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14 best games and activities for 4-year-olds

14 best games and activities for 4-year-olds

They’ve outgrown peek-a-boo but aren’t quite a competitive Monopoly opponent yet. So what games and activities are good for 4-year-olds? Actually, when it comes to engaging, enriching things to do with a 4-year-old (and things that won’t bore participating parents to tears), there’s quite a lot.

“Four-year-olds are increasingly curious about their world and how things work,” says Tovah Klein, who holds her doctorate in clinical and developmental psychology and is the director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of “How Toddlers Thrive.” “They love to build things and take them apart; problem solve; and fantasy play, where they can push boundaries by pretending to be someone or something other than themselves.” According to Klein, when looking for games and activities for 4-year-olds, parents should lean towards open-ended play that allows kids to use their own ideas, as well as interactive games.

Marissa DiBartolo, editor in chief of the Toy Insider, agrees with Klein’s recommendation for open-ended, imaginative play for 4-year-olds and adds that, when it comes to store-bought games, parents may consider tailoring products to their child’s specific taste. “At this age, kids likely have a few favorite TV shows, movies and characters, so toys and games that reflect their newfound personal interests will be particularly engaging,” she explains. 

Looking for fun things to do with a 4-year-old? Here are 14 expert-approved games and activities. 

Imaginative toys and activities

1. Batman 3-in-1 Batcave Playset 

Image via Target

“The Batman 3-in-1 Batcave Playset is a fun, open-ended toy for 4-year-olds because it features an iconic character that kids and adults can bond over,” says DiBartolo. “Kids can dream up their own Batman adventures with this set, which is full of interactive features.”

Where to buy: Batman 3-in-1 Batcave Playset ($38, Target)

2. Wooden blocks

Image via IFITMontessori/Etsy

“Open-ended building sets, such as a classic set of wooden blocks, are perfect for 4-year-olds,” says Klein. “It’s something they can build with for many years to come and can add other items to it, such as animal figurines, for example, if they want to create a zoo.”

Where to buy: Natural Wood Building Block Set ($71, IFITMontessori/Etsy)

3. Gears! Gears! Gears!

Image via Learning Resources

“One of my favorite toys for 4-year-olds is Gears! Gears! Gears!” says Klein. “Endless building and learning happen with this set, along with Zoob Builders.” 

Where to buy: Gears! Gears! Gears! ($33 for a set of 100, Learning Resources)

4. Magna-Tiles

Image via MoMA Design Store

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you: Magna-Tiles rule. “Magna-Tiles are perfect for the 4-year-old set,” says Husain. “Children are also wonderful creative thinkers and imaginative designers at this age.”

Where to buy: Magna-Tiles Building Set ($52 for 32-piece set, MoMA Design Store)

5. Dress up

“Dress up, including capes, which can be gender neutral and are super simple to create out of almost anything, allow children to feel powerful and create fantasy worlds of their own,” says Klein. “Other dress-up items can be tailored to the child’s interests, such as astronaut outfits or whatever fantasy figure they love most.”

6. Puppets

Image via Fat Brain Toys

According to Klein, hand puppets and puppet theater are great for 4-year-olds, as they allow for kids to use their imagination and “for pretend stories to unfold.” 

Where to buy: Farm Friends Hand Puppets ($19, Fat Brain Toys) 

7. Dollhouses

Image via Melissa & Doug

Klein also explains that anything that supports pretend play and the opportunity for kids to flex their creative muscles, such as dollhouses and tea sets, are great activities for this age.  

Where to buy: Fold & Go Dollhouse ($70, Melissa & Doug)

Interactive games and toys

8. Memory matching game

Image via Maisonette

“At 4 years of age, I like games focused on communication and collaboration,” says Dr. Amna Husain, a pediatrician at Pure Direct Pediatrics in Marlboro Township, New Jersey. “Memory matching games are great for this.” 

Where to buy: Good Dog Memory & Matching Game ($16, Masionette) 

9. Monster Mash 

Image via Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply

“Monster Mash is a great game that’s easy enough for 4-year-olds to learn, but for the whole family to enjoy playing together,” notes DiBartolo. “This game really helps with hand-eye coordination, matching skills, speed and focus.” 

Where to buy: Monster Mash ($20, Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply)

10. Classic board games

Your child may be a ways off from playing Ticket to Ride, but at around 4 years old, they’re ready for basic board games. “Classic board games, like Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land, are great for kids this age,” says Klein. “They’re interactive and will help them learn in a variety of ways.”

11. Zingo! 

Image via Kaplan Early Learning Company

Another favorite of Klein’s — and parents everywhere — is Zingo!, which is a combination of memory and bingo (plus, a cool gadget for dispensing cards). “Hands down, my family’s favorite game is Zingo!” says Jaclyn Santos, a mom of three in Hazlet, New Jersey. “It’s one of those games that almost as fun for parents as it is for the kids.”  

Where to buy: Zingo! ($22, Kaplan Early Learning Company) 

12. GeoSafari Jr. Wildlife Camera 

Image via Educational Insights

“This product is amazing because it sparks an interest in nature, animals, biology and in exploring the world around you,” says DiBartolo. “Kids can look through the camera lens to see pictures of real animals and even take fun quizzes on what they’ve learned. At this age, parents should always consider toys and games that have educational benefits, but that feel more like playing than learning.”

Where to buy: GeoSafari Jr. Talking Camera ($60, Educational Insights)

Art activities and toys

13. 3Doodler 3D Build & Play 

Image via The 3Doodler

“The 3D Build & Play from 3Doodler is perfect for 4-year-olds because it allows them to use a real 3D printing tool to create their own mini toys and characters,” says DiBartolo. “It also includes fun backgrounds so kids can use what they create to tell amazing stories. It’s the total package!”

Where to buy: 3D Build & Play ($30, The 3Doodler)

14. Painting

Image via Kid Made Modern

“Paint sets, along with different kinds of modeling dough or cool sets of crayons and colored pencils, are great for 4-year-olds,” says Klein. “These are creative items that allow kids to use their own ideas and express creativity.”

Where to buy: My First Painting Collection ($30, Kid Made Modern)