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51 incredible gifts that'll capture your 4-year-old's imagination

These presents are perfect for your developing preschooler.
Young boy holding gift
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

The best gifts for 4-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, so the best toys for 4-year-olds can be shared.

“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, 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.

We rounded up several unique gifts for 4-year-olds that will keep their minds and their bodies moving.

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Best gifts for 4-year-olds

Skillmatics Guess in 10 Junior Animal Kingdom

Ask questions to guess the animal on the card in this problem-solving game that doesn’t require reading. With a handy storage box to keep the game organized, this game nurtures the curious nature of a 4-year-old.

Tee Turtle Reversible Axolotl Plushie

This stuffed animal turns inside out to change its mood from happy to angry and back. The original octopus was a hit on TikTok, but it’s also effective for a 4-year-old learning about emotions.

Dynamo Wooden Domino Set by Hape

Old-fashioned dominos can create hours of play, and this set includes some bells (literally) that a traditional set doesn’t. Comprised of over 100 pieces, this set helps develop engineering skills as they learn about balance and spacial awareness.

Crayola Less Mess Painting Activity Kit

This mess-free painting kit includes a genius innovation — paint that won’t spill, even if you turn it upside down. Washable paint sticks, stencils, stickers and more complete the Crayola kit.

Kinetic Sand Mermaid Palace Play Set

Sand boxes are always a hit with 4-year-olds, and this portable version lets them have sensory fun at home. With three types of kinetic sand and tools to shape it, mermaid fans can create sandcastles galore.

Slumberkins Yak

Each Slumberkins has a story to promote emotional growth, and they’re now at the center of an Apple+ series. Offered with two easy-to-read board books and an affirmation card, the Yak is all about self-acceptance!

"Jurassic World" Dominion Strike ‘n’ Roar Gigantosaurus

Based on the fearsome dinosaur in the latest "Jurassic World," this 21.5" articulated dino chomps and roars with the press of a button. A Jurassic World Facts app has augmented reality that can make dinosaurs appear in any room.

Squishville Squishmallow Ski Chalet

Their bigger counterparts have been a fan-favorite for a few years but the spotlight is now on the miniature Squishmallows. These mini figures get their own cozy ski chalet with this set that comes with four two-inch plush toys.

Imaginext Lights and Sounds XL-15 "Lightyear" Spaceship

Fans of the Disney movie “Lightyear” can fly their imaginations to infinity and beyond.

Purrble

Purrble is more than just a stuffed friend — it’s an interactive toy meant to help with emotional regulation and anxiety. With a dynamic heartbeat and a simple language of sighs, giggles and grunts, Purrble has sensors that respond to touch. If Purrble’s heart races, you can calm it into a purr by holding it tight, and see if your own heartbeat slows in the process.

Wonder and Wise Wooden Car Track

This small, wooden car track from Crate & Barrel is mesmerizing fun. Place a small car at the top, then watch it zigzag its way to the finish line. Parallel tracks allow races to the finish.

Hape Quadrilla Marble Run Set

This marble run is a hands-on building set that also plays a tune down the xylophone rail, with exciting twists to the finish.

Best educational toys for 4-year-olds

Switcheroo Coding Crew

Give your child a jump-start on learning to code without a screen, with this fun STEM set that lets kids solve missions and discover hidden tricks.

Learning Resources Cash Register

This calculator helps make counting fun, while encouraging pretend play.

Learning Resources Coding Critters

Your 4-year-old can begin to learn to code with this fun set that lets your little one show a creature how to fetch, play hide-and-seek and more.

Lunii My Fabulous Storyteller

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

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.

Best play sets for 4-year-olds

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.

Calico Critters Hopscotch Rabbit Family

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

Fat Brain Toys Squigz Starter Set

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

Insect Lore Deluxe Butterfly Garden Gift Set

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

Brio Metro Railway Set

Train sets provide hours of entertainment and are great for building spatial skills, said Klein.

Magna-Tiles 100-Piece Set

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

Crate & Barrel Treehouse Play Set

This fun treehouse is great for animal figures or doll play.

Toyk Dinosaur World Road Race

With over 12,000 verified five-star ratings on Amazon, this bestselling toy train set is sure to please both kids and parents alike. The setup is easy and the fun lasts for months.

Best arts and crafts and creative toys for 4-year-olds

Ooly Chunkies Paint Sticks

All the fun of painting with none of the mess.

Janod Confetti Ukulele

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

Melissa & 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.

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

Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow

As kids age, more of their toys become battery-powered and involve a screen which is why a toy that gets them moving outside is such a favorite. Conti recommends outdoor toys like this one for 4-year-olds.

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!

My Sweet Love Umbrella Stroller for Dolls

This stroller lets big brothers and sisters role-play before caring for the real thing. It's lightweight, foldable and can hold up to an 18-inch doll.

Little Tikes Trampoline

This three-foot trampoline from Little Tikes is the perfect gift for 4-year-olds. There's even a handlebar for stability so they can jump around and be safe.

Glovion LED Jump Rope

This modern take on an old-fashioned favorite promotes gross motor activity (aka exercise) and is one toy they won't age out of for a long time. With comfortable foam handles and a rechargeable multi-light rope, it's one all the kids (and adults) will want to take for a spin.

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.

Best games and puzzles for 4-year-olds

Candy Land

While there's plenty of hot holiday toys to shop, sometimes a classic like Candy Land is enough to make them light up like a Christmas tree. “It’s just a fun game that kids love to play,” Conti said.

Petit Collage Floor Puzzle

Perfectly designed for little hands, this jumbo floor activity helps improve a preschooler's hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. As a bonus, this puzzle is made with environmentally friendly materials like recycled paper and vegetable-based inks.

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.

Best pretend play for 4-year-olds

Melissa & Doug Pet Vet Play Set

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

Melissa & Doug Ice Cream Counter

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

Best dolls and stuffed animals for 4-year-olds

All Seasons Kids Wooden Dollhouse by Hape

This sturdy, open doll house has three stories and lots of room to play alone or with friends. Fun touches like a slide and enough space for imaginations to roam.

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.

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.

Best books for 4-year-olds

“The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

This modern retelling of the classic fairytale adds a dash of humor, a touch of absurdity and a hint of foreboding that together prove irresistible.

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.

“Knight Owl,” by Christopher Denise

Owl is desperate to be a knight, despite his relatively diminutive stature. When he’s faced with a dragon, he’ll use his smarts and kind disposition to keep the peace.

“No Bunnies Here,” by Tammi Sauer and Ross Burach

A nervous bunny tries to persuade a hungry wolf that there are no bunnies in sight, despite the presence of incredible amounts of bunnies.

“Where Is Bina Bear,” by Mike Curato

Bina Bear is hiding in plain sight, but for good reason. He’s an introvert at a party, a relatable idea for many kids who don’t love the birthday party circuit.

“The Sour Grape,” by Jory John and Pete Oswald

In this latest installment of the “food group” series that includes "The Good Egg" and "The Bad Seed," Grape holds a lot of grudges. His revelation that feeling negative is no fun leads him to a sweet ending.

“Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness,” by Maria Gianferrari and Pete Oswald

This kid-friendly introduction to mindfulness encourages children to live in the moment, with a guided breathing exercise to help.

“Luna’s Green Pet,” by Kirsten Pendreigh and Carmen Mok

Luna’s family lives in a building with a strict no pet policy, so she finds a creative solution and adopts a wilted plant she names Stephanie. Parents who don’t want a pet might appreciate the ingenuity, plus instructions for caring for your own plant pet.

“Chester Van Chime Who Forgot How to Rhyme,” by Avery Monsen and Abby Hanlon

Chester Van Chime loves to rhyme, but one day he wakes up and can’t complete them. Children will love filling in actual rhymes that Chester forgets, with a winning message about finding joy in creation.

Don’t forget to check out Shop TODAY’s other gift guides to find the perfect present for every kid on your list including babies, 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds and 10-year-olds.