Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Picking out the perfect toy for the 4-year-old in your life is no easy task, especially when you're looking for something that's both educational and entertaining.
“Providing toys that allow for real-world play strengthens the developmental skills used for social connectedness and critical thinking,” says Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in South Overland Park, Kansas. “Although playing with a kitchen set, for example, may not seem very complicated to an observing adult, the skills a child uses during pretend play are foundational for social and emotional growth.”
From books to race tracks and everything in between, there are tons of options out there that'll excite the little one in your life. Just be sure to consider each option's recommended age, educational value, and longevity while you shop.
Here, the best toys for any 4-year-old on your list.
Crayola Table Top Easel Art Case for Kids
Whether the little one in your life has a knack for creativity or just wants to experiment with art, Crayola's Table Top Easel Art Case is a great option. The set is fully equipped with all of the essentials that'll make it easy for kids to create a masterpiece.
The case includes an assortment of paints and painting tools, as well as paper and a storage case. There's also a built-in double-sided easel, so it's easy to use if your little one wants to paint with a sibling or friend as well.
Playmobil Large City Zoo
Playmobil's Large City Zoo is a great option if you're looking for an activity that'll entertain the whole family. The 213-piece set allows users to explore the zoo and learn about different species around the world with ease.
Ideal for ages 4 and up, the set includes six figures, a selection of animals, and tons of other accessories to enhance the experience. From walking the penguin habitat to viewing giraffes, all you and your little one have to do is grab and map begin the adventure.
Peaceable Kingdom Alphabet Bingo!
This is Bingo, but with a twist. Instead of a caller shouting out numbers, players reach into a bag and pull out a letter. If the letters are on their card, they mark them. Once someone gets four in a row, they should “Bingo!” and win.
Each space on the cards has a picture of something that starts with the letter. For example “F” has a flower and “O” has an owl, so not only is the game great for teaching letter recognition, but it helps with letter sounds as well.
"By playing with friends and family, preschoolers practice cooperation, sharing, and taking turns (aka patience). It took some time, but our 4-year-old eventually understood that he had to wait for everyone to identify their letters before drawing another token, and he eventually shared the responsibility of calling out letters."—Charlene Petitjean-Barkulis, Product Tester
B. toys by Battat B. Pet Vet
This pet vet set comes with pretty much everything, including a stethoscope, syringe, thermometer, scale, x-rays, and their very own clinic.
The clinic is equipped with a fold-out exam table and four rooms for the patients. Kids get their own set of keys for locking and unlocking the rooms as necessary, and there’s a wise owl in the chimney that pops in and out. Two adorable plush patients—a cat and a dog—are included as well, but kids will be sure to find plenty more patients in their toybox.
"The way kids interact with the clinic will likely depend on their age. For example, our 4-year-old son used the scale and thermometer to fix up imaginary ouchies and boo-boos."—Charlene Petitjean-Barkulis, Product Tester
Melissa & Doug My Magnetic Daily Calendar
If you are looking for one of the best functional toys for a 4-year-old look no further than this magnetic calendar. Here your child will learn more about the days of the week, seasons, months, holidays, temperature, and more. Besides being a fun way to teach your child, it also helps set up a daily routine for them, so they know what to expect every day.
Yookidoo Submarine Spray Station
This submarine spray station will have them begging to stay in for some serious splashing fun. The battery-operated toy (four AA batteries are required but not included) attaches to the tub. Water comes in through the submarine and is circulated up through the diver shower head, which can then be sprayed into two funnels that produce fun, mesmerizing effects with spinning wheels, fountains and googly eyes.
Educational Insights Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Recycling Truck
Perfect for kids 3 and up, this set comes with an operational drill. Of course, it's low speed and plastic, so while your child should always be supervised using it, it's intended for children. It also features a truck, wheels, bolts, and two toy figures. Kids can even use the drill to operate the truck's arm.
HABA Little Friends Vacation Camper Play Set
Even if you can't physically take your little one camping, this play set will kinda make it feel like the real thing. The set includes a vehicle, camper, two chairs, and a toy figure. The camper door opens and closes and the awning is even detachable.
VTech LeapFrog Scoop & Learn Ice Cream Cart
Kids can play ice cream scooper as they serve up delicious treats for their friends, family, and stuffed animals. It comes with four flavors of ice cream, three toppings, three flavors of syrup, and six order cards. There’s even a bell to let people know they’re coming or that their order is up. The cart also plays music and features more than 200 fun phrases.
Basic Fun Cutetitos
Kids can't get enough of mystery toys, and the Cutetitos are yet another example of the trend. Hidden in each sealed bag is a cuddly stuffed animal wrapped in a soft blanket that's meant to look like—you guessed it—a burrito. The 12 animals include Chihuahito, Catito, Puppito, Sealito, Pigito, Walrusito, and more. Each one also comes with a collector's card listing its name, birthday, and species.
Magna Tiles Magna-Tiles 32-Piece Solid Colors Set
These transparent, multi-color magnetic building tiles are something your children will likely play with well into the tween years, with the structures getting increasingly complicated. The 32-piece set comes with a mix of two sizes of squares and three types of triangles, but you'll likely want to spring for an additional set to cut down on sibling squabbles and increase the design possibilities.
Llama Llama Red Pajama
Some classics are, well, classics for a reason. They're just forever timeless. And that's why Llama Llama is a great read. The book revolves around Baby Llama who just needs mama's reassurance during bedtime. Kids will love the illustrations all while learning about comfort and patience.
Micro Kickboard Micro Mini Original
This lightweight, durable scooter has a "lean-to steer" design, meaning that kids will need to shift their weight right or left into turns. It's suitable for children up to 44 pounds, and the three-wheel profile and low, flexible deck help kids feel stable from that first push-off.
USA Toyz Glow Race Tracks
The only thing cooler than a race track is a race track that also glows in the dark. This one comes with 360 pieces in a rainbow of colors, two light-up LED cars, two balls (they can get pushed by the cars during races), and fun touches like a suspension bridge, gas station, and road signs.
Think Fun Zingo
Zingo features a "Zinger" box that kids can take turns pushing, and when they do, two tiles pop out. The tiles all have familiar words like "shoe" or "clock," with corresponding pictures for the kids who can't read yet.
Each child gets a bingo-like card with nine squares, and as the tiles show up, they can grab one if it matches a square on their board. As with bingo, the kid who fills their card first wins.
Atopdream Matching Letter Game
This is a fun game of matching and learning to spell small words. It includes one tray, 30 cards, and letter cubes. Kids learn letter recognition, but may need a parent there when they're still new to the alphabet. The tray comes in a few different colors, including green and pink, but the educational aspect remains the same.
Flybar Foam Pogo Jumper
A pogo stick for your 4-year-old doesn't have to sound scary or dangerous. The height adjusts to the child's size and features extremely durable foam and comfortable handles to grip. It can be used inside or outdoors and makes a fun squeak sound when kids jump.
What to Look for in a Toy For a 4-Year-Old
4-year-olds are at a tricky age, as they’ve officially graduated past the “toddler” stage, yet they might not be ready for big-kid toys. It’s important to check the age rating on the toys you’re considering, as these will help you purchase one that’s appropriate for their level of development, says Kristin Morency Goldman, senior advisor of strategic communications for The Toy Association.
Some 4-year-olds might be headed to school, so it’s always beneficial to get them toys that reinforce the important skills they’re learning. You might consider getting them toys that teach basic counting or reading skills or games that help them practice taking turns.
At 4years old, kids are still toddlers but on the cusp of early childhood. To get the most mileage out of any toy you purchase, look for items that will keep their interest as they progress. Toys that encourage open-ended play and can be tailored to a child’s development level are perfect, as they can often be used for several years. Similarly, look for toys like bikes and scooters that have adjustable seats and handlebars, so they can better grow with your child.