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15 best Christmas gifts and toys for 4-year-olds that will capture young imaginations

Inspire their curious minds with one of these tried and tested Christmas gift ideas

Sarah Dawson
Tuesday 15 August 2023 16:28 BST
<p>From wooden toys to clothing and acessories, kids won’t be bored of these by Boxing Day  </p>

From wooden toys to clothing and acessories, kids won’t be bored of these by Boxing Day

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Being four is fun! Boundless energy, a magic imagination and wide-eyed curiosity make it an age packed with adventure and discovery. With most children starting, or getting ready to start school, the world becomes a much bigger place. But despite their boasts of being “big boys” and “big girls” now, they are still very much little kids, with birthdays and Christmas causing off-the-scale excitement.

Thankfully, when it comes to buying the perfect present for a four-year-old, there is a lot of choice. By this age, children love more involved pretend play. Role play toys that help them act out different jobs or mini play versions of household objects inspire endless fascination for four-year-olds, who love nothing more than pretending to be grown-ups.

Four-year-olds also love to care and nurture – whether that’s looking after baby dolls or cuddly toys – and enjoy getting creative, using their growing hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity to draw cute (and, quite often, totally bonkers) pictures. Gifts that tap into these interests are likely to be enjoyed and played with for a long time.

Gifts that encourage four-year-olds to get active outside will be appreciated by kids and parents alike, while anything that gives them the opportunity to get their hands dirty will be an instant hit with adventure-seeking children.

Generally, when it comes to buying presents for four-year-olds, just keep it fun. To help you out, we’ve put a lot of toys and gifts to the test to bring you a comprehensive round-up of what we believe are the best options out there.

How we tested

Over a month we tested a huge number of toys and gifts with our four-year-old testers, looking for those which caused genuine excitement, gifts they returned to again and again, gifts that sparked their imaginations and ones that felt like they offered good value for money.

The best Christmas gifts for four-year-olds for 2023 are:

  • Best overall – Spirograph junior: £19.99,
  • Best wooden toy – Great Little Trading Co. Lolly & Scoop wooden ice cream shop: £60,
  • Best book – ‘Finn’s Little Fibs’ by Tom Percival, published by Bloomsbury: £4,
  • Best interactive toy – Little Live Pets my pet lamb: £24.99,
  • Best role play toy – Casdon Dyson supersonic and corrale deluxe styling set: £34,

Spirograph junior

best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Overall

Designed specifically for little hands to get to grips with, the Spirograph junior was an overwhelming hit with our testers. The robust plastic box set includes everything your four-year-old needs to get started, from the gears to the washable markers and perfectly sized sheets of paper. It’s also incredibly easy to get the hang of – great news for encouraging a four-year-old’s burgeoning desire for independence and for parents who’d love a moment’s peace every now and then. Once we’d shown our testers how to place the paper on the yellow base, close the frame and fix the large gear ring correctly they happily got on with creating their own patterned masterpieces without any need for help.

This gift is such a great all-rounder; it lets your four-year-old get creative, helps promote those fine motor skills, encourages a good pen grip and is genuinely a lot of fun. We loved seeing our testers turn their Spirograph designs into cute cats and flowers, and it was a toy they returned to and requested again and again. The fact it all fits into one small case, perfect for taking away on holiday or even for keeping them occupied when you go for a meal out, and costs less than £20 makes it a real winner.

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Orchard Toys hungry little penguins

best christmas gifts for four year old
  • Best: Board game

This has to be the most perfect board game for four-year-olds. As well as being cute, colourful and simple to follow, the two to four player game pits you against a seal, rather than each other, meaning all players work together as a team to win the game. Let’s be honest, four-year-olds aren’t great losers, and we found this game a brilliant way to encourage teamwork as we all raced to find the coloured fish, before the seal could make it to the middle of the board. It had our little testers hooked and it’s easily become the most requested game at home. For slightly older children – or those with more advanced diplomatic skills than our four-year-olds – the board can be flipped over to play a slightly different game against each other instead.

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best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Screen-free fun

If you’re looking to buy an extra-special Christmas present which will be used on repeat, the Toniebox is the one. This versatile audio player has been designed firmly with kids in mind; it’s soft and padded (with no pointy corners), durable and completely intuitive to use. Our four-year-old testers were able to skip through songs or chapters and operate the volume controls immediately.

Initial set up is so straight forward – it’s just a case of plugging in and connecting to your wifi. There’s also a parent app where you can control things like maximum volume. Our testers loved that they were in control of what they listened to; they simply placed a Tonie – a small figure ranging from Disney favourites to Julia Donaldson which contain stories or songs – on top of the box for the audio to begin. We particularly liked the range of lullaby Tonies, which our four-year-old listens to at bedtime to help relax and drift off, and the fact that there’s plenty of Tonies to suit older kids – like Roald Dahl, National Geographic and DC options – meaning this is not a toy they’ll grow out of quickly.

We think the Toniebox is so clever – exciting, engaging, screen-free fun which your four-year-old can really take ownership of.

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Great Little Trading Co. Lolly & Scoop wooden ice cream shop

best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Wooden toy

Anything ice cream related is pretty certain to go down a storm with four-year-olds, and this classic wooden toy provided hours of fun, imaginative play for our testers. It packs everything any self-respecting ice cream shop could offer into a 27cm x 48cm x 26cm size, so won’t take up too much room at home and is easy to carry around the house or into the garden for some outdoor play.

The attention to detail here is amazing, with everything from a selection of lollies to various ice cream scoops, wafers, sauces, cones and tubs included in the 25-piece set. Our testers loved how you can add the ice cream to the cones using the magnetised scoop and had great fun taking our orders or coming up with their own ice cream creations. It does require self-assembly, but it was a very easy job that only took us 15 minutes – not bad for a toy that will deliver some serious wow factor on Christmas morning.

Join the waitlist to be notified when it’s back in stock in September.

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Kinetic Sand construction site

best Christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Building toy

We all know how important sensory play is for kids, but the mess during and after (which you’re always left to clean up) can be enough to put a lot of us off. This Kinetic Sand construction kit comes packed up in its own resealable sandbox, so all the messy play is contained rather than spread across the kitchen table. Inside you get a large bag of kinetic sand – a tactile, mouldable and squeezable play sand – a working crane which you can use with both the wrecking ball and sand bucket attachments, and a dumper truck with three brick moulds on the back. Our testers really enjoyed filling up the moulds, wheeling the truck around the sand then dumping out the bricks to build walls on the plastic platform provided in the kit. It’s a total kid-magnet of a toy – even our testers’ older siblings couldn’t resist getting involved.

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‘Finn’s Little Fibs’ by Tom Percival, published by Bloomsbury

best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Book for four-year-olds

Finn’s Little Fib’s, part of the hugely successful Big Bright Feelings series of books by Tom Percival, navigates the consequences of not telling the truth, in a way that really resonated with our testers. It’s a reassuring story written with so much warmth, following Finn as he visits his Grandma’s for a holiday with his little sister. When a small fib quickly gets out of control, he knows he needs to tell the truth, but is he brave enough to own up?

Our four-year-olds were so engaged with this book and we found it such an easy way to open up a conversation about the importance of telling the truth. The age-appropriate language and endearing illustrations really brought the story to life – so much so, it’s taken the coveted “favourite bedtime story” crown among our testers, the fiercest of literary critics. It’s also a book we’re more than happy to read on repeat, which – let’s face it – doesn’t happen that often.

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Roarsome winter parka

best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Coat for four-year-olds

Practical Christmas presents don’t have to be boring. Every four-year-old needs a really decent coat; one that can withstand school and lots of active, outdoor play, whatever the weather. Roarsome has managed to design a coat that does it all – it’s incredibly durable, excellent quality and has bags of kid-appeal. The winter parka is completely waterproof with taped seams and aqua seal zips, and is super-cosy – it’s been tested to temperatures of -20C, so can handle a chilly December playground no problem.

Despite being so hardy, our testers found the parka very comfy, and it never got in the way of play. Every parka is made from recycled plastic bottles, with a removable hood and fur if that’s what your child prefers. But the best bit? It has to be the cool character detailing that is, quite frankly, four-year-old perfection.

We tested the Hop the Bunny parka, which comes with adorable bunny ears attached to the hood – our four-year-old actually squealed with joy when she first laid eyes on it and we don’t blame her, it’s so cute. If bunnies aren’t your thing, there’s also Sparkle the Unicorn or Spike the Dinosaur parkas to choose from. It’s obviously an investment price wise, but there’s nothing to fault here – it’s the highest quality, eco-friendly, versatile and the roomy cut means we expect to get a good two years’ wear out of the parka.

Unfortunately, this bunny coat is currently sold out, but the dinosaur and unicorn options are both still available to buy.

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VTech KidiZoom duo camera 5.0

best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: First camera

The VTech KidiZoom duo is the perfect first camera for a four-year-old. For a start, it’s built to withstand the inevitable bashes that may come its way and the chunky size makes it easy for little kids to grip securely. Despite its toy-like appearance, this camera means business and we were very impressed with the high quality 5-megapixel photos and videos it was capable of taking.

At first we were a little unsure of how easily our four-year-old testers would get the hang of the camera – there are a lot of different features to work out – but we really only had to point out a couple of buttons and they worked the rest out themselves. There were howls of laughter as our testers discovered the funny camera effects, with particular favourites including the funfair-esque wavy mirror effect and the “hedgehog on your head” filter (yes, really).

There’s a selection of easy-to-play games on the camera too, as well as a voice recorder and video. It’s simple to switch into selfie mode and the camera has a decent 128MB internal storage to save all their photos – of which, we can guarantee, there will be a lot. It also takes a 32GB micro SD card – which you can buy separately, and needs 4 AA batteries (included) to work.

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Melissa & Doug my first barber shop playset

best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Imaginative play set

We think this toy barber’s set is worth the money just to see your four-year-old pottering around the house wearing a fake beard, but if you’re not quite as easily pleased as us you’ll be happy to hear there’s a lot more to this toy than that. Essentially, this 16-piece set has everything a child needs to play barber shops at home, including a brush, comb, play scissors, shaving cream can, hair pomade, mirror and more.

The features our testers particularly loved – apart from the play beard – were the razor (which has a roller on each side for a “smooth finish”) and the trimmer, which vibrates when you pull the tab at the bottom (no batteries needed). It’s such a fun set that promotes plenty of independent play, but be prepared to be roped in as a “customer” more often than not.

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Little Live Pets my pet lamb

best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Interactive toy

It’s impossible not to be charmed by this ridiculously cute, interactive lamb toy, which is great value at less than £25. From its fluffy white coat and waggly tail to the super-size eyes and rosy cheeks, it’s a four-year-old’s dream. It’s easy to operate, just press a button and the lamb walks along, making lots of “baa’s” – there’s even a lead included so your four-year-old can take the lamb for a walk themselves.

What really won our testers over was being able to feed the lamb with a bottle, while it made sucking noises and wiggled its tail, before letting out a delicate “burp”. Seriously, what’s not to love as a four-year-old? It’s just about soft enough to take to bed for night-time cuddles, but it’s definitely best kept indoors as the white fleece has the potential to get dirty easily.

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Little Hotdog Watson kids’ Arctic cub hat

best Christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Winter warmer

Getting young kids to keep their hat on in winter is a never-ending battle, but you’ll have no problem with this cool trapper-style hat from independent kids’ accessories brand Little Hotdog Watson. Thoughtfully designed with a reflective piping trim – perfect for the school run in the depths of winter – the outer fabric of the hat is water resistant, and it can even be washed in the machine. Our testers loved the snuggly faux fur lining which kept ears nice and warm, but it was the little bear ears stitched onto the hat which elevated this to “best kids’ hat ever” status.

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Ooly UnMistakeAbles erasable coloured pencils

best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: For budding artists

Don’t let any mistakes get in the way of creativity with these clever erasable coloured pencils from Ooly. The set of 12 are great quality, non-toxic and come in a rainbow of shades, but what we love most is that each colour can be rubbed out using the eraser at the end of the pencil. It’s a genius design and something our four-year-olds got on board with straight away (once they realise you have to use the eraser on the end of the pencil you’ve coloured with to rub things out, no mix and matching).

They are currently out of stock, but you can sign up with email to be notified when they’re back.

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Casdon Dyson supersonic and corrale deluxe styling set

best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Role play toy

Kids this age love to copy what they see around them and, as a result, are drawn to mini versions of household objects. This hairstyling play set comprises of child-sized versions of Dyson’s iconic supersonic hairdryer and corrale straighteners, along with diffuser and nozzle attachments, a barrel styling brush and comb, which really captured the imaginations of our little testers. The lights and sounds really up the fun factor, with the straighteners lighting up and making a sizzling noise and the hairdryer blowing a gentle stream of air when you press the button.

Our testers loved playing hairdressers and rounding us and their siblings up for a blow dry and style. It’s such a well thought out toy set, and a lot of fun to play with, but if you’re on a budget you can buy either the supersonic or corrale in smaller sets for around £20.

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Janod magneti’book, jobs

best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Travel game

Four-year-olds love to learn about the world around them, and this cute set introduces a whole host of occupations in a fun way. Open up the box and you’ll find 64 magnetic pieces to make up different figures representing different jobs – everything from astronaut to vet. The pieces are split into heads, bodies and legs, and our mini testers found it hilarious to create the weirdest of combinations possible. There are picture cards included, showing the different figures you can make up and we were relieved to see these didn’t stick to gender stereotypes. It’s a simple idea, but something our testers really loved playing with. We think it’s a great toy for car journeys or to keep kids entertained when eating out.

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Baby Born minis campervan

best christmas gifts for four year olds
  • Best: Doll and accessories

This big pink van – measuring 17.5cm x 31cm x 16.5cm – caught the attention of our four-year-old immediately. It’s part of the new Baby born minis range, which is a collection of collectable mini figures and playsets just right for this age group. Inside the van there’s everything you need to come up with some imaginative adventures, from the fancy built-in kitchen to the pull-down bed and bathroom. The set also comes with camping chairs, a table, BBQ and bike (which you can fit onto the bike rack at the back of the van) as well as a little 7cm figure, Jasmin.

There’s a sheet of stickers included to add detail to the interiors, some of which can be a little fiddly so best done by an adult. Our little tester loved being able to decorate the outside of the van however she liked with the remaining stickers and we loved watching her play and come up with outlandish adventures for her doll and the van. There’s a choice of six mini babies and six sisters and brother dolls available to buy separately if you want to add to the gang.

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The verdict: Christmas gifts for four-year-olds

Everything here thoroughly deserves its place in our round-up, but if we have to pick one ultimate gift it’s got to be the Spirograph junior. It’s versatile, our testers absolutely loved it, it gets used constantly and it’s affordable. If you do have the budget, we really rate the Toniebox for promoting independence and generally being great fun, and the Roarsome winter parka for a sustainable, excellent quality, practical gift that still has bags of kid-appeal.

Needing more inspo for your shopping list? Check out our round up of the best kids’ toys for Christmas which has gifts for newborns, nine-year-olds and everyone in between

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