Your little munchkin is 4 years old. Time is flying by! 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 a toy or a gift, 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).”
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 toys for the 4-year-old in your life.
Arts & Crafts
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).
Create refrigerator-worthy masterpieces without the mess using this simple (and honestly a little trippy!) art set by Melissa & Doug. It includes four different types of paper, two stylus tools, and three easel frames for endless creating. Plus, when the masterpieces are made, there are also two hang strips included so that four-year-old artwork can be put on display.
This craft box by ALEX will make the recipient feel like they’ve hit the DIY jackpot! Complete with essentials to bring 16 projects to life, this set includes tools and instructions for craft projects like tissue art, sticker art, dough animals, paper bag puppets, animal collages, and beyond. It contains over 600 pieces from glue and crayons to dough, googly eyes, frames, and more. This Parent’s Choice Approved Award winning set will keep’ em entertained for hours on end.
“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.”
The 22-inch Jellycat plush Octopus will wrap any four year old in soft cuddles all through nap time. Each velvety tentacle wiggles and hangs which makes this stuffed toy stand out amongst the rest as an instant favorite.
This avocado is always at the perfect level of softness and is the perfect size for snuggling! The 7-inch stuffed avocado doubles as a nap pillow and any little one will be so tempted to smoosh into it until it turns into guacamole. It makes for a super cute, unique gift!
These five scented plush jelly beans deliver 100% Daily Value for snuggles, happiness, and laughter. Fruit punch, cotton candy, blue raspberry, pineapple, and lemon limes are among the characters (err, flavors) included in this set. Kids can just open up the fluffy pillow to take each bean out, hug them, and of course, give them each a big whiff!
“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.”
The world’s at their finger tips with this award-winning puzzle globe that teaches kids geography basics through interactive tactile play. The rotating globe teaches continent names, oceans, famous landmarks, and more!
Your little one will be over the moon for this beautiful solar system puzzle made of 48 extra-think and easy to use puzzle pieces. Aside from the challenge of putting the puzzle together, this gift offers the perfect opportunity to start or continue conversations about the solar system, and of course, all of the planets.
Toddlers can learn about shapes, numbers, and counting with this super colorful 3-in-1 puzzle. Made of natural wood and layered in natural, water-based paints, this gorgeous Montessori set really does make a perfect gift for the four-year-old who is just itching to hit new milestones.
“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.”
Magna-Tiles spark hours of imaginative free play in children. Anything they can dream, they can create! This classic, 100-piece set features the original 3D magnetic building tiles kids know and love. And if they already have a set? Don’t worry, a building enthusiast would be stoked to receive another set as a gift to expand their creations and replace the inevitable lost pieces.
Getting your toddler used to any routine can seem like an impossible task however with the easy-to-build LEGO duplo My Town Family House! The 69-piece set makes it possible for your little one to have fun practicing activities and routines, from getting up in the morning, preparing and eating a meal to washing the car.
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 about differences, conflict resolution, and sharing/taking turns.”
KidKraft’s Majestic Mansion Dollhouse will be a huge hit with your child (literally). Standing at over four feet tall with four levels, eight rooms, and a 34-piece accessory kit, kids have a ton of room for pretend play. This actual dream home also features an elevator that rises and lowers between the second and third floors, in addition to a garage with doors that swing open.
It’s 2019 which means, yes, dollhouses come with infinity pools now. With snazzy details like LED lights, the most impressive thing about this dollhouse is that it’s beyond detailed yet ideal for smaller spaces at just 12 inches tall. It’s perfect for the tiny dolls who have an appreciation for the luxe life.
This pretend play doctor kit makes the perfect gift for the four-year-old kiddo who doesn’t shy away from shots or visiting their pediatrician. It could be a sign of a future physician! This kit includes a doctor’s case, stethoscope, thermometer, syringe, scissors, and other safe accessories that mimic real medical instruments and tools.
According to Fiore, children enjoy books about adventure and mishap at this age. “As they are beginning to understand the ‘right’ way to do and/or say things, they have fun when the books intentionally challenge these conventions,” she says. “They also like books that describe real-life heroes, current and historical figures. They enjoy relating their own interests and selves to larger-than-life characters with whom they identify. It’s fun to help children predict what might happen while a story emerges.” Adds Morris: “Fantasy books and ones that talk about ‘it’s ok to be different’ are really helpful for 4 year olds.”
This adorable story is the perfect thing to pump up a kid’s confidence, and it will mean a lot coming from you! Write a loving message inside the front cover and don’t forget to sign it. This ode to self-esteem pushes kiddos to appreciate themselves for who they are. A message like that is always needed! Plus, each page contains energetic rhymes and gorgeous illustrations designed to capture all of that attention.
The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin is a classic children’s book that belongs in every kid’s library! This New York Time’s best seller encourages kids to be bold, yet kind, and nurture even the smallest things in life. It’s a loving read between parent and child, too!
Consider this book a love letter for all girls, especially the four-year-old ones who really need to hear it! It will remind her how powerful, strong, and valuable she is, even in such a big world. Isn’t that one of the greatest gifts you can really give? All girls are celebrated in this book, which means each gal who gets to read it walks away feeling a bit more special than she did before turning the first page.
This empowering book is the compilation of nine stories in one, which means it’s easy for kids (especially four-year-olds) to get super immersed. The storyline follows Danny, a superhero-in-training, through his daily adventures and obstacles he faces. Throughout the book, Danny will have to make certain decisions, so these stories really encourage behavior and character development. While wonderful things happen when Danny makes great decisions, the reader is also reminded of the consequences possible when negative choices are made.
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Check out Scary Mommy’s selection of toys here.