21 best gifts for 4-year-olds: From Lego sets to fancy dress, bikes and more

·17-min read
We looked for imaginative and exciting products that were value for money   (iStock/The Independent)
We looked for imaginative and exciting products that were value for money (iStock/The Independent)

The world of gift-giving is tricky for a four-year-old. It can be hard to know what they already have, and you want to be sure something is right for their age and ability.

Four is when children start to get more creative – their imaginations know no bounds, and they love making their own art. It’s also when they start school, and they absorb knowledge like a sponge.

There’s an overwhelming amount of gifts out there for four-year-olds, so we’ve put in the miles to find the best of the best. Whatever your recipient is into, you’re sure to find something that will make their eyes light up here. And that will get genuine use and be enjoyed for longer than five minutes.

We’ve included both on-trend and timeless gifts, across all budgets. Small brands and household names are included too, so you can be sure to find something that ticks all your boxes.

How we tested

We tested a vast amount of toys with four-year-old boys and girls across a month, spending hours looking for what got picked up again and again, what captured their wonderful little minds and got them excited, and what felt like good value for money.

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So, let’s see what gifts have the wow factor for four-year-olds…

The best gifts for four-year-olds for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Den Kit Co. potion making kit: £24.50, Thedenkitco.com

  • Best big-ticket gift – Ligneus play junior pikler triangle and slide bundle: £244.40, Ligneusplay.co.uk

  • Best robot – Hexbug nano flash playground set: £24.47, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for budding photographers – VTech kidizoom duo camera 5.0: £39.99, Smythstoys.co.uk

  • Best for nostalgia – Sylvanian Families red roof cosy cottage: £20, Johnlewis.com

  • Best for book worms – The Willoughby Book Club subscription: £34.99, Thewilloughbybookclub.co.uk

  • Best eco-friendly gift – PlayPress Gruffalo eco-friendly playset: £15.99, Pressplaytoys.co.uk

  • Best STEM toy – Galt Reactions marble run: £21.85, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best practical present – Toastie 3-in-1 raincoat: £125, Toastiekids.com

  • Best for on-the-go play – Janod crazy faces magneti’book: £18.73, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best cuddly toy – Bluey and Bingo plush toys: £9, Thetoyshop.com

  • Best smaller gift – Cotton Twist personalised ocean-themed story tokens: £12.95, Cottontwist.co.uk

  • Best for long-lasting play – Melissa and Doug scoop and serve ice cream counter: £42.71, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for families that camp – Tot-2-Ten bundle bed: £200, Bundlebeds.com

  • Best outdoor bike – Islabikes starter bike: £399.99, Islabikes.co.uk

  • Best screen-free tech – Toniebox: £69.95, Tonies.com

  • Best for creative fun – Kitpas 16 crayons: £14.50, Kidly.com

  • Best for fashionistas – Me-Shirt personalised T-shirt painting kit: £16.50, Meshirtkits.com

  • Best fancy dress – Meri Meri rainbow ruffle princess costume: £65, Merimeri.co.uk

  • Best PJs – Polarn O. Pyret rocket print pyjamas: £26, Polarnopyret.co.uk

  • Best Lego sets for four-year-olds – Lego City seaside police and fire mission: £34.99, Lego.com

Den Kit Co. potion making kit

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Out of everything we played with during the testing, this kit was the biggest hit with our tester. The set comes with two pots of powdered natural colouring – one turmeric yellow, the other beetroot red – plus plastic bottles, a funnel, three bags of dried petals, a plastic measuring beaker (remember those?!) and a mini sieve.

Our child played for hours with this, fascinated by the changing colours, the pouring of water and doing “experiments” – we didn’t even know they knew the word “experiments”. They also then extended the play by adding more jugs, jam jars (and, yes, mess) to the set-up, which is a testament to how much they were engrossed in the activity.

This kit was fun, and felt educational without being too forced. We absolutely loved it and cannot rate it highly enough.

Buy now £24.50, Thedenkitco.com

Ligneus play junior pikler triangle and slide bundle

Best: Big-ticket gift

Rating: 10/10

As soon as we had constructed this climbing triangle our four-year-old was in love, and it’s not had a day off being played with during the month of testing. We loved that the company who made it originally made furniture for hospitality and pivoted to creating play apparatus during the lockdowns. Great decision, as they’re making some beautiful and well-made bits of kit.

This triangle – designed for four to 10-year-olds – can be played with alone, or we teamed it with a slide. One surface of the slide is smooth for, err, sliding and the other has climbing-wall style grips. The uses of the triangle seem endless and have encouraged plenty of imaginative play, with camps being made under the triangle – and it got rid of pent up energy for our four-year-old tester.

If it looks too massive for your house, rest assured it’s easy to fold flat and slide under a sofa. A total winner if you’re looking for a bigger-ticket item.

Buy now £244.40, Ligneusplay.co.uk

Hexbug nano flash playground set

Best: Robot

Rating: 8/10

This certainly caught the attention of our four-year-old. Battery-operated, vibration-powered robotic bugs zipping around a “fairground” set up? What’s not to love?

The set comes with some flexible walls and two merry-go-rounds so your bugs can have all the fun of the fair, while your four-year-old screams with delight. The walls are quite handy for keeping the critters contained, as they have a habit of going for a wander.

Buy now £24.47, Amazon.co.uk

VTech kidizoom duo camera 5.0

Best: For budding photographers

Rating: 9/10

Our four-year-old was quickly addicted to this camera. Truly brought up in the age of Insta, he loved applying coloured filters across his shots using the dial around the shutter on the front. It also lets you add stamps and frames to your stickers for extra fun, and the big coloured screen on the back lets them marvel at their snaps.

The camera may be full of photos of our child’s nostrils, but it’s a great way to introduce them to photography and they feel really grown up having their own camera. Plus it’s pretty indestructible, with rubber easy-to-use dials and tactile handles. David Bailey, watch out.

Buy now £39.99, Smythstoys.com

Sylvanian Families red roof cosy cottage

Best: For nostalgia

Rating: 9/10

How’s this for a nostalgia hit? This cute cottage screams Eighties to us. But like all classics, it transcends the ages and our four-year-old loved this Sylvanian Families house as much in 2021 as we did when we were kids. Our tester played with it for ages, making up cute little stories for the cat figure included. And we liked it because although it feels substantial it doesn’t take up a horrific amount of real estate in our home and is surprisingly affordable.

Buy now £20.00, Johnlewis.com

The Willoughby Book Club subscription

Best: For bookworms

Rating: 10/10

What a brilliantly thoughtful gift this is – a personalised book subscription for the four-year-old in your life. Books come through the post every month for three, six or 12 months, extending the present-receiving joy for ages. You can input into the website how old your child is, who’s giving the gift, include a personalised message and also tell them a bit about the recipient. Then the team at Willoughby put together a reading list that will get your little one excited as the books pop through the door.

Our four-year-old tester loved the books selected for him – a mix of storybooks and reference – and they were books we perhaps might not have chosen otherwise. Another bonus is that for every subscription purchased, a brand new book is donated to Book Aid International. Truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Buy now £34.99, Thewilloughbybookclub.co.uk

PlayPress Gruffalo eco-friendly playset

Best: Eco-friendly gift

Rating: 9/10

We loved PlayPress’s concept. Creating eco-friendly, creative play sets that children can construct and enjoy by themselves. The sets are all card, which is pre-cut and you press them out and then slot them together.

The Gruffalo set we tested out was brilliant – easy to make (with a bit of adult help) and it had our four-year-old totally absorbed. They loved that they could put owl up a tree, have mice trailing around the deep dark wood to be surprised by the Gruffalo. And they also enjoyed acting out scenes from the Gruffalo as well as having fun making up their own stories with it. As this comes flat packed it’s the perfect gift for posting.

Buy now £15.99, Playpresstoys.com

Galt Reactions marble run

Best: STEM toy

Rating: 8/10

We admit we are already big marble-run fans – our four-year-old loves the more simple versions of this set. So this reactions set was a welcome addition to our play. The set gently teaches STEM through creating chain reactions.

Our four-year-old got so much joy out of watching a marble start off a series of dominoes falling, followed by jumping across marble-sized trampolines. And yes, adults alike really enjoyed setting up the run too. We would say this would require parental involvement, but it is brilliant fun for all ages.

Buy now £21.85, Amazon.co.uk

Toastie 3-in-1 raincoat

Best: Practical present

Rating: 10/10

We love getting bigger clothes purchases as gifts for our little ones – it justifies something a bit more special. And this coat is definitely special.

The quilted inner jacket is a bright yolk yellow, and zips out and can be a bomber-style warm coat. When the weather is a bit damper, a hooded shell raincoat can be added over the top. Yes, it’s expensive, but this coat feels seriously well made and we think it’s worth the money.

The shell is fully waterproof, with taped seams; the pockets are fleece lined and the lining is designed to make it easy to put on and take off (such a battle with a four-year-old – or is that just us?!). In the world of sensible gifts, surely this coat is king?

Buy now £125.00, Toastiekids.com

Janod crazy faces magneti'book

Best: For on-the-go play

Rating: 9/10

Our four-year-old went wild for this clever little set as soon as he opened it. The magnetic box has a blank face on inside, and contains 70 magnetic elements to stick to the face to make, well, crazy faces. There are suggestion cards, which our four-year-old loved following, or you can let imaginations run wild. We were surprised just how much our mini tester liked this set, and it’s a great one to take to restaurants or long journeys to keep them entertained.

Buy now £18.73, Amazon.co.uk

Btyert Bluey and Bingo plush toys

Best: Cuddly toy

Rating: 9/10

We couldn’t choose between Bluey and Bingo (£6.00, Amazon.co.uk), so we’ve included them both here. If you have a four-year-old in your life then you’ll know all about Bluey and her cute-as-a-button little sister Bingo. If you don’t know, Bluey is an Aussie kids’ TV show about a family of dogs. It’s poignant messages and genuinely hilarious content have made it a hit with kids and parents alike.

These little plush toys of the two main characters brought a huge smile to our four-year-old’s face, and they played with them really sweetly. Plus it made them think we are cooler than Bandit – for all of five seconds.

Buy now £9.00, Thetoyshop.com

Cotton Twist personalised ocean-themed story tokens

Best: Smaller gift

Rating: 10/10

If the four-year-old in your life is anything like ours, then you’ll have constant requests for stories to be made up. It’s can be a stretch to come up with new characters and plots each time, so we loved these story tokens.

Each solid-wood token has an image engraved into it of something sea-themed. The idea is you can build a story together using the tokens – use just one token and base a whole story around that, or take turns flipping one over to see where the story takes you next.

We loved the opportunities this gave for open-ended play. Plus they come in a cute little personalised tin – perfect for chucking in a bag when you’re headed out to a restaurant or on long journey.

Buy now £12.95, Cottontwist.co.uk

Melissa and Doug scoop and serve ice cream counter

Best: For long-lasting play

Rating: 9/10

We love the durability of wooden toys, and Melissa and Doug are big players in the wooden-toy world – its products never miss. This ice cream counter is no different and it went down a storm with our dessert-obsessed mini tester.

The counter comes with a scoop, menu card and plenty of flavour ice creams to pile onto the cones. There are also toppings such as sprinkles and a cherry. We spent ages playing with this together and we feel like this is a toy that will really stand the test of time.

Buy now £42.71, Amazon.co.uk

Tot-2-Ten bundle bed

Best: For families that camp

Rating: 9/10

Well this is a bit ingenious – a roll-up single bed that you unzip, it inflates itself and there’s a duvet and pillow inside. We went the whole hog and also got the inflatable bumpers (sold as a bundle) so that our fidgety four-year-old didn’t roll out.

This is perfect for sleepovers and camping trips – even if it’s just at the bottom of your own garden. And it will last until they’re 10-years-old (though we actually think it’d last longer than this). Our four-year-old was obsessed with it, and even requested we moved their actual bed out of their room and replaced it with this… Practical yet fun – everyone’s a winner.

Buy now £200.00, Bundlebeds.com

Islabikes starter bike

Best: Outdoor toy

Rating: 10/10

Everyone remembers the year they wanted a bike for their birthday or Christmas. And you’d be hard pushed to find a better starter bike than this one from Islabikes. Its geometry is designed to perfectly match the rider, and give them more control when they’re learning to ride, while the chain-free guard means fingers and clothes don’t get eaten by the mechanics.

It’s incredibly lightweight – we can lift it easily with one hand. And the breaks are designed so even the smallest hands can operate them. Plus, perhaps the most important feature to our four-year-old, was that it comes with a bell.

Islabikes has a great guide on their website to help you find the right size bike for your child. And it’s hard to describe how excited our four-year-old was when this arrived. But, we’ve hopefully given ourselves the gift of years of family bike rides and exhausted children.

Buy now £399.00, Islabikes.co.uk

Toniebox

Best: Screen-free tech

Rating: 9/10

This little box provided plenty of entertainment for our four-year-old. It’s a speaker, which when you put the Tonies figures on top, plays a related audiobook. You can buy the Tonies separately, and there are a mind-blowing amount of characters to choose from including Paw Patrol, Masha and the Bear and the Julia Donaldson stalwarts.

Our child loved being in control of what they listened to and when. They can also personalise their own Tonies by getting loved ones to record themselves reading stories – great if you live far from family or are going away yourself for a night. It’s a really robust box, so we weren’t worried about it getting broken, and we love the idea of adding to your story collection as your child grows.

Buy now £69.95, Tonies.com

Kitpas 16 crayons

Best: For creative fun

Rating: 10/10

We had a huge amount of fun drawing on the windows with our mini testers using these crayons. They’re water-soluble and made to be used on glass (but work on paper too), which means our windows got gorgeous new, colourful artwork on them. It’s easy to clean off with a bit of window cleaner, and then the canvas is ready again. We found kids of all ages enjoyed these crayons, and the novelty of drawing on glass didn’t wear off.

Buy now £14.50, Kidly.co.uk

Me-Shirt personalised T-shirt painting kit

Best: For fashionistas

Rating: 9/10

Me-Shirt was a company that started during lockdown. One mum was at home with her five-year-old daughter, looking for activities to keep her busy. Her daughter got into painting T-shirts, then her friends did. It spiralled significantly, and now it’s Me-Shirts.

The kits come with a white T-shirt, an initial or number template and three fabric paints, as well as a fabric pen, a brush and three theme stencils. You can select a theme for your T-shirts from a list including dinosaurs, jungle and superhero, along with a letter or number of your choice. Our four-year-old loved getting creative with the dino kit, and now proudly wears it as much as possible. Plus, we enjoyed spending the bonding time with them getting creative.

Buy now £16.50, Meshirtkits.com

Meri Meri rainbow ruffle princess costume

Best: Fancy dress

Rating: 8/10

Truly the dress all our four-year-old dreams were made of, this rainbow ruffle number, complete with glittery crown, is something else. Our little tester fell hook, line and sinker for this outfit, and we can’t say we blame them. The dress is layers of soft tulle in rainbow hues, all lined in pink cotton. Plus, it has adjustable straps so it can grow with your child. We feel this dress is too good for the dressing up box – if it was ours we’d wear it everywhere, including the school run.

Buy now £65.00, Merimeri.co.uk

Polarn O. Pyret rocket print pyjamas

Best: PJs

Rating: 9/10

We love pyjamas as a gift – to give and to receive – and these ones are really special. Made from GOTS organic cotton, these have a flat seam for extra comfort and also have a roll-down cuff for extra growing room. Out tester found them super soft and snuggly, and the perfect thickness (in our opinion) for pyjamas – neither too thin and flimsy, or thick and sweaty. A dream set of PJs.

Buy now £26.00, Polarnopyret.co.uk

Lego City seaside police and fire mission

Best: Lego set

Rating: 9/10

Fire, boats and sharks. Oh my! This Lego set has plenty to keep four-year-old minds busy. With two boats to build along with a helicopter and small police HQ, there is a good amount of building to enjoy without it being a massive mission (or price tag).

Four-year-olds will definitely need an adult to build, but let’s be honest that’s part of the fun for the gift giver, right? Our mini tester loved this set – especially the boat’s fire extinguisher, which you can use to knock over the flames and put them out.

Buy now £34.99, Lego.com

The verdict: Gifts for four-year-olds

We really rate everything on this round-up, so everything is a winner in our eyes. But we couldn’t rate the potion-making kit highly enough – our four-year-old absolutely loved it, and we had a lovely time together making concoctions. If you’re after a bigger gift then the Ligneus play triangle is hard to beat for quality and open-ended play.

Voucher codes

For discounts on toys and offers on kids’ clothing, try the links below:

Kick off the festive season with John Lewis’s list of the bestselling toys for Christmas 2021

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