It's really a personal preference. I like slick metal needles, some people like wood or bamboo. You really have to see what works best for you.
I usually suggest starting with a size 8 or 9 and any lighter-colored worsted-weight yarn that you like the feel of.
Once you find a particular thing that you want to make, that narrows down the choices more.
Mouse blankets are good, too.
My first projects were "Barbie skirts" (I was 9.)