Best toys for 4 year olds in 2023

Our pick of the best toys for 4 year olds, from creative games and dolls to vehicle playsets and LEGO.

An image of the Best Toys for 4 Year Olds 2023
(Image credit: Future)

We've rounded up the best toys for 4 year olds that will not only encourage their development but will also be a lot of fun to play with.

At the age of four, most children begin to develop a stronger sense of self. You may notice that little ones of this age need more privacy or time to themselves to play without adult supervision or help.

The best toys for 4 year olds are designed so that they can be played with independently or with friends. The best birthday presents and top Christmas toys (opens in new tab) will also encourage imaginative and 'open-ended' play.

At the age of four your child may also be starting pre-school. They will have started to work out the link between letters and sounds and words and pictures – the foundation of learning to read and write. This big milestone changes the types of toys four years will engage with.

‘Early Years foundation skills like fine motor skills, balance and coordination will be vastly improved in a preschool setting’ notes Heather Welch, International Brand Manager for Edx Education (opens in new tab). So the toys your children play with at home should reflect this.

Heather also suggests that the best toys for children of this age will help continue: ‘to teach children to share and communicate’. Plus, they will help your child practice, ‘quiet as well as active play’.

The best gifts and toys for 4 year olds

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VTech Jotbot Smart Drawing Robot - £49.99 | The Entertainer (opens in new tab)

This VTech Smart Drawing Robot is an incredibly engaging little drawing buddy for your 4 year old. 

Although it does come with its own pen, it's capable of using almost any pen or pencil (ideal, if you don't 100% trust your little person with pens yet!) - to draw a multitude of designs on A4 or A3 paper. 

There are 15 double-sided chips, which determine what the Jotbot will create, or it can be programmed via the buttons on its head so as well as entertaining your child, the Jotbot is also encouraging them to learn their letters, develop spatial awareness and have a first attempt at coding.

The Jotbot is a happy little robot, making faces, saying phrases, and even singing while it draws. But we're also pleased to let you know that those sounds can be turned down, so they won't drown out the artistic excitement of your little person!

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Disney and Pixar Cars On The Road Showtime Loop Playset - £34.80 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

This is classic toy-car fun, with a 2022 Cars On The Road twist.

Once set up, this Showtime Loop Playset will provide endless fun as your 4 year old tries to get Ivy (the Monster Truck) to complete the loop and hit the bouncy target. 

The lever sets up the jump before the launch button thrusts the car around the loop to - hopefully - hit the target. You can also add to the thrill of the challenge by including the stunt hoop to zoom through. Or use the barrels to smash down between the loop and the target and - for the ultimate difficulty level - move the target further away.

It's guaranteed to bring joy to your little Cars fan.

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Bluey Garbage Truck - £24.99 | Smyths (opens in new tab)

Bluey is such an educational and entertaining show, with children and their grown-ups being equally enthusiastic fans,  so this Garbage Truck is bound to be a winner. 

Featuring the Bin Man, Bluey herself, and 2 rubbish bins - which can be lifted up on the truck and emptied using the lever - the joy in the toy is its simplicity. And, of course, the fact that your 4 year old will enjoy recreating scenes from the show over and over again. 

Both Bluey and the bin man can sit and ride in the truck, and have moveable arms too. This sweet set will encourage imaginative role play and inspire conversations about rubbish and recycling - if you need the toy to be even more educational.  

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Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Super Colourful Cafe Playset - £32.99 | Smyths (opens in new tab)

This Play-Doh set will take your 4 year olds' cafe play to the next level.

With imaginary treats to make, beverages to brew and a cake stand to be filled, there is plenty to keep little hands occupied with this set. 

There are 8 tubs of colourful Play-Doh and 20 accessories included to make the cafe role-play last all day. The only downside we can see is that, with all these pretty donut and frappe creations, hungry parents might end up reaching for the real snacks!

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SmartMax Roboflex Plus - £35 | Kidly (opens in new tab)

The SmartMax Roboflex Plus set is a colourful series of magnetic heads, legs, hands, bendy arms, crazy eyes, wheels, and a propeller so your little one can get straight into creating whatever fun robots their heart desires. 

If your 4 year old needs a little more encouragement, the set also contains a huge sheet of robot pictures for inspiration, so they'll soon be making happy little robot friends. 

Great for developing fine motor, engineering skills, and creativity, the Roboflex is a really versatile toy that is bright and fun too. 

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2 in 1 Wooden Easel - £25 | Dunelm (opens in new tab)

This beautiful 2-in-1 Wooden Easel comprises a chalkboard and whiteboard and also features magnetic letters and numbers, a whiteboard pen, eraser, and chalk, so your 4 year olds' creativity can be unleashed.

After your budding artist is done with their drawings, the sleek easel folds flat for easy storage. 

When it's this much fun, your little one won't even notice they are practising their hand-eye coordination and phonics.

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Goose On The Loose! - £14 | Orchard Toys (opens in new tab)

Goose on the Loose! is a great introduction to board games. 

As with all Orchard Toys, the bright colourful playing pieces will entice your little one to join in. The aim of the game is for each player to round up their geese. There will be honking, counting, and plenty of turn taking. The winner is the player who has managed to get the most geese together at the end of the game. 

There are so many benefits to this game for 2-4 players. As well as the social skills of turn-taking and counting, Goose on the Loose! also encourages colour recognition, observational skills, and hand-eye coordination. And everyone will have fun playing too.

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Octonauts Above & Beyond: Octoray Headquarters Transforming Playset - £59.99 | The Entertainer (opens in new tab)

Sound the Octoalert for this versatile Above & Beyond: Octoray Headquarters playset!

This Octoray jet swoops in to save the day, before transforming into a mobile headquarters with lights and sounds, a Mini-Ray for Captain Barnacles to ride in, a lift, and a ramp to make a quick exit. 

The included Mission Card and included animals to rescue will inspire play, if your 4-year-old needs any, after watching so much Ocotonauts during their screen time!

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Globber Junior Foldable Lights Kids Scooter - £60 | Halfords (opens in new tab)

A 3-wheel scooter with large wheels such as this design from Globber is great for those under 5. The large wheels give them stability and make it easy to scoot. And as they develop their scooting skills and become more confident they'll learn to whizz along with ease.

With adjustable handlebars, the Globber scooter comes in a range of colours including purple, pink and blue. But the best feature of this scooter is the disco light-up wheels. Not only does it make scooting even more fun, but it makes it easy to spot your child on the road when it's foggy, early morning, or dusk.

Make being outdoors even more exciting, or get from A to B much faster with little legs, with this fun Globber Scooter.

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Little Town Wooden Pirate Ship - £24.99 | Aldi (opens in new tab)

Ahoy there! Swashbuckling kids of all ages who are fascinated by pirates will love this wooden pirate ship. It comes complete with fabric sails, a lookout platform, a cannon, a barrel, a treasure chest, and a mini sailboat. It wouldn't be complete, of course - without a couple of pirates and a plank for them to walk.

This wholesome wooden toy will lead children to create their own magical pirate adventures and hopefully inspire hours of imaginative play.

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B. Toys Pop-Arty! 500 Piece Jewellery Making Set - £18.95 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

This enticing jar of treasure is bound to be a hit with 4-year-olds, and beyond.

B. Toys puts a fresh twist on the classic bead threading activity with this 500-piece set. Each of the 'jewels' snap together safely and securely so your little one can be independently making jewellery within seconds of the jar being open.

The eco-conscious company make long-lasting toys, use 100% recycled packaging and use soy-based inks to give their toys distinctive colours with minimal environmental impact.

There are 7 rings and 5 bracelet bands included with the set, so this makes the perfect solo or group activity for improving fine motor skills and creativity, and when your little designer has finished their jewellery-making session, all the pieces can be stored in the sturdy jar until next time. 

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Animals Of The World 40 Piece Floor Jigsaw Puzzle - £10 | John Lewis (opens in new tab)

A popular present and bestselling jigsaw, this puzzle is a fun way for kids to start to get to grips with the world map.

Jigsaws in general are great for developing hand-eye coordination and problem-solving logic in children and parents will love this puzzle too as it's educational as well as fun.

This map puzzle will have additional appeal because it includes a border of different animals, so your little one can piece together (pun intended!) where in the world the different species live. 

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Barbie Cutie Reveal Doll with Unicorn Plush Costume - £32.99 | Smyths (opens in new tab)

Barbie has been a toy-box staple, seemingly forever, and with the addition of the unicorn, this is bound to be a hit.

This particular Barbie comes with 2 outfits, accessories, and a mini pet - which arrive in 'surprise' bags, adding to the thrill of unboxing. And if that isn't enough 'reveals', cold water applied with the included sponge-comb activates face paint details on Barbie's face and makes the mini pet unicorns' eyes open.

Dressing up dolls is a great activity for developing fine-motor skills, as well as the unlimited imaginative social play this Barbie will encourage. A good choice for a 4 year olds' play.

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Learning Resources Mathlink Cubes Numberblocks 1-10 Activity Set - £19.99 | WHSmith (opens in new tab)

You can count on these Numberblocks to bring fun to numeracy!

With all the Numberblock characters from the hit CBeebies show, character cards, and write-and-wipe activity cards with loads of activities to try included, this set will help your child build their essential early maths skills in an exciting way. 

The blocks themselves easily click together and then twist apart, so are great for little hands too. The perfect addition (!) to your 4 year olds' toy collection. 

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Mega Bloks Paw Patrol Paw Patroller Construction Set -  £52.99 | The Entertainer (opens in new tab)

This clever construction set is a 2-in-1 winner, as it enables your little builder to create both the Paw Patrol Headquarters and the Paw Patroller vehicle.

With 76 bricks and poseable Chase, Rocky, Marshall, and Everest characters this set has everything needed for the ultimate pup play experience. 

The Paw Patroller vehicle can be built with room for 3 pups in the cab, while Everest's snowmobile can fit in the back of the truck. When the mission is complete, the Paw Patroller can be re-built as the pups' headquarters with each pup then having their own vehicle to ride.  

It doesn't take long to build either the vehicle or the lookout tower with the easy-to-follow instructions, which will enhance your little one's independence and help build their confidence as they build their own fun toys.

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SGILE Large Magnetic Drawing Board - £16.99 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

This brightly coloured Magnetic Drawing Board has a drawing area that is slightly larger than A4 paper and hides blocks of colour underneath its surface for unique and interesting doodles.

The drawing board also includes 4 geometric shapes - the circle, square, triangle, and hexagon - which have magnetic pockets in which they can be stored. The letters of the alphabet are printed alongside the doodle space for reference and this has an added carry handle, which makes this toy easy for a 4 year old to carry to their preferred drawing spot.

For mess-free drawing without wasting paper, this is the ideal way for 4 year old hands to improve their pencil grip and let their imagination run wild as they explore what they can draw. 

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Vet Playset - £39.95 | JoJo Maman Bebe (opens in new tab)

This adorable Vet Playset provides everything your 4 year old could possibly need to ensure that all the creatures in the house are healthy and well cared for. 

The beautifully made 15 piece set includes the pet carrier, a fluffy dog and cute cat to look after, reversible pet x-rays, a comb, cone collar, water bowl, pet treats, stethoscope, thermometer, syringe, medicine and velcro bandages for the ultimate home-vet play set-up.

A set which will inspire your little persons' nurturing side.

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Learning Resources Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Playset - £27 | John Lewis (opens in new tab)

It's a challenge to be within reach of a toy drill and not pick it up and give the button a press, so this Bolt Buddies Playset is bound to be a hit with any 4 year old. 

The brightly coloured rocket can be assembled and taken-apart repeatedly, and includes an Astronaut - with changeable expressions - and Space Buddy Dog co-pilot.

As a clever twist, the packaging turns inside out to become a launchpad for the rocket and the drill also has a clear window, so the cogs can be seen turning when the drill is in operation. The Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Playset is a very well-thought-through STEM toy that any 4 year old is bound to enjoy. 

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Melissa & Doug Naturalist Vest Play Set - £19.99 | Very (opens in new tab)

Combining dressing up and exploring, this Naturalist Vest Play Set is bound to inspire a love of the outdoors.

The vest, which is sized to fit kids from 3-6 years, has pockets and holders to contain the entirety of the set when your little one is out exploring. 

As well as the mini trowel, brush, and magnifying glass, the included tweezers can be used to collect samples - which can be identified using the compartment labels - and add them to the specimen box. There is also a clipboard, with a pencil, leaf collection envelope, and activity cards to encourage your little explorer to search for rocks, seeds, plants, and insects.

With all Melissa & Doug toys, you can guarantee that your little one is having fun with a highly educational and well-made toy. And best of all, the vest is machine washable, so you won't need to worry about having mud traipsed into your house when the exploring is complete!

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LEGO 10696 Classic Medium Creative Brick Box - £18.75 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

You can't go wrong with a box of LEGO as a toy like this is a true classic that will get played with again and again. 

LEGO develops skills in construction and engineering as well as encourages creative and imaginative play. It's great for fine motor skills too. A timeless toy that just doesn’t seem to age, LEGO is an educational toy that has been inspiring children for generations. 

This set is a step up from Duplo, which they may have been used to playing with, but a great starter kit with limitless possibilities for what to build. And of course, the box itself will keep the pieces contained in between building sessions.

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BRIO World – 33204 Parking Garage - £46.95 | Amazon (opens in new tab)

This BRIO Parking Garage is an excellent way to expand your BRIO collection and encourage your 4 year old to play with their existing train set in a new way. 

The Garage itself is neat and compact, whilst still being perfect for 4 year old hands to play with. It, as with all BRIO, seamlessly fits onto any wooden tracks and can quickly become the centre of any play town.

With 3 levels, a lift and included cars and wagons the Parking Garage has plenty to entertain, but we especially liked the spring-loaded trap door, which loads cars onto the car transporter from the middle level of the garage when the lever is depressed. And, of course, no garage would be complete without the obligatory ramp so cars can zoom from the top of the garage at high speed.

What games do 4-year-olds like to play?

At this age, children should be getting more to grips with following instructions. They will also be continuing to learn to share toys and take turns. Don't worry, it's natural for this to take some time! Four year olds love to play games with others. However, you may need to continue to encourage the concept of sharing and 'playing nicely'.

Games and toys for four years olds start to become more advanced than the sensory toys they may have played with when they were younger. You may notice that the imaginary games they play are more elaborate, too.

Child development expert and psychologist Dr. Amanda Gummer explained that buying toys for four year olds and playing games that encourage turn taking and communication, as well as playing with other children, can have a beneficial impact on their development and success in school later down the line:

‘A strong predictor of exam grades at the end of secondary is the social development of children as they start school. Focusing on playing games that encourage sharing and turn taking, as well as developing communication skills, are all great ways of helping your child prepare for the start of school.

‘Simple board games and toys that increase children’s confidence with numbers and letters are also helpful.’

By the age of four, you will also find your child is showing preferences to the types of games they like to play. So let them use their new found communication skills to tell you and show you what these are.

'Allow children to make their own minds up whether they like dolls or drawing, cars or castanets,' Heather advises.

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Heidi Scrimgeour
Consumer Editor

As a parenting specialist, Heidi has written for Prima Baby, Gurgle and Practical Parenting and was baby gear editor of Mother & Baby magazine for six years, looking after regular consumer features for the shopping pages as well as specialist consumer content such as buying guides and gift guides.