The 10 Best Gifts For 4-Year-Old Boys
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in June of 2015. If you're looking for the perfect gift for the 4-year-old boy in your life, you'll want to pick something that encourages learning and development while also providing enough fun to keep him entertained (and quiet) for hours. The selections on this list do everything from promoting STEM and problem-solving skills to teaching balance and hand-eye coordination, all in an enjoyable manner. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
March 02, 2021:
When we make these lists, we try and focus on toys that will engage and excite a child, but also ones that offer longevity rather than being part of a passing fad so kids won't lose interest in them quickly. And, the fact that we were able to keep so many of our previous recommendations is a testament to the fact that we were successful in that latter priority. That being said, there were a few changes that are worth mentioning.
During this update we decided to replace the Homofy set we recommended last time with the Homofy Race Track. This latter kit contains significantly more building pieces, more dinosaurs, and more cars, but barely costs any more, so it was a no brainer. The addition of these extra items makes it more suitable for multi-child play, and also means that there is less chance of your son getting bored of it.
We also eliminated the Kidwinz Binoculars as they have a hard time keeping a child's attention, which could be partly due to their image being a little grainy, though we suspect they just aren't exciting enough. Well, that certainly isn't the case with the Waliki Hopper Ball, which we added as their replacement. Not only is it fun and exhilarating, it will help children stay healthy and burn up all that extra energy they have, so they may just be a little more acquiescent when bed time rolls around.
November 19, 2019:
Four is an exciting age, where young boys are learning independence and developing spatial, critical thinking, and fine and gross motor skills, as well as balance. This makes it a great time to encourage physical activities that allow them to get out into the sunshine (just don't forget the sunscreen), as well as toys that challenge them mentally with puzzles and problem-solving. We wanted this list to showcase items that did all that and more, and we prioritized ones that use durable, quality materials, have excellent play value, are safe, boast child-friendly ergonomics, and can grow with youngsters for a while.
During this round of updates, we said goodbye to the Kidkraft Fire Station, as we noticed complaints regarding its quality cropping up too consistently to justify keeping it around. We also scrapped the Matchbox Jurassic World set. While we love Matchbox cars and appreciate their longevity, this particular set doesn't guarantee which designs you'll receive, which heightens the chance that a child with a large collection might receive a duplicate car. We also felt that playbaility was limited. We wanted to use this vacancy to satisfy boys who love cars and dinosaurs with something a bit more versatile with higher play value, and so we added the Homofy Create A Road in its stead.
We also replaced the discontinued VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch with the VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX, which has all the same features parents loved from the former. Another toy that had a newer iteration available was the Fisher-Price Triple Hit, which we swapped for the Fisher-Price Grow to Pro. Both models have the same capabilities, with the Grow to Pro having streamlined some issues. That being said, it's not a toy that will last for years and years, but considering the low price point, we think that's an acceptable trade-off.
We'd like to point out that the Kidwinz Binoculars come with a generous two-foot strap, however, it is not a breakaway strap. If this concerns you or you have children younger than three in the home that could access it, consider swapping it out for a safety strap or removing it altogether. As always, any young child should be supervised during playtime and playthings must be regularly inspected to ensure they're in the best shape possible.
Schoenhut Elite Baby Grand Piano Perfect for budding musicians, the 37-key Elite Baby Grand Piano from Schoenhut boasts elegantly curved legs, three octaves, and a keyboard that is almost half the size of an adult piano. The keys are just the right width to promote proper finger placement, while the unique, chime-like tones they make will have little ones mesmerized. Its durable patented construction will last for years, and it exceeds the safety standards implemented in the United States and Europe, including EN17, ASTM, and CPSIA. schoenhut.com
Pottery Barn Personalized Woodwork Bench This classic woodwork bench is crafted from plywood, MDF, and pinewood that features a sleek metal backsplash and two fixed shelves. Only simple assembly is required, and the set comes with a drawstring bag made of polyester cotton and play tools, which includes a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, saw, screws and gears. Materials are BPA, lead, and phthalate-free. It can be personalized with a name or initials for an extra-special touch. potterybarnkids.com
Choosing The Perfect Gift
What makes a good toy is some integration of your child's body, mind, and spirit into the engagement.
My best friend from childhood just had a baby, and I was talking to him the other day about how much stuff you accumulate in the blink of an eye when you have kids.
There are the necessities, to be sure, but people in your life seem terribly eager to dump bags and boxes of stuff on your doorstep that their own children abandoned long ago.
Among these sometimes very useful, sometimes very strange hand-me-downs, he told me that the ones he likes the least are the big, plastic noise and light machines that don't appear to serve any purpose beyond distracting your child from the world long enough to get you a few moment's respite from the grind.
That's not what makes a good toy. What makes a good toy is some integration of your child's body, mind, and spirit into the engagement. A really good toy can hit all three.
Now, before I get sued, let me say that by spirit I mean his mental health and his sense of peace and of wonder, not anything specifically religious. You might argue that those experiences would fall under mind, but I like to separate the conventionally educational from the spiritual when I'm evaluating toys, just to make sure I cover all the bases.
When shopping for the perfect gift, it can be helpful to consider how it balances out those three aforementioned traits.
For example, toys that promote physical play are great for giving your young one a cardiovascular workout, as well as help build macro-level spatial awareness and coordination. Items like trampolines, bikes, and pogo sticks are all perfect for getting your youngster on his feet and out into the sunshine, all the while facilitating a sense of wonder from the feeling of movement beyond the normal bounds of the human body. These are great examples of toys with a balance toward physical health.
Then, selections such as building sets that use blocks, magnets, and interlocking pieces are a little headier. They engage the mind first, teaching your boy about micro-level spatial relationships, gravity, and magnetism. On a spiritual level, they offer the feeling of accomplishment at having created an original work of architectural art, and physically they train the hands at nuanced movement and delicacy.
Finally, we get to items that require a level of fantasy, like play kitchens, stuffed animals, or toy cars. These probably have the least to offer in the physical health department, but on a mental and spiritual level they can be a powerhouse in that they activate the imagination and get creative juices flowing. These types of toys are perfect for bringing out the storyteller in your child, and the world he creates can be as big and bold as he wants.
Way Too Many Toys
Even as a boy, I sometimes wondered whether it was a bad thing to have too many toys. From about the age of ten, I started asking for fewer, though admittedly more expensive, things for holidays and my birthday.
There certainly are very well-articulated arguments against inundating your children with unregulated foreign plastics.
And now, after discussing above the ways in which you can evaluate a toy's impact on your child, it seems like it might be a good idea to focus on quality over quantity.
A toy that focuses on spatial relationships on a small scale, like a building set, would be ideal.
When shopping for toys, you should ask yourself what aspects of your child you'd like to work on with him the most. By four years of age, you should be getting a pretty clear idea of how his personality is developing, but it's also plenty early to steer him in another direction, if need be.
Say, for example, that your kid's been packing on some of those post-baby-fat pounds. Maybe he's been spending too much time at his friend's house where the parents let the kids eat exorbitant amounts of ice cream. Well, then, you'll want to grab a toy that hits that physical base first.
Perhaps the boy's in good shape, but he's a bit of a klutz. A toy that focuses on spatial relationships on a small scale, like a building set, would be ideal.
Maybe he's a scowler. My sister was a scowler, angry in every picture. She laughed about as often as I slept (I didn't sleep very much as a baby). You could get your boy — as we should have gotten my sister —a set that could ignite his imagination and invite him into a world of characters and exploration.
You know what? Forget all that. Just get him an iPad.
Toys Before Toys Were Toys
As long as there have been children, there has been play. Hindu mythology and the eastern religions that sprung forth therefrom believe that play is the very nature of the universe, its reason for existence.
Today, people of older generations look at children's toys with a complicated sense of wonder, envy, and disdain.
They had spinning tops, inflated animal bladders sealed with mud, and the knucklebones of certain animals, which were thrown like dice.
Sure, there are some toys I see on the market today that would have been fun when I was a kid, but I also went outside and played in the woods and in the street. I'm surprised when children can tell the difference between a tree and a river without using Google.
It's a newer phenomenon that each generation sees a total evolution in the toy market, even though toys have been around for so long.
At least as far back as ancient Egyptian times, children played with dolls woven from straw, cloth, leather, and other goods. They had spinning tops, inflated animal bladders sealed with mud, and the knucklebones of certain animals, which were thrown like dice.
From then, up until very recently, that was about it. Kids worked on farms and played with a few simple toys, the origins of which stretched back millennia.
It wasn't until the Industrial Revolution that toys began to be produced on more massive scales, and the industry that grew up around it has only gotten stronger, and perhaps stranger, since those days.
With advancements in virtual and augmented realities, video gaming, and portable, even wearable technology, it won't be long before the kids and their toys are one and the same.