34 best gifts for 4-year-olds 2020

Being 4 is all about imagination — these gifts capture it!
/ Source: TODAY
By Lisa Tolin

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The best gifts and toys 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 taking turns 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. Capesand dress-up props, as well as outdoor toys or science gadgets, allow them to explore their world.

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When we release our 2020 gift guides, we make sure all prices are current. But prices change frequently, so there’s a chance the prices are now different than they were the day of publication.

Bestselling toys and gifts for 4-year-olds

1. Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow

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

2. Melissa & Doug Pet Vet Play Set

This kit lets little ones play doctor on the stuffed animals included.

3. 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.

4. Candy Land

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

5. Playmobil Barn with Silo

This detailed set encourages storytelling and pretend play.

Best toys and gifts for 4-year-olds

1. 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 5 brilliant, mom-approved hacks for keeping them tidy and out of your bare foot's way.

2. Brio Metro Railway Set

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

3. Melissa & Doug Fold & Go Doll House

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

4. Calico Critters Grocery Market

Stores are another fun way to pretend and small objects help with fine motor skills.

5. Calico Critters Hopscotch Rabbit Family

Critter figures fit perfectly in the grocery store or Cozy Cottage.

6. Tonka Mighty Motorized Fire Truck

Conti said there's nothing like a Tonka truck for hours of play. The garbage truck is another crowd-pleaser.

7. Melissa & Doug Ice Cream Counter

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

8. Magna-Tiles 100-Piece Set

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

9. Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks

Conti is a big fan of magnetic wood blocks like these.

10. Lincoln Logs

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

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

Great for hours of dress-up play. Not much of a firefighter? Try a chef or doctor or fairy.

12. American Girl WellieWishers Doll

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

13. Kapla Blocks Octocolor 100-Piece Set

Conti recommended these wooden building sticks. “They build in very different ways with those than we do with bigger blocks,” she said.

14. Insect Lore Deluxe Butterfly Garden Gift Set

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

15. Candylab Toys Police Cruiser

Car toys are great for motor skills (no pun intended) and imaginative play.

16. Cuddle + Kind Lucas The Llama

Conti prefers cuddly dolls made of natural materials that aren’t too gendered. This one also gives back. For every doll sold, 10 meals are provided to children in need.

Best creative toys and gifts for 4-year-olds

1. Colorforms The Original Classic Set

This set makes art creation easier without needing to hold a crayon and Conti noted that it slips into a bag as easily as an iPad for restaurant play.

2. Boogie Board Scribble and Play

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

3. 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 trees upside down.

4. Keiki Mini Ukulele

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

5. Mudpuppy Rainbow ABC Magnetic Letters

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

Best active toys for 4-year-olds

1. Green Toys Jump Rope

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

2. Enkeeo No Pedal Balance Bike

Klein recommended physical toys like this balance bike that will get a 4-year-old ready to ride.

Best books for 4-year-olds

1. "Kevin the Unicorn: It's Not All Rainbows," by Jess von Innerebner

Funny books like this one 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. "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."

3. "Just Because," by Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault

For little ones full of questions, this humorous book of answers will delight.

4. "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.

5. "Five Minutes," by Audrey Verick, Liz Garton Scanlon and Olivier Tallec

Parents know five minutes can be endless to a little one, unless it's time to leave the playground. This fun text shows it all both ways.

6. Jon Klassen's Hat Box

Klassen's darkly funny hat trilogy is a modern classic.

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