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42 best gifts for 4-year-olds 2021

These presents are perfect for your developing preschooler.
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/ Source: TODAY

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If you have to come up with a gift for a 4-year-old and you're stumped on what to get them, we've got some expert advice to help you.

The best gifts and toys for four-year-olds help their imaginations come alive. As they leave age 3 and turn 4, little ones are enthralled by storytelling, pretend play and exploration. They are also immersed with friends and start playing collaboratively instead of just playing side by side.

“They tend to have clear preferences on what they like or want to do,” said Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of “How Toddlers Thrive.”

Their pretend play is a little more complicated as they come to understand narratives and differentiate between fantasy and reality, said Marie Conti, the head of The Wetherill School in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and a board member of the American Montessori Society. Capes and dress-up props, as well as outdoor toys or science gadgets, allow them to explore their world.

This holiday season, we rounded up the best gifts for 4-year-olds that will keep their minds and their bodies moving.

To quickly jump to the category you're looking for, click on the links below or keep scrolling to see all 42.

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Best toys for 4-year-olds

1. Lunii My Fabulous Storyteller

This smart device lets children select their own setting and characters to generate stories — perfect for screen-free entertainment.

2. Moon Pals Weighted Stuffed Animal

From the co-founder of the original weighted Gravity Blanket comes these weighted stuffed animals, designed to help with sleep and anxiety.

3. Lego Classic Creative Brick Box

“If you’re buying Legos, just buy regular Legos. Don’t feel like you have to buy pink ones because you have a girl,” Conti said.

If you need to organize your Legos, here are five brilliant (and mom-approved) hacks for keeping them tidy and out of your bare foot's way.

4. Brio Metro Railway Set

Train sets are great for building spatial skills, Klein said.

5. KidKraft Designed by Me™: Color Decor Dollhouse

Dolls let 4-year-olds play house and work through separation as they enter school years.

6. Calico Critters Hopscotch Rabbit Family

Critter figures fit perfectly in your home or in their own Cozy Cottage.

7. Petit Collage Outer Space Floor Puzzle

Perfectly designed for little hands, this jumbo floor activity helps him or her improve their hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. As an added bonus, the out-of-this-world puzzle from Petit Collage is made with environmentally friendly materials like recycled paper and vegetable-based inks.

8. Playmobil Large Campground Adventure Set

This detailed set encourages storytelling and pretend play.

9. Melissa & Doug Ice Cream Counter

Cooking, serving food and playing "restaurant" are key elements of a 4-year-old's pretend play.

10. Fat Brain Toys Squigz Starter Set

Made with high-quality silicone and innovative suction construction, these little suckers make bath time so much fun.

11. Magna-Tiles 100-Piece Set

These magnetic tiles are favorites among preschoolers and beyond. “Kids will play with those for hours,” Conti said.

12. Lincoln Logs

Lincoln Logs are back — there's a reason they're a classic.

13. Candy Land

“It’s just a fun game that kids love to play,” Conti said.

14. Melissa & Doug Fire Chief Role Play Costume Dress-Up Set

This costume (which makes him or her look like a real-life hero!) is great for hours of dress-up play.

15. American Girl WellieWishers Willa Doll

“Dressing up dolls and figurines can help master the day-to-day chore of dressing oneself,” said educational toys expert Lauren Leisk.

16. Insect Lore Deluxe Butterfly Garden Gift Set

Klein and Conti both loved bug jars or insect boxes for kids this age.

17. Melissa & Doug Pet Vet Play Set

This kit lets little ones play doctor on the stuffed animals that are included in every purchase.

Best creative toys and gifts for 4-year-olds

1. Ooly Chunkies Paint Sticks

All the fun of painting with none of the mess.

2. Melissa and Doug Tabletop Paper Dispenser

Let your little one unspool for epic drawings and paintings or make your own highway that can cross the dinner table.

3. Janod Confetti Ukulele

For the little musician in your life, this ukulele is sturdier than toy versions, at a similar price point.

4. Mudpuppy Pattern Pop Wooden Magnetic Letters

Perfect for the little one who’s learning how to spell M-O-M.

5. Kid Made Modern On-The-Go Friendship Bracelet Kit

Whether they're on the move or staying at home, your crafty child can keep busy making bracelets for their bestie wherever they are.

6. KiwiCo Subscription

KiwiCo has a variety of subscription boxes for kids of different ages to inspire them to explore STEM activities from just a few months old through their teens.

7. ThinkFun Zingo Bingo Game

Four-year-olds are starting to learn about games with rules. This simple variation on bingo works well for pre-readers and early readers thanks to the clear images and easy-to-read words.

8. Ready, Set, Draw!

This noncompetitive game by "Press Here" author Hervé Tullet invites the whole family to unleash their creativity by combining prompts that may have you drawing a pattern as fast as you can or sketching trees upside down.

9. Boogie Board Scribble and Play

A fun way to work on letters and numbers or just sketch for fun.

Best active toys for 4-year-olds

1. Hedstrom Blue Striped Hopper Ball

Energetic youngsters will love bouncing around the backyard or around the house (hopefully away from fragile items!) on a classic Hopper Ball. It also promotes coordination, balance and exercise!

2. Little Tikes Trampoline

For a life-size trampoline, this option from Little Tikes is the perfect gift for 4-year-olds. There's even a handle bar for stability, so they can jump around and be safe.

3. Carolle Umbrella Baby Doll Stroller

This award-winning toy lets big brothers and sisters role play before caring for the real thing! It's lightweight, foldable and can hold a 14- to 17-inch baby doll.

4. Glovion LED Jump Rope

This old-fashioned favorite promotes gross motor activity (aka exercise).

5. Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike

Perfect for kids ages 18 months to 5 years old, this balance bike by Strider has an adjustable seat and handlebar to grow with kids as they're learning.

6. Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow

Conti recommends outdoor toys like this one for 4-year-olds.

Best books for 4-year-olds

1. "On Account of the Gum," by Adam Rex

It all starts with a little gum in your hair. Then come the scissors, the butter and some other ill-advised solutions dreamed up in this hilarious, cumulative story.

Funny books like this are great for 4-year-olds. "It’s important for kids to have fun with reading," said Nina Lindsay, president of the Association for Library Service to Children.

2. "I Am Every Good Thing," by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James

This beautiful picture book from the creators of Newbery and Caldecott Honor-winner, "Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut," highlights the wonderful ways to celebrate a child's humanity.

3. "The Barnabus Project," by Terry Fan, Eric Fan and Devin Fan

Barnabus is an adorably failed science experiment who lives in a lab with other creature mash-ups. When they escape the lab, they also lose the need to be someone else's idea of perfect, which is a powerful lesson for maturing kids.

4. "Kevin the Unicorn: Why Can't We Be Bestie-Corns," by Jess von Innerebner

This follow-up to "Kevin the Unicorn: It's Not All Rainbows" has a message unusual for picture books: It's okay if friends don't quite click.

5. "There's Something About Sam," by Hannah Barnaby and Anne Wilsdorf

There's a new kid in Max's class, and there's something about Sam that Max just can't put his finger on. Sam helps Max discover he might have a little wild thing inside, too.

6. "Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom," by Colleen AF Venable and Lian Cho

It's time to join the band in this funny introduction to all the instruments in a school orchestra.

7. "Outside, Inside," by LeUyen Pham

This timely read by Caldecott honoree LeUyen Pham celebrates the essential workers and community members who've come together in the face of Covid-19.

8. "Piglette," by Katelyn Aronson and Eva Byrne

Piglette is a refined sort of pig who yearns for the greener pastures of Paris but learns there's no place like her sty.

9. "Sofia Valdez, Future Prez," by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

Sofia Valdez wants to make her community better in the latest book from the fun, rhyming series that includes "Iggy Peck, Architect" and "Rosie Revere, Engineer."

10. "When You Are Brave," by Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler

When the world seems scary (like when you're starting school), this book has a strategy for soldiering on.

Still looking for the perfect gift? Be sure to check out Shop TODAY’s Gift Guide to shop for everyone on your list, including:

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This gift guide was originally published on Nov. 21, 2017.