Best gift for 4-year-olds

Baby & Kids

Dolls are often overlooked as a toy that should be gendered, and because it doesn’t involve any building or problem-solving, it’s unappreciated. However, dolls can play a valuable role in your child’s development of empathy.

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As your child continues to hit milestones, the right gifts can aid in their development

At age 4, your toddler has officially transitioned to childhood and with that, they have developed a greater appreciation for new experiences and elevated creativity. With the right gifts, you can facilitate your 4-year-old’s evolving brain and help them hit crucial milestones.

Milestones for your 4-year-old

By understanding the milestones your 4-year-old should be hitting, you can make a more informed decision about what to give them. The CDC has identified milestones for each area of your child’s development: social and emotional, language and communication, cognitive function and physical development.

Social and emotional milestones

By now, you should notice your child showing a greater range of emotions and reactions to social and interpersonal experiences. The biggest hallmark of healthy social and emotional development is your child’s greater desire to have and enjoy in new experiences. Encouraging them to experience the world is crucial at this stage. In tandem with this, they are more likely to tell you what they do and don’t like, and their interests are more clear.

You also should notice an evolution in their pretend play. They will likely pretend to be Mom, Dad or someone else who takes care of them, and their pretend storylines will become increasingly more complex. That said, there may be times they confuse reality with the make-believe stories they create.

Socially, they should start feeling a greater desire to play with other children rather than by themselves. As they socialize, they learn to be more cooperative with their peers. This leads to better social experiences that strengthen their ability to interact with others.

Language and communication

As your child hits their fourth year, notice their sentences. They should start understanding and implementing grammar rules in their everyday speech without prompting. They will use this newfound grasp on the language to craft stories that become more complex. They should be able to clearly say their first and last names.

Has your 4-year-old suddenly seemed to latch on to a certain poem or a favorite song? This is completely normal and a good sign of healthy language development. By repeating the song or poem from memory, they are reinforcing the language and improving memory retention.

Cognitive function

Your child’s cognitive development includes a greater understanding and better application of things such as colors, counting and some numbers. As they develop these fundamentals, they’ll be able to participate in board games and crafts. By now, they should know how to use scissors and be able to draw a person with anywhere from two to four body parts.

Storytime will evolve into a more interactive experience. Their developing understanding of time and the concept of same and different, along with increased memory retention and comprehension, will lead to them remembering parts of stories with which they’re familiar. They may also start trying to predict what happens next in a story.

Physical development

As your child actively plays, pay attention to their physical movements. At 4 years old, they should be able to balance on one foot for at least two seconds. They should more consistently start catching a ball bounced to them.

Another time to take note of their physical movements is during mealtime. While they relied heavily on you for years to actually get food into their mouth rather than having it fall to the side, at 4 years old, they should be able to pour, mash their food and cut with an age-appropriate knife without supervision.

Types of gifts your 4-year-old will love

STEM gift

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is becoming a more widely integrated part of early childhood development. In a report from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV), researcher Kelsey Hand writes the first five years of your child’s life are the “most critical point in neurological and brain development.” It’s during these formative years that STEM education can have a huge impact on the trajectory of your child’s education.

Introducing your child to STEM education early could help them in their future career. According to Baker College, STEM-related jobs took up 2.4 million job openings in 2018 and the number of STEM jobs is predicted to grow at a rate of 13 percent.

The experience-based learning inherent with STEM education can also improve your child’s memory retention. Along with that, STEM learning helps with language development, critical thinking and collaborative learning.


Spatial vocabulary will develop, with words like “turn,” “flip” and “rotate.” As they identify spatial actions with the appropriate words, they’ll start to understand why the sequence of certain actions is important. Developing a concept of organizing things as first, second and third will help them in the future with following instructions.

A puzzle is one giant problem-solving skill. They may become frustrated at some point if they aren’t able to figure out a section of the puzzle. However, this experience improves their task-completion skills and turns out persistent children who won’t give up when things get hard.

The handling and placement of the pieces develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.


Playing with dolls should not be a gender-specific activity. Every child can benefit from having a doll. Alice Lee, a senior psychologist in Melbourne, Australia, explained to news outlet Every Day why every child should have a doll.

“Earlier on, it’s about using dolls to enact life experiences and understanding their place in their world and themselves … . As they get older, it takes them through more imaginative play,” Lee said. 

Dolls can play a pivotal role in several areas of your 4-year-old’s development. With the doll, social skills improve. A report by Amarilis Whitney from Mattel explained recent research about the benefits of doll play for young children.

In a study, researchers found children who played with dolls had similar brain activity and activation as those playing with other children. If your child doesn’t have many opportunities to play with other children, a doll can make up for that lack of social interaction.

As your child bonds with their doll, their sense of empathy should increase. In that same study, researchers found doll play can cause the area of the brain responsible for social responses like empathy to activate.

Board games

Playing games with your loved ones can be a great way to bond, assuming no one is a sore loser. The rule-based nature of board games can be a great boost to your child’s development in a few ways.

As they communicate while navigating the game, they are practicing language skills. They develop improved focus. A surprising benefit of board games is the positive impact on your child’s mental health. Board games have been shown to decrease feelings of anxiety because they are so structured. Regine Galanti, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology in New York City, elaborated to Scholastic on the correlation between the structure of board games and the soothed anxiety. 

“Because they’re structured, board games can provide an easier way to build interpersonal relationships with peers, since the child knows what’s expected of them,” Dr. Galanti explained.

Top gifts for a 4-year-old

Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope

Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope

This STEM-centric gift gives your 4-year-old the opportunity to see a new side of the world they didn’t know existed. Along with increasing their drive for discovery, they learn as they use it.

Sold by Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, Staples and Buy Buy Baby

PlayShifu Orboot Augmented Reality Interactive Globe

PlayShifu Orboot Augmented Reality Interactive Globe

With the companion app, this interactive globe takes your child around the world, allowing them to explore and learn literally thousands of facts about the world in six categories: animals, cultures, monuments, inventions, maps and cuisines.

Sold by Amazon

Stomp Rocket The Original Stomp Rocket Ultra Rocket

Stomp Rocket The Original Stomp Rocket Ultra Rocket

For those kids that seem fascinated with the night sky, let them reach for it with this easy-to-use LED rocket. Because it lights up, they can send their rocket into space at night for even more fun. 

Sold by Amazon

Learning Resources Coding Critters

Learning Resources Coding Critters

These are the perfect way to introduce your young child to STEM learning through coding. Screen-free, your 4-year-old learns fundamentals that apply to coding alongside adorable animal friends.

Sold by Amazon, Kohl’s and Staples

Melissa & Doug See and Spell Wooden Educational Toy

Melissa & Doug See and Spell Wooden Educational Toy

All puzzles help your child develop their problem-solving skills and spatial awareness. This puzzle toy includes pieces to practice the letters of the alphabet and spelling.

Sold by Amazon, Kohl’s and Staples

American Girl Doll - Blaire Wilson

American Girl Doll – Blaire Wilson

With more than 30 years of experience in the doll space, American Girl Dolls have a reputation for being quality made and long-lasting, giving your child a life-long friend to grow and bond with.

Sold by Amazon

Candy Land Board Game

Candy Land Board Game

Candy Land is a classic for a reason. The simple premise of the game mixed with bright colors and inventive characters is the perfect first real board game for a 4-year-old. It’s simple enough for them to play and be involved with while giving them an age-appropriate challenge.

Sold by Amazon, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond and Buy Buy Baby

ThinkFun Zingo Bingo

ThinkFun Zingo Bingo

This is a favorite game for young children, with more than 50 million sold. Although it’s fun and fast paced, it still teaches critical thinking skills and language skills through matching and problem solving.

Sold by Amazon

I Never Forget a Face Memory Matching Game

I Never Forget a Face Memory Matching Game

Matching games are a great solo-play option for young kids. The games improve recognition and memory retention, plus children get a confidence boost from finding a pair.

Sold by Amazon

TOP BRIGHT Colored Wooden Blocks Stacking Blocks

TOP BRIGHT Colored Wooden Blocks Stacking Blocks

Made with natural hardwood and nontoxic water-based paint, these stacking blocks are a fun game your child can play by themselves or with others. They’ll love the colorful animals and you’ll love the spatial awareness and problem-solving development.

Sold by Amazon


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Kasey Van Dyke writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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