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The best toys for 4-year-olds as recommended by parents

From train sets to tech, stickers to play kitchens, here’s our guide to the best toys for 4-year-olds to inspire, entertain and educate. If you're shopping for a four-year-old, we've got you covered.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Jan 18, 2024

By the age of four, children enjoy using their imagination and expressing themselves creatively through role play, crafting and small-world toys. They love building with LEGO and have more patience and dexterity for more complex puzzles as well as arts and crafts activities. Learning as they go, four-year-olds need toys that keep their attention, challenge them and teach them key skills in a fun and engaging way.

We searched for recommendations on the Mumsnet forums to see what parents – let’s face it, the real experts - rated as the best toys for four-year-olds. Once we had a list of products, we consulted other trusted expert review sites as well as bestseller lists to help us whittle it down and make sure we were recommending toys that were high quality, good value for money and, of course, fun to play with for children with a variety of interests.

Whether you're looking for the best Christmas presents, birthday gifts or just a refresh of the toy cupboard, here are 15 of the best toys for 4-year-olds.

Looking for more toy recommendations? Why not check out our other age-related guides on the best toys for five-year-olds, six-year-olds and seven-year-olds? We've got round-ups of the best kids’ tablets and best board games for older children too.

1
VTech Kidizoom Duo 5.0 Camera
What we like
  • Combines fun with educational value

  • Comes with games to play on the go

  • Robust rubber shell

What we don't like
  • Picture quality could be better

  • Users recommend getting a memory to store the photos on

Key specs

Price on writing: £40 | Age: 3-9 years | Educational objectives: Creative expression and hand-eye coordination | Size: 4 x 11.4 x 8.5cm | | Batteries required: Yes - 4xAA batteries

What Mumsnet users say
WithMyEncyclopedia · Tried & Tested
VTech kids’ camera is a great idea. My eldest had one when he turned four and I might get my youngest one too.
See Post
Our verdict

The VTech Kidizoom Duo 5.0 offers the perfect balance of creativity and play. With a five-megapixel lens, flash, and front- and rear-facing cameras, your budding photographer will have lots of fun snapping photos, videos and selfies, all with easy-to-use controls. It's no surprise the Kidizoom also tops our guide to the best kids' camera.

What makes this camera stand out from others on the market is that it’s a toy as well as a camera, with plenty of games to up the entertainment factor. When they run out of space, the USB cable can connect the camera to a laptop for easy storage.

Related: The best remote control cars for kids, tried and tested by Mumsnetters

Related: Are you on the lookout for a new tablet for you or your kids? We recently reviewed the popular Samsung Galaxy A8 Tab to see how it fared.

2
Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Book

Best budget toy for 4-year-olds

What we like
  • More than 165 re-usable stickers

  • Five different backgrounds

  • Great for encouraging hands-on play and creativity

What we don't like
  • The book is large, so it may be too big for travel

  • Some users found the stickers didn’t stay on the page

Key specs

Price on writing: From £6 | Age: 3-12 years | Educational objectives: Creative expression and fine motor skills | Size: 35.6 x 27.94 x 2.54cm | Batteries required: No

What Mumsnet users say
mummysharkk · Tried & Tested
Melissa & Doug sticker activity sets. Choose a theme from about seven different types and there are different backgrounds and 200 or so stickers - all reusable. Got mine one for holiday as all kids that age seem to love stickers. Plus it's a ‘sit still’ activity
See Post
Our verdict

Children love stickers, and with the ever-increasing popularity of sticker books, there are plenty of options to choose from. Typically, once stickers are stuck to the page, there’s little chance of removing them without ripping the scene behind, which means they'll need to be thrown away once all the activities have been completed. However, with the Melissa & Doug Reuseable Sticker Pad, your child can enjoy the stickers again and again.

Melissa & Doug's sticker pads - which are around A3 size with more than 165 stickers - have plenty of themes including animals, dinosaurs, fairies and vehicles. A Mumsnetter-trusted brand and the creator of award-winning toys, Melissa & Doug's sticker pads are the perfect toy for encouraging creative play and developing fine motor skills.

Read next: Looking for ways to boost learning from home? Don't miss our guide to the best online tutoring for kids.

3
LEGO Classic Large Creative Box
What we like
  • Includes ideas for builds

  • Promotes creativity

  • Comes in a storage box

What we don't like
  • Box doesn’t link with other LEGO storage boxes

  • No large baseplate for building on

Key specs

Price on writing: £33 | Age: 4 years+ | Educational objectives: Creative and imaginative play, and fine motor skills | Size: 18 x 26.2 x 37cm | Batteries required: No

What Mumsnet users say
Equimum · Tried & Tested
Definitely stick to a Lego Classic and the 4+ range for a 4 year old.
See Post
Our verdict

If your child is ready to move on from DUPLO, the LEGO Classic Large Creative Box is an excellent choice to start their LEGO collection. Designed to inspire creativity and set them on the path to creating their own masterpieces, this set promises a lot of fun for years to come.

There are 790 pieces, including bricks in 33 different colours, windows, frames, eyes, tyres and wheel rims. LEGO has also added two different size baseplates, although some reviewers noted these were a little small, so we'd recommend purchasing an additional larger baseplate.

LEGO play has lots of benefits, including boosting social and communication skills, encouraging creativity through self-assembly and problem-solving, and aiding physical development.

Read next: Discover the latest must-reads with our guide to the best books for 8-year-olds.

4
Shopping List Game, Orchard Toys
What we like
  • Highly recommended by Mumsnetters

  • Helps children learn about food

  • Encourages matching and memory skills

  • Game can be adapted for younger players

What we don't like
  • Lots of pieces to the game, which could easily get lost

  • Some users think the game is too simple

Key specs

Price on writing: £7 | Age: 3 -7 years | Educational objectives: Matching and memory | Size: ‎19 x 5 x 14cm | Batteries required: No

What Mumsnet users say
FairyPenguin · Recommended
Shopping List was favourite by far here. Even though they’re much older now, that’s the only Orchard Game they won’t let me give to charity!
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Our verdict

When it comes to educational play, you can’t go wrong with Orchard Toys. Their Shopping List Game is both highly rated by Mumsnet parents, and tested and approved by teachers.

The game can be played in two ways: turn the cards over and play a memory game to find all the items on your list or, for younger children, turn the cards face up and play a matching game.

Shopping List is a great learning tool, promoting matching, memory, language and recognition skills.

Read next: Discover the best games console according to Mumsnet users.

5
TP Muddy Madness Mud Kitchen

Best outdoor toy for 4-year-olds

What we like
  • Great size - big enough for siblings to share

  • Made from high-quality sustainable wood with great durability

  • Includes stainless steel pots and pans

  • Encourages kids to get outside in the fresh air

What we don't like
  • Requires assembly

  • Can get a little messy (but outside)

Key specs

Price on writing: £170 | Age: 3 years+ | Educational objectives: Role play, imagination and creativity | Size: 96 x 96 x 40cm | Batteries required: No

What Mumsnet users say
debbiewest0 · Tried & Tested
We have the TP Muddy Madness one. It has an oven, a hob, a mini water butt and a sink. [Tricky] to build but looks great and my daughter loves it. Very sturdy.
See Post
Our verdict

The TP Muddy Madness Mud Kitchen is an ideal outdoor toy that's not only big enough for siblings to share, but encourages creativity and role play, whether that’s preparing food on the removable countertop or washing up the included stainless steel pots and pans.

With a working tap, two large chalkboards, an authentic style four-ring hob and plenty of cupboard space, this FSC-certified wood mud kitchen is easy to assemble and built to last, making it one of the best wooden toys for four year olds who love their outdoor play.

Read next: The best mud kitchens for messy play and the best kids' headphones to save your ears and protect theirs.

6
Schleich Dino Transport Mission
What we like
  • Detailed, painted dinosaurs

  • 13-piece set

  • Lots more figures and sets to choose from in the Schleich dino range

What we don't like
  • Pricey

  • Only includes one dinosaur

Key specs

Price on writing: £38 | Age: 3+ | Educational objectives: Imaginative play, storytelling and social skills | Size: 39.62 x 39.62 x 34.54 cm | Batteries required: No

What Mumsnet users say
Twilightstarbright · Recommended
DS loves schleich animals and dinosaurs.
See Post
Our verdict

There are plenty of dinosaur toys on the market but Schleich comes highly recommended by Mumsnet users. Good quality, detailed and sturdy, Schleich’s dinosaur range is one of their most popular, and the Dino Transport Mission Playset makes a great addition to any collection.

While it does only include one dinosaur, we selected it because it's a lot cheaper than some of Schleich's other dinosaur playsets, so if you're not quite ready to splash out on the 33-piece Large Dino Research Station, this is a great starter set.

Related: Keep little hands busy with our selection of the best fidget toys according to Mumsnetters.

7
Hot Wheels City Ultimate Garage Playset

Best car toy for 4-year-olds - now 50% off

What we like
  • Space for over 90 cars

  • Comes with two cars

  • Connects to other sets

What we don't like
  • Pricey

  • It’s big, so not easy to store away

  • Some users found the launcher broke easily

Key specs

Price on writing: £65 (currently half-price in Black Friday sale | Age: 5-8 years (still suitable for four-year-olds) | Educational objectives: Imaginative play, language, communication and fine motor skills | Size: 43.8 x 76.2 x 63.5cm | Batteries required: No

What Mumsnet users say
Sceptre86 · Recommended
My son loves his and we have many different hot wheels toys. The ultimate garage is his favourite. He was 3 when he first got into it and is now 5.
See Post
Our verdict

If your child has a box teeming with cars, they’ll have hours of fun parking them up in the Hot Wheels City Ultimate Garage Playset.

The set comes with two cars which your child can race down the side-by-side track before launching them through the air. This garage is more expensive than other toy car sets, but the great thing about Hot Wheels is that you can connect additional sets to inspire even bigger adventures later down the line, making this one of the best toy car sets in terms of versatility.

Read next: Discover the best kids' smartwatch and top phone for kids according to Mumnset users.

8
Melissa & Doug Butterfly Friends Bead Set

Best creative toy for 4-year-olds - now 50% off

What we like
  • Promotes hand-eye coordination

  • Durable

What we don't like
  • The box doesn’t have a lid, so beads can easily get lost

  • Comes with five cords, so you may need to use your own to make more jewellery

Key specs

Price on writing: £6 | Age: 3-18 years | Educational objectives: Creative, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills | Size: 24.77 x 17.65 x 2.54cm | Batteries required: No

What Mumsnet users say
kitkatsky · Tried & Tested
I loved Melissa and Doug beads for DD- made of wood and so pretty! Different to Hama beads but environmentally more sustainable and long lasting. Also less likely to be hoovered up
See Post
Our verdict

If your four-year-old is jewellery-obsessed and has already begun raiding your personal collection, why not invest in this colourful, plastic-free bead set by Melissa & Doug?

Ideal for fashion lovers and crafty children, the set encourages children to use their creative skills to design their own necklaces using the 220 colourful wooden beads and butterflies. They get to practice their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as they feed the beads onto the five coloured cords that are included.

Read next: Discover the best Nintendo Switch games for kids according to Mumsnetters in the know.

9
Nickelodeon PAW Patrol My Busy Book

Best travel toy for 4-year-olds

What we like
  • Book and toy in one

  • Pieces stash away in the box for travel

  • Range of themes to choose from

What we don't like
  • In this particular set, the inclusion of vehicles has confused some children as the characters don’t fit inside

Key specs

Price on writing: £7 | Age: 3+ | Educational objectives: Literacy, role play and creativity  | Size: 20.4 x 4.3 x 25.4cm | Batteries required: No

What Mumsnet users say
nocutsnobuttsnococonuts · Tried & Tested
At that age, mine loved My Busy Book, which is a book with a play mat and 10 little figures. They definitely do Paw Patrol and loads of other characters.
See Post
Our verdict

The ideal combination of a book and playset, My Busy Book is an affordable travel toy that comes in a range of themes from Paw Patrol to Toy Story. Each board book comes with a section at the back containing a durable play mat and 10 play pieces, allowing children to use their imagination for storytelling and role play.

While the inclusion of four vehicles included in this particular set has led to some confusion amongst reviewers (the pups don’t fit inside), they found the pieces to be durable and hard-wearing, and say that the set keep kids entertained for ages - making them a fun companion for train journeys or flights with a little one in tow. Certainly one to add to your stock of the best travel games if you're going on holiday with a four-year-old in tow.

Read next: Discover the best online learning resources.

10
Thomas & Friends Motorized Toy Train Set

Best train set toy for 4-year-olds - 40% off now

What we like
  • Comes with a fun tipping bridge

  • Compatible with any Thomas & Friends track

What we don't like
  • Younger children may need supervision when building the track

Key specs

Price on writing: £22 | Age: 3 years+ | Educational objectives: Imaginative play, storytelling, communication and fine motor skills | Size: ‎50.1 x 86.7 x 24.6 cm | Batteries required: Yes 2 x AAA

What Mumsnet users say
Aimee1987 · Recommended
My son had a Thomas the Tank Engine train set.
See Post
Our verdict

At under £30, this is an excellent train set featuring everyone's favourite Tank Engine, Thomas! Thomas fans will love re-creating the fun from the Mystery of Lookout Mountain episode.

The set comes with 8 feet of track which can be used with any Thomas & Friends train set toy, but the real crowd-pleaser with this particular set is the awesome tipping bridge, which little ones will love sending Thomas over or under with the track switch.

Read next: Find more toy inspiration with our guide to the best robot toys and top-rated STEM toys.

11
Yoto Player and Starter Pack Bundle

Best musical toy for 4-year-olds

What we like
  • Bundle includes a starter pack of cards

  • Blank cards included

  • Nightlight

  • Bluetooth technology

What we don't like
  • Expensive

  • Need to pay out for cards to provide content

Key specs

Price on writing: £110 | Age: All ages | Educational objectives: Listening, language and communication skills | Size: 10.5 x 11 x 11cm | Batteries required: No (rechargeable)

What Mumsnet users say
Twilightstarbright · Tried & Tested
Yoto player is always my suggestion for age 4/5.
See Post
Our verdict

Designed for kids, the Yoto Player is easy to use: pop in an audio card to play and remove to stop. Parents can have additional control via the free app.  With this bundle, you don't have to purchase the cards separately. Instead, you'll already have access to My First 100 Words, The Story Shed Podcast, Crackling Fire Soundscape, Robin Hood: A Musical Adventure, Hotel Flamingo Story, Songs from the Playground and a pack of blank cards to make your own.

The large dials make it easy for children to change the volume or skip content and it has a pixel display showing fun graphics corresponding to the content. The Yoto Player can also be used as a Bluetooth speaker through your phone - and has a nightlight function when it’s time for bed.

Read next: Our review of the Yoto Player 

12
Melissa & Doug Astronaut Costume

Best role-play toy for 4-year-olds

What we like
  • Plenty of room to grow

  • Machine-washable

  • Encourages pretend play which is great for development

What we don't like
  • One size fits all, so won't be a perfect fit

Key specs

Price on writing: £28 | Age: 3-6 years | Educational objectives: Role play and imaginative play, communication, language and social skills | Size: 76.7 x 45.5 x 5.6cm | Batteries required: No

What Mumsnet users say
3littlewords · Recommended
My DS loved dressing up at this age we had multiple costume changes a day.
See Post
Our verdict

Role play is great for children as it can help build confidence, creativity, communication and problem-solving skills, and help them learn about the world. Dressing up, in particular, allows children to run wild with their imaginations and embrace pretend play. Add this Melissa & Doug's Astronaut Costume to the dressing-up box and your child will be blasting off via their cardboard rocket for hours of space-based fun.

Read next: Need more inspiration for older kids? We've got you covered with our guides to the best toys for 8-year-olds, best toys for 9-year-olds and top toys for 10-year-olds.

13
Strider 12 Balance Bike
What we like
  • Lightweight frame

  • Easy to assemble

  • Sturdy

What we don't like
  • Costs extra for the conversion kit and balance base

Key specs

Price on writing: From £65 | Age: 3+ | Educational objectives: Physical movement and gross motor skills | Size: Handlebar height 46-56cm; seat height 28-48cm | Batteries required: No

What Mumsnet users say
CorneliusBeefington · Tried & Tested
Strider balance bike with pedal conversion kit. Starts as a balance bike to let them get the weight and balance and then put the pedals on and away they go.
See Post
Our verdict

Whether it’s time to move on from a balance bike or you’re buying your child their first set of wheels, the Strider 12 Sport is a great intermediary between the two.

Designed with toddlers in mind, this balance bike has a lightweight, durable frame with adjustable seats and handlebars. That's not all that’s adjustable though. It’s possible to take this from balance to pedal bike using the Easy-Ride Pedal Conversion Kit saving you the cost of forking out for an entirely new bike.

Read our full review of the Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike 

14
VTech Marble Rush Adventure Set

Best STEM toy for 4-year-olds - now 28% off

What we like
  • 128-piece marble run

  • Compatible with other VTech Marble Rush sets

  • Durable and strong, so it doesn’t topple easily

What we don't like
  • Pricey

  • Only comes with 10 marbles

Key specs

Price on writing: £43 | Age: 4 years+ | | Educational objectives: STEM, communication, language and fine motor skills | Size: 71 x 72 x 31.8cm | Batteries required: Yes - 5 x AA

What Mumsnet users say
FlatToppedTree · Tried & Tested
The VTech Marble [Rush] because [my son] loves construction and marbles so a perfect combo.
See Post
Our verdict

The VTech Marble Rush Ultimate Set is more than just a marble run - it’s a marble adventure. This set features 128 pieces that don’t just roll the marbles but send them flying down ramps, swirling round funnels and spinning around an exciting electronic Ferris wheel. The accompanying music and sound effects make it all the more fun, although you'll only find 10 marbles in the set.

Read next: The best dolls for kids of all ages

15
Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Rising Cake Oven Playset
What we like
  • Lots of accessories included

  • Easy to use

What we don't like
  • Requires batteries

  • Tricky to assemble

Key specs

Price on writing: £14 | Age: 3 years+ | Educational objectives: Creative and imaginative play, communication and fine motor skills | Size: 6.68 x 38.1 x 33.02cm | Batteries required: 1 x A battery

What Mumsnet users say
LakeShoreD · Recommended
It is great for creativity, developing fine motor skills and it’s not massively messy compared to say painting. I love it! My 4-year-old has a few of the Play Doh creations cooking sets and will play with it unsupervised for like an hour.
See Post
Our verdict

Play-Doh is the toy of choice for children everywhere. Tactile, versatile and jam-packed with possibilities, it’s the ultimate creative toy that inspires children to create all kinds of creations while developing their fine motor skills.  So if your child is a budding Great British baker, this Play-Doh kitchen oven will help them to create all manner of decadent cakes.

To get cooking, all your child needs to do is pop their cake tin filled with Play-Doh cake inside, press the handle and watch the cake rise through the oven door. When the bell rings, it's done!

Related: Discover the best coding toys for educational fun.

Read next: Looking to boost your child's learning and keep them entertained at the same time? Read our review of the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids tablet.

How do I choose the best toy for a 4-year-old?

Development

When looking for a toy for your four-year-old, you may want to look for toys that spark their imagination, encourage creativity, aid their cognitive and physical development  – such as practising their pincer grip for holding a pen – and help them to practice their numbers and letters.

Age range

Always check that the toy is age-appropriate for safety. While buying an older toy can be tempting, they may need help to play with it independently. The ideal toy would engage and entertain your child while aiding their development.

Interests

By now, your child probably knows what they like. Are they PAW Patrol mad, or do they love Thomas the Tank Engine? Maybe they love puzzles or dressing up. Look for toys they are interested in while also ensuring longevity so that they won’t grow out of it in six months' time. Otherwise, it’s likely to sit around gathering dust.

Materials

Plastic toys tend to be robust for withstanding rough, excitable play. For non-plastic options, many wooden alternatives are well-made and look lovely in your home too.

Read next: See if these Mumsnet-favourite family board games lived up to the hype with our reviews of Dobble and Carcassonne.

How can I choose toys safely for my four-year-old?

As children grow out of the toddler stage, they can play with more and more toys. Giving your child new types of toys for the first time can be nerve-wracking, especially if they contain small parts. Here's what to look out for to provide you with peace of mind and keep your little one safe:

  • The CE symbol shows that the toy meets all regulatory requirements.

  • The British Toy and Hobby Association's 'Lion Mark' means the toy meets the organisation's safety standards.

  • Always check the age suitability of a toy.

  • Check your child's toys regularly for signs of wear - if you see any sharp edges or worn-down parts, consider repairing or replacing them.

Top tips for buying toys for 4-year-olds

  • Expensive doesn't always mean high-quality. Budget dupes can work just as well and sometimes better than the original. Read reviews to compare.

  • Think planet-saving. With so many children's toys made of plastic, are there alternatives that might be more eco-friendly?

  • Consider gifts that involve quality time for a child that has everything or certainly has enough.

  • They may be four years old, but developmentally are there any areas where they might need support? Think about gifting a toy that'll help them to gain that skill.

  • Buy books! Reading with your child can significantly improve their educational performance, support bond-building, and enhance their communication and language skills.

  • Buy secondhand. With budgets so tight, there are plenty of toys out there that are just like new!

Which toy would be most appropriate for a 4-year-old child?

We've done our research and made every effort to ensure all the toys listed in our guide are safe and appropriate for four-year-olds to play with. The best toys for 4-year-olds should encourage problem solving, boost creativity and enhance developing skills such as gross and fine motor, language and role play.

Read next: Amazon Fire 7 Kids vs Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids: Which is the best kids' tablet?

What toys can a 4-year-old play with?

It depends on the four-year-old in question - some will love nothing better than getting creative with Play-Doh or beads, others will prefer more STEM-orientated toys such as marble runs or LEGO. Outdoor toys are also a great option - particularly for summer birthdays - and four is a prime age for buying their first bike.

What is the best thing to buy a 4 year old?

The VTech Kidizoom Duo 5.0 Camera is a great all-round toy for four-year-olds. With all the usual features of a camera, children can snap photos and videos and use their creative skills to edit their creations, adding fun borders and effects. The camera also features learning games to keep them entertained.

About the author

Mum-of-two Gemma Wilcock has over 15 years of experience writing for print and online publications covering issues surrounding parenting, health and lifestyle, as well as researching and writing in-depth product reviews for Mumsnet.

How we chose our recommendations

Our product recommendations are all chosen based on reviews from Mumsnet parents as well as reviews from trusted publication and bestseller lists. During our research, each toy was rated for its quality, safety, value for money, extra features and materials to ensure it performed well across the board.

Mumsnetter recommendations

All Swear By articles take shape using the recommendations made by real parents on the Mumsnet forums. In particular, we looked for toys with multiple positive mentions or singular rave reviews in search of the ones rated by parents and loved by their kids.

Expert opinions

Next, we cross-referenced our longlist using the opinions of industry experts. Any that had won awards appeared on multiple print media lists or had excellent safety ratings based on product comparison websites were shortlisted.

Verified customer reviews

Finally, we analysed and weighed up the responses made by verified customers on retailers' pages. We were looking to exclude any that had serious safety concerns or repeated issues.

Celebrated toys

Ultimately we were left with our list of the top 15 best toys for four-year-olds that are loved by children, praised by parents and approved by experts.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.