I got my daughter a pink stocked 10/22 and gave it to her when she was 5. Ya, it is too big for her to hold by herself, but off a rest with iron sights she can bust clay pigeons all day long. I use an old wooden wire spool that is just the right height for her and a bipod. I purchased a Cricket for her, but was unhappy with the quality and plastic parts. Sold it and bought the Ruger.
I got my then-9yr old step-daughter a Cricket rifle first... I was not impressed, to say the least. Besides generally cheap construction, the gun had *no* feed ramp - you have to stick the loaded round right into the chamber. This makes life interesting a couple ways - adults who have the eye hand coordination to do this generally can't fit their fingers in the tiny loading/ejection port with enough room to do the operation, and kids (who do have small enough fingers) generally don't have the eye-hand skills yet to make the operation very easy either.
Since *someone* always wants to buy a Cricket for their kid, I traded it to the local gun store for a Marlin 15Y. Essentially the same thing - a single shot kid-sized .22LR bolt gun, it had a *much* higher level of fit & finish, sights, and a feed ramp. All you have to do is drop the round on top and close the bolt.
In short, a much nicer rifle for not much more $$$.
ive got a tricked out 10/22, but my sons first rifle will not be a semi auto, i want a cool bolt gun for his first, plus i don't want to be shot in the shin after he hit's something and spins around to tell me about it..
I found an Anchutz achiever a couple of years ago. You can find them for a good price. It has an adjustable length of pull with the inserts in the butt stock. That thing shoots so good, when I was shooting benchrest I used it as a backup for my sporter weight rifle. I mean it will drive tacks. I have actually shot flies off the backer boards at 50 yds for fun. It weighs like 6 pounds scoped with a 6x24x50 Sightron on it. That being said, if I couldn't find one of those I would get an Encore. My 22lr bbl will shoot like nobody's business. When it's varmint season on comes the 22-250 bbl, deer season comes the .280. I had Steve Stratton build me a floated forend, and replaced the springs to get a really nice trigger pull. I love the idea of the rifle. I am sure some will say it is not the most accurate in the world, however with a little work they can be real shooters. As your children grow, you can get different bbls for it and use the 22lr for practice. Nothing like shooting your actual rig for practice. Single shot teaches first shot accuracy. My dad, when I was coming up, gave me one bullet when I was in the woods. I learned back then you better make that first one count
I'm with britz. Get a bolt action, preferably a single shot. And get one that fits. Chipmunk or whatever. Just make sure it fits the shooter. Your 7 year old will enjoy shooting more if the rifle fits. Learning to shoot properly requires all concentration to be on that one shot. You can always upgrade when the training model is outgrown. My kids progressed from a single shot with iron sights on a shortened stock, to a lever gun with iron sights, to a scoped 10/22. They learned how to shoot well before their tools became toys.