When your child turns 4, you might hear a little less “come play with me!” and a lot more “I’m going to my room to play now.” But your little one is still little — and they're still exploring their freedom, strengths, and weakness. The best toys for 4-year-olds need to foster both this newfound independence and continued social play. That means they've got to be developmentally appropriate, a wee bit challenging, and fun enough to hold their attention alone or when playing with someone else.
This is the age when your preschooler may be discovering a love for science and simple experiments involving exciting colors, textures, and transformation. Perhaps they love to build, but have graduated from large Lego sets and need something a bit more challenging. If board games, strategy games, and puzzles keep them engaged, there's a slew of award-winning choices perfect for this age category. And kids this age often love pretend play — toys that echo real-life situations, encouraging them to role play and think of creative solutions to real problems.
If you’re shopping for a 4-year-old, prepare to have the time of your life choosing among these 16 toys that address the developmental needs and play desires of your little one.
1. An Engineering Block Set That Strengthens STEM Skills
These STEM-supported engineering blocks — ideal for children 3 to 6 years old — support a young children’s desire to build objects they can use, while building fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. This 93-piece set develops science, engineering, technology, and math skills as your little one builds robots, trucks, Transformers, helicopters, and more.
2. The Classic Clay Toy That Just Gets Better With Age
Kids of all ages love Play-Doh, but things start to get really interesting when 4-year-olds unleash their creativity upon the brightly-colored clay. Encourage them to take their creations to the next level by offering cookie cutters and safe, plastic tools they can use to form clay into shapes, numbers, and letters they’ll be learning about in school. Who knew Play-Doh could be used to reinforce important early education lessons?
3. A Pattern Game That Teaches Kids How To Solve Problems
A Parents’ Choice award-winning toy, Q-bitz Jr. strengthens children’s spatial reasoning and problem solving skills as they compete against the clock or other players to complete a pattern. This fun game can also be played in groups to encourage collaborative learning. A Parent Guide is included that provides tips on how to extend problem solving lessons using Q-bitz cubes.
4. A Game That Rewards Counting And Sorting Skills
Preschoolers will practice their counting and sorting skills with Spin-A-Roo, a game with a device that makes colorful tokens appear. Players who have mastered their counting skills get to collect more tokens and the lucky player with the most tokens at the end wins.
5. A Slightly Advanced LEGO Set That Challenges Preschoolers
Think of LEGO Juniors as the building toy preschoolers can use when they’ve graduated from Duplos, but before they’re ready for sophisticated sets with smaller pieces and more complex design possibilities. This Lego Juniors Demolition Set features a ton of fun construction projects — kids will build everything from a dump truck and a digger with rotating back arm, to a demolition crane.
6. A Working Sink/Stove Toy For Imaginative Play
Children love imitating adults — something this adorable sink and stove toy will let them do over and over again. With a real working faucet and drain and a large sink area for water play, young children can pretend they’re cooking a meal and then finish the job by washing dishes. This toy comes with clicking knobs and 13 accessories that will really help make pretend play come to life.
7. A Cooperative Game That Teaches Players How To Work Together
Forget competitive play: this Good Housekeeping Best Toy award-winning board game requires that you work together as a team to get the mermaids all the way to safety on Mermaid Island without being caught by the Sea Witches. This cooperative game encourages compromise and working together to achieve a common goal.
8. A Magnetic Drawing Board That Provides Writing & Drawing Prompts
Most 4-year-olds are either curious about writing or are hard at work practicing their ABC skills. This fun toy magnetic drawing board can help by offering writing and drawing prompts and teaching the correct way to form letters. The attached stylus also helps children who are 3 to 6 years old practice holding a pencil.
9. Button Art That Encourages Free Expression & Creativity
A creative toy that builds fine motor skills, hand dexterity, and sequencing ability, button art includes 46 colorful buttons, a peg board, 10 different pictures, and a storage tray. At first, kids can snap and match buttons to the illustrated cards to create pictures. As they become more comfortable and confident, they can create their own designs.
10. Hands-On Letters That Are Compatible With iPad Games To Build Phonics Skills
Compatible with iPads, Tiggly Words Interactive Learning Toy includes a set of hands-on vowels that are used to play four phonics learning games that feature Elmo and Cookie Monster. Children will learn reading, phonics, spelling, nouns, and verbs in a stress-free environment.
11. A 110-Piece Magnetic Building Blocks Set For 2D & 3D Construction
12. A Light-Up Dry Erase Board Easel That Teaches Your Child How To Draw
Calling this toy an easel doesn’t do it enough justice. Sure, it looks like an easel, but it’s also a light-up dry erase board that lets your child use a magic pen and follow the light patterns to learn how to draw more than 100 objects and shapes. And that’s not all. While they’re learning how to become future Picassos, this toy plays 10 classic songs to help them unwind and get their creative juices flowing.
13. A Fossils & Minerals Toy That Turns Your Child Into An Archaeologist
Science and history come alive with this interactive toy that lets children excavate 12 stones to discover unique fossils and minerals. Chisel tools and simple instructions will teach kids how to chisel away their shell during the excavation process and a field guide offers in-depth information about each discovery. This kit is a MindWare award-winning toy.
14. An Animal Trivia Challenge Game That Strengthens Math Skills
Preschoolers may still be too young to play most trivia games, but the MindWare award winning Animal Trivia Challenge gives them a chance to show off their animal knowledge. A series of challenging multiple choice, true or false, and "Name It" cards allow players and teams to rack up survival tokens based on their animal expertise. This game helps strengthen social interaction, math skills, critical reasoning, and problem solving.
15. A Memory Skills Game Starring Adorable Penguins
An award-winning memory game for young children, Pengoloo involves penguins (which alone is a reason to snatch it up) and develops memory and visualization skills in children ages 4 and up. Unlike solo memory games, you’ll need two to four players, which also encourages social skills.
16. A Board Game That Encourages Empathy & Helping Other Players
Friends and Neighbors is a matching game that focuses on emotions, and awards players for giving out helpful tokens to other players. This game, which can be played with one to four players, provides parents the perfect opportunity to discuss emotions with children, and help to strengthen their sense of empathy.
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