins, alright). Perhaps others, like Malfoy, might have been allowed access to a family wand so they could study ahead, do well for their name. In those cases, I would expect they would not try with very young children - Kevin manages to affect the slug but he also has a tantrum, so not younger than that.

Probably parents, at least magical ones, were responsible for making sure their kids didn't borrow wands or break the laws for underage magic, which might have been more or less successful, depending on the parents. I think Ollivander's control over the unmatched wands would work to keep them from getting their own, and might limit the mayhem (with poorly matched wands). And if any get private, unauthorized instruction before Hogwarts, it started probably around five or six for the same reason schooling starts around that age - younger kids don't understand or focus well.

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I know that parents are responsible for supervising their underage children so that they don't break wizarding laws, eg. so they don't reveal the Wizarding world to Muggles. Do you have a canon source stating that young children aren't allowed to do magic with a wand even with their parent's supervision though, or that any instruction before Hogwarts would be illegal? – b_jonas Jan 14 at 9:11
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@b_jonas - For 'not with parental supervision', "all students" got the notes, Fred "hoped they forgot" in year one, and Weasleys kept acting like magic was not allowed in the summer. For evidence that wands before Hogwarts are illegal, only hints - Ron mistook a poem for a spell and Neville got dropped out a window. Neither seemed to have any instruction or practice. Neville's family almost killed him to force "accidental" magic...because giving him a wand was illegal, otherwise it would have been much easier to give him a wand, after all he was casting in class even in first year. – Megha Jan 14 at 10:02

It seems most likely that the first time that children are officially allowed to use a wand is at school as it's made very clear that underage use of magic is prohibited. It's equally clear that magical schools are an exception to this.

Note that HP gets into trouble on several occasions for using magic during the summer holidays and there are specific reference to 'the trace' which seems to be a way of detecting magic performed in the vicinity of underage wizards, although clearly not exactly who has performed the magic (as they can't tell that it was Dobby, not Harry who performed the hover charm in the early part of PoA)

This suggests that children of muggle parents are closely monitored by the MoM but it's not possible to do this for children in a magical household.

Also using magic objects like broomsticks seems to be exempt as both the Weasleys and Draco Malfoy both say that they had been playing quidditch long before they went to Hogwarts.

One slight inconsistency in this is that in PS Hermione claims that she has already already tried out a few simple spells.

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Where is it made clear (in canon) that underage use of magic is prohibited? I understand Harry wasn't allowed to do magic because he didn't have wizard parents to supervise him, and you can't expect Muggle guardians to be responsible for how their children uses magic, when they know so little of the wizarding world. But I don't see a proof that children in wizard families wouldn't be allowed to do magic if their parent oversees them and takes responsibility for them. – b_jonas Jan 14 at 9:16

So, there are multiple questions which need to be tackled in order to answer your question properly:

When do children in the wizarding world start having a personal wand?

From the time when they start attending wizarding school. (Note that there are more than just Hogwarts.)

And how can we make sure of this?

Through the shopping list of the first years at Hogwarts. So, it might be the kids' first personal wand:

1 wand

1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)

1 set glass or crystal phials

1 telescope

1 set brass scales

It isn't really clear for other wizarding schools, but I'm just doing a fair generalization.

So, can't they do magic, then?

Note that kids who grew in a muggle environment do claim that they were able to do strange stuff, like magic at their place, before they were even trained or know what magic is.

So, if they have a wand with them, then they can pretty much perform untrained/wild magic. (Example: the two kids in The Goblet of fire who messed with a slug)

However, underage wizards are not allowed to perform magic.

By the word magic there, it means intentional magic.


After the recent edit to your question,

As the Prevention of underage magic clearly states that wizards under 17 years are forbidden to do magic, an objective answer to your question should be : 17 years

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See some of the comments under Rand's answer. Simply being on the list doesn't mean that they didn't previously have it. First year students aren't allowed broomsticks, yet Harry had a broomstick when his parents still lived. – JohnP Jan 13 at 21:50
    
@JohnP Yeah, I have seen that. I have just made a fair inference :) (Might be wrong, only JKR would be able to confirm!) – Dawny33 Jan 14 at 3:18
    
Where do you get the information that underage wizards are not allowed to perform magic? Is there a canon source for this? I assumed they just weren't allowed to perform magic without adult supervision, or among Muggles. – b_jonas Jan 14 at 9:06
    
@b_jonas Pl refer to this wiki. I have also updated the answer according to your recent edit :) – Dawny33 Jan 14 at 9:16

At school, not earlier

(except maybe for the exceptional case of inheriting a wand)

In addition to the wording of the Hogwarts Letter which kind of suggests that kids should get their wand when they enter school together with a dozen other things (as stated in another answer), the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery (first mentioned in book 2) factually rules out possession of a wand prior to going to school. In the strictest sense, it actually rules out taking wands home, too (which however is demonstrably not enforced in the books, the story would be pretty boring otherwise!).

How does the decree do that? It doesn't even speak of wands!

Wands are powerful and possibly dangerous items that are under strict regulation, not much unlike a firearm in the real world[1]. One could even argue that a wand is substantially more dangerous than a gun.

In order to own a regulated item, a permission (often involving a certain conduct and proof of expertise) and a legitimate reason is needed. To explain on the importance and the implications of the latter, consider this example:

Assume that you are a hunter or a sport shooter. This means you have a legitimate reason for owning a gun. If you have this gun at home, and a burglar attacks you at night, and you shoot him, then this is a somewhat bad situation, since killing people is generally not looked upon favourably by the law. However, you demonstrably had the gun for a different, legitimate reason. The fact that you shot someone in self defense is tragic (especially for the burglar), but mostly irrelevant. You have a good chance of getting out of that without a conviction on the premise of self-defense.
Now consider the same situation, but you used a gun that you bought in the street. No difference?
Oh how wrong you are. Not only is the purchase and the ownership as such a felony, but worse: since you had no legitimate (non-murder) reason to own this gun, it must be concluded that killing someone was your intent from the beginning. After all, if not to kill someone, what do you need a gun for. Same situation, and same numer of deaths, but this time you are practically guaranteed to get a sentence.

The one and only important difference that turns the entire situation around are the words legitimate reason.

The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery bans the use of underage magic outside of school. One may rightfully consider "before school" being a case of "outside school".
If underage wizards and witches are not allowed to do magic outside school, they consequently have no legitimate reason to own a wand.

This is further confirmed by Hagrid in the first book who, having been expelled from Hogwarts before graduating, mentions that he actually isn't allowed to have a wand (which is why he is hiding it inside an umbrella).
Since he did not finish school (having failed the "conduct" precondition), he does not have the required expertise to excercise magic, and therefore no legitimation to own a wand.


[1] I am obviously assuming EU standards rather than e.g. US standards for gun control here. Which means you cannot just buy a gun because you feel like it.
I deem this a legitimate assumption seeing how the Harry Potter stories are located in the UK, and wand control laws would arguably not be much different, so that is a suitable comparison.

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