Best Toys & Gifts For 4-Year Olds According To Experts

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Best Toys & Gifts 4 Year Olds

Your little munchkin is 4 years old. Time is flying by! It’s time to load up on educational toys, for 4 year old birthday gifts and everyday gift ideas. At this age, four-year-olds are “really focusing on social and emotional development. While the academics do come into play, their ability to ask for what they need and to regulate their emotions in an age-appropriate way is paramount,” says Pamela Morris, MSEd, Early Childhood Director of the Early Childhood Learning Center in Chandler, AZ,

As for key things to keep in mind when selecting toys or gifts for 4 year old boys and girls, Dr. Jillian Roberts, a clinical childhood psychologist, says it’s important to note that no two children are alike. “The first important thing to note is that each child’s development will look different. Although there are certain developmental milestones that we expect to see most children meet at similar times, the times at which children develop certain skills can still vary.” She adds, “It’s also normal for some children to be more advanced in one area (i.e. language skills) than another (i.e. motor skills).”

For more gift inspo, check out our toys for 1 year olds, 2 year olds, 3 year olds, 5 year olds, 6 year olds, 7 year olds, 8 year olds, 9 year olds, 10 year olds, 11 year olds and 12 year olds.

According to Roberts, a 4-year-old typically sits at the same pre-operational developmental stage as a five-year-old. “The pre-operational stage of development can be defined by the ability to think about things more symbolically, more complex language skills, and better memory and imagination,” she says.

Another important thing to remember, says Lisa B. Fiore, Professor and Co-chair, Education & Director of the Child Homelessness Initiative at Lesley University, is that a 4-year-old’s attention span is longer at this age than in previous years. “So they are able to – and enjoy! – spending more time on tasks and engaging in play for longer periods of time. They also might like to work alone on tasks, which doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy time with peers. Sometimes a child’s primary goal is to come up with a plan, carry out the plan, and enjoy the sense of accomplishment in reaching their goal.”

With all these recommendations in mind, Scary Mommy has curated the best gifts and educational toys for the 4-year-old in your life.

Building Sets for Toddlers

“Toys like LEGO or Magna tiles are perfect for independence building,” says Morris. “Especially when they are the open-ended sets, which means they don’t have to follow the directions to make it look one way.” Adds Fiore: “They’re also great for children’s creativity, fine motor skill development, collaborative or individual play.”

Arts & Crafts for Toddlers

As their skills become more complex and their creativity flourishes, “four-year-olds are more inclined towards creative activities like painting, drawing, and other arts and crafts,” says Roberts, adding the development of fine motor skills also contributes to their growing ability to take part in these activities (i.e. the ability to hold and use scissors might not have been possible at younger ages).

Plush Toys for Toddlers

“Children’s attachments are very important at this age,” says Fiore. “Having a soft and cuddly toy can help them feel safe and secure, as well as promote physical squeezing, hugging, and sensory stimulation that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy. Comfort is very important, and soft, plush toys can provide that readily.”

Puzzles for Toddlers

“At this age, then, most children will be wanting to move into a more imaginative and interactive place, where games are richer and more complex,” says Roberts. “Things like building blocks, puzzles, or games that get them to think like little scientists or little engineers will draw upon inspiration they now have inside of themselves to either create or solve a problem.”

Pretend Play for Toddlers

Fiore says pretend activities are “so important. Too often there is not enough time for this type of play as concerns about academic skill acquisition eclipses this type of play.” According to Fiore, pretend play., i.e. playing house and other mini-adult role play games, “allows children to work through conflicts in their own reasoning as well as their own family and home environments. This play promotes empathy and understanding of differences, conflict resolution, and sharing/taking turns.”

Spark your child’s creativity with these gift and toy guides for every age!


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